Last Sunday, I drove out to beautiful, hilly, Oregon wine country and spent the day talking to Brides-to-be about their upcoming wedding plans. Not at a county fair — at a wedding fair. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and each of us “vendors” with booths — from caterers to photographers to 5-piece string bands — spent the morning setting up our respective displays, talking to each other, and preparing to meet lots of Brides searching for the right fit for all of the countless details to iron out for a wedding. It was a sweet scene, and a nice vibe, all of us out there in the rustic fields of a local vineyard — a collaborative-not-competitive feel, as we silently acknowledged, with our curiosity about each other, the myriad of people and plans involved in bringing wedding plans to life.
Being a wedding officiant — the person in charge of the ceremony — it’s a little tricky putting together a booth of sorts, for this kind of event, because the nature of how I work with people is not particularly visual — rather, it’s about connection, ideas, communication, feel, and holding space. It’s also about trust. Mindful of this, I did my best to gather a few appropriate items from our home to convey a sense of those very things — my gorgeous new (old) ceremony chimes, a lantern from our backyard, and some frames for photos from weddings I’ve done in the past. (yes, I borrowed the frames from our living room art gallery.) And of course, my business cards. Oh, and some Hershey Kisses.
The pace of the day was slow — brides and their entourages (including more than a few grooms) trickled in in small groups, making their way from vineyard to vineyard as this particular fair was set up. It made the day feel spacious and between conversations, I had plenty of time to muse on the specialness — the bigness — of someone’s wedding day. There really is so much to decide; so many things to choose, and most of the decisions are quite personal. Nearly every other vendor at this event (and at any wedding fair) markets themselves for some aspect of the wedding reception. As an officiant, I’m the sole person to be talking to newly engaged couples about the ceremony — the whole reason everyone gathers. And yesterday, as I spoke with brides, their mothers, their friends, and their mates about this tender and intimate relationship we would form, and about that moment…that moment that they were preparing for in hundreds ways, I was reminded, once again, about what a profound honor it is to do this work.
What I loved about the day — and what I love about getting to know these pre-nuptial couples — is that each story is truly unique. One couple approached me and she said, “My family is Christian and his is Hindu. We only want one ceremony and need to pull it together. Do you do that?” But, of course. (And my mind danced with the possibility of all this could be.) Another couple approached my table and said, “we are already married, but our families don’t know. We’ll need a blessing…and some theatrics…” Tell me more! (and my mind danced once again.) Another couple, a lesbian couple, full of ideas and enthusiasm, looked me straight in the eye and asked, “do you do same-sex weddings?” And how! (and my heart broke that they felt they needed to ask.)
As I packed up my table at the end of the day and drove the hills back home again, I thought of these stories, of these people, so different from each other, and also so much the same. Each of them having chosen a partner and begun the process of sharing their promise and their story. It remains to be seen which of these weddings I’ll have the honor to preside over — these brides and grooms still have many important decisions to make. But right now, I hold a small piece of their story, and that, to me, is worth something special.