One of the perks of getting ordained is that you are authorized to officiate weddings on top of everything else. As I referenced in my previous entry, I got to do my first wedding on the 4th of July weekend. It was my dear friend Alisa and her fiance Jeff. I had not seen Alisa since I graduated from college 10 years ago! It was quite an honor to be asked to be their “celebrant.” I had done some of the initial phone calls making sure I was able to officiate a wedding in a different state, etc. I set up the service, wrote the sermon, booked my plane tickets, reserved a car rental, had a haircut, and even had my suit dry-cleaned. Being the first wedding that I got to officiate solo, I wanted to do it right and do it relatively stress free for all the parties involved.
Saturday, July 3, was the big day. Earlier that week, on Tuesday, I had lunch with my pastor at a local restaurant. As we were eating lunch, he asked me what my weekend plans were. I told him about the wedding. He remarked that he had to mail some papers because of the wedding he was going to do in Ohio. I proudly told him that Virginia did not require all these forms, and approvals. He was glad to hear that. However, this conversation bugged me enough for me to probe it a little bit after lunch. The more research I did, the more uneasy I became. Virginia did recognize ordained ministers from out of state, BUT, you still needed to get approved by the local county judge. Mind you.. this was Tuesday, the wedding was on Saturday. So, instead of wasting time researching, I decided to give the county court a call to talk to somebody about it. I was very anxious about this call.
A very pleasant sounding lady answered the phone. I explained to her my situation. There was pause on the phone. The lady then said, “Umm…we need a whole bunch of documents from you.” I said, “No problem, just say what you need, and I can have them sent to you.” She then said something that I did not want to hear. She said, “Sir, it is too late. We need the judge to approve you. He is right now on the bench and after that, he is done for the week.” I could not believe this. I kept repeating, “But, there is a wedding on Saturday.” And she kept repeating, “I am sorry sir but its too late.” Finally I said, “Is there ANYBODY else I can talk to who can give me a better answer than what you are giving?” She said, “Well, you can leave a voicemail for the clerk but she is in court right now too.” I did not have a choice so I left a detailed message on the clerk’s voicemail. My first wedding was already shaping up to be a disaster.
Soon, my phone rang. I picked it up, assuming it was Alisa, who I had apprised of the situation via a voicemail. Taking a deep breath, I answered the phone. I was wrong, it was the county clerk returning my call. We had a very amicable conversation where I told her my situation. She was quite understanding and explained to me how too many people get ordained “online”, and that the judge wanted to make sure only legitimate ordained persons were able to officiate. I explained to her my training in this. She asked me to fax the required documents but to still plan on stopping by the court house before the wedding to get final approval. Heaving a huge sigh of relief I hung up the phone, and ran around town collecting my documents and having them faxed over. That afternoon, I got the best email of the day. It was the clerk’s office saying that the documents were in order and they’d expect me on Friday. PHEW!
I still had the small matter of getting to the court on time. The rehearsal was at 4 PM in Front Royal, VA, a town 2 hours or more away from the Washington D.C. airport that I would be flying into. My flight would arrive at 12:45 PM. So after getting my stuff, I would have to get my car rental and drive out. I was going to cut it close anyway, but now I have to fit in a trip to the courthouse on top of that! I called Alisa and told her that in case I was late, to go ahead and get started practicing the processional and recessional, the two most time-consuming parts of any rehearsal.
And so began my journey. On thursday night I got an email from Delta that informed me that my reservation to DC (from Cincinnati) was upgraded to first class! I had to temper my excitement because I, in all honesty, would rather fly coach and be on time than fly first class and be delayed. My flights could not have gone any better. I arrived in DC on time, and flew down the terminal to catch the shuttle to the car-rentals. I walked into the building which housed the car rentals and audibly gasped. This was the longest line I had seen in the US in quite a while. Next to the D.M.V. (Department of Motor Vehicles), the slowest moving line in the US is the line for car rentals. I had rented the cheapest car available but being the 4th of July weekend, I knew that a surprise was going to be in order!
Anxiously pacing, I slowly inched my way up, and soon I was called up. Sure enough, my car was no longer available, and they HAD to upgrade me! The car they had for me? A silver 2010 Ford Mustang!
Soon, in this speedy silver bullet, I was zipping through the streets of DC, into a relatively tranquil Virginia. I was 30 minutes behind schedule but felt pretty optimistic. The steering column definitely felt the brunt of my “pats” when I had to weave through traffic. Then again, traffic like this is what we call easy traffic in India! I made it to the court house (30 minutes before rehearsal). Got my documents examined and signed. I was authorized to perform weddings for 5 days there! 🙂
The Mustang then revved up and we were flying toward the arboretum. Alisa, bless her heart, did not call me till 3:55 PM, five minutes until go-time. I answered the phone and told her, “Alisa, I will be there in 5 minutes.” Best words I spoke all week! The bridal party pulled in and were unloading to walk to the wedding site when the Celebrant and his silver horse flew in! It felt great! I gave Alisa a big hug, met the gang, and without a hiccup began the rehearsal on a sweltering Friday in Virginia.
The rest of the story goes according to script…I met wonderful people, checked in later that night at the Holiday Inn to sleep soundly, and woke up late the next morning to watch the World Cup on TV as I prepped for the wedding. The wedding itself proceeded without a SINGLE hitch. We had a short and sweet ceremony and I was able to proudly proclaim Alisa and Jeff a married couple! 🙂
I flew back on Monday. And yes, according to the pattern established, I was upgraded on both my flights. Flying first-class home was a fine way to end a wedding!
(Note: Lessons were learned).