So, I had the honor a few weeks ago of performing my first same-sex marriage ceremony. It was lovely, and the brides were so tender in their love for one another as they traded their personal vows in front of their friends and family that I was in tears by the end. I looked over at my own husband sitting among the guests and my heart swelled. I fell in love with him a little bit more then and there, so moved was I by the emotion of the women I'd been brought there on that day to join in marriage. It was truly beautiful.
[Brides Elizabeth and Priscila Watkins-Carvalho de Souza with their officiant on their happy day.]
Fast forward to today, when an old friend asked if I would preside over her nuptials. Actually, she asked a few days ago. Of course, I agreed and we communicated mostly via text over the course of the week, ironing out what she and her groom wanted to incorporate into the ceremony.
My friend explained that she and her boyfriend are both agnostic and as such wanted to keep the ceremony as secular as possible. I asked if they wanted to incorporate a poem or some other reading in place of any scripture. Did they have a favorite author or book? The bride said she would think on it, consult her groom, and get back to me by Thursday evening, the night before we had scheduled to meet at the courthouse for the ceremony.
Driving in at 7 a.m. this morning, I finally heard back from the bride with the last minute details.
"I would like you to quote the Princess Bride...when Buttercup and the Prince are getting married. Could you say it in the way [he] did?"
I was perplexed. I have read the Princess Bride, seen the movie more than once. I've read Cary Elwes' As You Wish, Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride. I've read the entire original movie script. I met Chris Sarandon, who plays Prince Humperdink, last month when we both appeared as guests at Alabama ComicCon in Birmingham, Alabama. And still, I didn't understand at first what part of the story she was asking me to quote from...and not just quote from but PERFORM.
And then the bride-to-be sent me this helpful little meme, and all became clear:
What to do, what to do? This was "her day." I'd said that very thing to her over and over as we texted back and forth about the ceremony. The ceremony was an elopement--the relationship is new and they wanted it to be an intimate affair. Good choice. They wanted a secular ceremony in accordance with their agnosticism. Good choice. They'd decided we'd walk from the courthouse to the fine arts museum across the street, where the ceremony could be preformed in a lovely alcove garden. Good choice. The ceremony would be short and sweet--they weren't even bringing any witnesses so I could scrub any language that referenced others. Good choice. And now they, or at least she, wanted me to play the role of the Impressive Clergyman from the Princess Bride. Hmmmmm, how did I feel about this choice?
The bride and I have been friends a long time, since childhood even. It was possible I was being punked. I called my trusted adviser and aunt, GDR, the woman who first introduced me to the Princess Bride on VHS way back in 1989. She howled with laughter but confessed the only quotes she clearly remembered from PB was when the grandpa is reading from the story book and tells his grandson, who is seemingly worried about the princess's fate but doesn't want to seem worried, "She doesn't get eaten by the eels at this time." GDR said I should go for it.
Then I called my husband. "What?" he asked. "She wants you do do what?" I could feel his embarrassment radiate through my cell phone. To be fair, the man is easily embarrassed, largely by my behavior it would seem. This was something I didn't fully realize until that Alabama ComicCon appearance I mentioned earlier. When he found out I'd be presenting a panel at the con, he'd insisted I practice what I would say over and over. "Would you chill out?" I'd finally told him. "I have done this before. I promise, I got it." "I don't know," he'd answered. "What if you get up there and there's all these 'ums'? Should you do it again for me and this time I'll count the 'ums'?" Um, hell no!
In the end I went with it--committed fully, or at least as fully as a forty-something year-old woman can commit to the role of a medieval priest with a speech impediment. Turns out, the groom had no idea what was about to happen as we started. I could tell by the way he burst into laughter after the first "mawwiage."
For anyone who hasn't seen the movie, here's the reading in its entirety:
"Mawwiage, mawwiage is wat bwings us togeder today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam wifin a dweam...and wuv, twue wuv, will fowwow you foweva...so tweasure your wuv--"
I was probably red as a beet. I'm easily embarrassed, too. Shocker, I know. To my horror (is that a word I should be associating with such a happy occasion?) the couple brought a witness after all, and she RECORDED THE ENTIRE THING. My aunt GDR is scouring the internet for it now, hoping it will go viral or something.
It all turned out okay. The bride was happy, the groom was happy. We laughed and enjoyed the moment before moving on to slightly more traditional vows. They seemed to have gotten their happily ever after.
So far, I'm enjoying my role as officiant. I'm learning a lot about love and all the forms it takes. Marriage laws change again in Alabama later this month. Blinded by their disdain for equal opportunity and protection under the law for all couples regardless of gender or sexuality, the Alabama Legislature has scrapped marriages entirely, and now couples who wish to be wed will merely fill out a form in front of a notary public and file that form with probate court. Because they wouldn't call them marriages for LGBTQ couples, they won't call them marriages for anyone. They aren't calling them civil unions, either. Truth is, I don't know what they'll be called. When I phoned the Jefferson County Probate Office yesterday, their chief clerk told me she hadn't been briefed on the changes to date. Welcome to Alabama government. **sigh**
Ultimately whatever it's called, love is still love. Whether it's wrapped in frills and clasped in trembling hands that clutch at note cards scribbled with the sweetest, most romantic professions of adoration, or whether it wears a funny hat and speaks with an exaggerated-for-Hollywood lisp, love is love, or in some cases wuv is wuv, and I'm always humbled and honored when asked to take part.
[Birmingham Museum of Fine Art]