Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Found an officiant!

Last time, I summarized who we aren't going to have perform our marriage ceremony: not a justice of the peace, not a non-denominational minister, not a Unitarian minister, not an internet-ordained friend, and not a civil celebrant.

Whew! Sounds like we've exhausted all of our choices, right?

Well, there's one that I may have mentioned before, but only in passing: My grandfather.

My grandfather is a retired minister. For pretty much as long as I can remember, he has just been "my grandfather," whom I call Grandpa. I never knew him as a minister, really, other than having him say grace at family dinners and taking us to church on Sundays when my siblings and I visited my grandparents in Florida. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary, I'd say, and nothing that particularly stands out as being ministerial rather than just a regular guy.

When I was 18, one of my cousins got married, and he helped perform her wedding ceremony in Maine. I think Maine might have rules about who was able to do the ceremony, and that is why he shared the responsibility with the minister from her church. Another of my cousins got married before I did as well, but I wasn't able to attend her wedding, so I don't know if he participated in it or not.

I've always thought it would be nice to have my own grandfather marry me, but over the last 10 years I've come to realize some other things that made that decision more difficult to make. One was my grandfather's (my dad's dad) relationship with my mother, which hasn't always been the best. The second was my relationship with religion.

As to the second issue, it turns out that I'm really not religious. If my grandfather weren't the one performing the ceremony, I wouldn't have a religious ceremony at all. To be honest, my favorite thing about churches are the architecture (I LOVE walking around in old cathedrals, like St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Notre Dame in Paris, and the Cathedrale des Saints Michel et Gudule in Brussels), the stained glass, the echoes, and the incense at midnight mass. I like the ceremonial nature of church, but not necessarily all of the ideals they stand for. Not really good reasons to go, right?

And, to be really really honest, I'm not only "not really religious," but, in fact, not religious at all. Religion isn't for me, and I'm fine with that; I don't feel conflicted or feel that my life is any less complete by not having religion play a part in it.

How, though, can I reconcile that with the fact that my grandfather, whom I love and would otherwise be ecstatic about performing our wedding ceremony, IS religious? I respect other people's beliefs, if they are not harmful, even if I don't share them, so I would not feel comfortable asking him to perform our ceremony and then saying, "Oh by the way, can you take all the religious stuff out?" (I could ask that of a stranger we've hired for the occasion, but that's a different relationship altogether.) I talked it over many, many times with Eric, and in the end, I was able to come to terms with it in a way that makes sense to us. First and foremost, he is my grandfather, and that is the relationship we are celebrating. I feel lucky that he happens to be able to participate in our wedding in this way, and that's enough to make asking him worth it. And if that means "God" gets thrown in there a couple times, I'm OK with that.

And as for the first issue, that of he and my mom not getting along, I asked her what she thought of it. It turns out she thought it was a wonderful idea to ask him, and said that her disagreements with him have nothing to do with us children. So with her blessing, and my own emotional reconciliation with the idea, I asked him on Christmas, and he said yes!

There was just one other little wrinkle: the legal stuff. I wasn't really sure if he was able to perform weddings in Kentucky, but a check of our County Clerk's website and a follow-up phone call proved otherwise. Here is what the website says:

"Marriages shall be solemnized only by clergy, justices and judges of the Court of Justice; retired justices and judges of the Court of Justice, except those removed for cause or convicted of a felony; county judge/executives; such justices of the peace and fiscal court commissioners as the Governor or the county judge/executive authorizes, and certain religious societies.

There are no residency requirements or licensing requirements applicable to ministers or priests who wish to perform marriages in Kentucky."
I still wasn't sure, but when I called, the person I talked to told me that we are good to go "as long as the minister is in good standing with his church or organization," and that they don't need any proof of said good standing. And it doesn't matter if the minister is retired. And there are no forms for the minister to fill out whatsoever, other than signing the marriage certificate. Doesn't that sound too easy?! I still can't quite believe it. My grandfather, on the other hand, said, "It sounds like Kentucky is like Florida. Which has no rules." So at least I'm not alone in this!

(I'm the type of person who is always looking for loopholes. So I'm now wondering why anyone has to get an actual clergyperson or judge to perform their ceremony at all; why not just any old friend, without the internet ordination? I guess it's just the fear that someday, someone might challenge the marriage in court?)

So now it's on to the planning stages. Grandpa said he welcomed our input for the ceremony design but has always "generally followed the familiar ritual," which sounds so comforting, and exactly the feeling I'm looking for. I'm looking forward to putting together our ceremony with him, and feel so lucky that he will be able to participate in this way.