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Why I Do "I Do" (spoiler - Wedding Officiant Loves the Job)

Updated: Feb 29

Are facts and background more engaging than stories steeped in emotion that explore the depths and summits of human behavior? Probably not. Yet a little bit of facts and background can do a lot of good toward finding a shared starting point. Or perhaps that's all nonsense and I'm just looking for a more interesting opening line than stating a fact of my personal history.

I was ordained in 2014, online via Universal Life Church. It was a few months after I excitedly accepted a request to officiate one of my brothers' weddings. The wedding of one of my brothers? Yes. I have two brothers and they've each had one wedding.

My hair matched their color scheme (gold and blue). Writing an original ceremony for a family wedding was fun, an honor, and truly a gift. I closed with a laugh line proclaiming "the power vested in me by the internet", and to this day my father asks if I'm using that line any time he hears I've got a wedding coming up. (Dear reader, I assure you that that was the one ceremony for which I uttered that sentence, but if you love it as much as my dad does I'm happy to include it in yours.)

As wonderful an experience as it was, officiating their wedding ceremony, I did not immediately think that I should go out and make an effort to be hired by people outside of my immediate circle of family and friends. At most, I made serious but unsupported proclamations about offering my services for $100 to the first ten couples to take me up on it. At the time, I was regularly hosting bar trivia for a company in New York City. I mentioned my new title to colleagues and players in the bar and at the office, but I stopped short of doing work beyond words to make anything happen.

My friends Nicole and Nova were married in 2016 and 2018, respectively. They both gifted me the pleasure of gifting them their wedding ceremonies, each as unique and personalized as my brother's had been, and as the couples themselves. (Hot tip for any friends and family out there officiating your loved ones' weddings--the ceremony is the gift. A handwritten card is still lovely but unless you're too rich and everyone knows it, you can feel fine about skipping the registry.)

Zooming along at the pace of one ceremony every two years was a lovely prelude, if leisurely, and by this time I was no longer working for that particular trivia company. Broadly Entertaining was enjoying its first year in business with much thanks to our closest personal network of friends who responded to our launch with support and enthusiasm. We worked our first two weddings, officially and contractually as Broadly Entertaining, in 2018 (though it's worth noting that my incredible business partner Giana planned her own wedding in 2017 and grew up watching her mom DJ weddings). Day-of Coordination for Dan & Jess, and DJ/MC for Theresa & Ivan.

We have now participated in several dozen weddings, in a variety of roles and toward a variety of goals. Without impugning my or our ability to successfully and dare I say impressively fulfill that assortment of responsibilities, I have come to truly prefer involvement with the ceremony itself above all other honors a wedding professional might find bestowed upon them.

One of my earliest discoveries as a for-hire wedding officiant was that the delight of marrying strangers and new friends is not at all diminished in relation to marrying old friends and family. The love, the togetherness, the moments of both laughter and tenderness - it is never not a privilege and a joy!

Less important but still rather delightful, I get a silly little kick out of using the word "marrying" in the verb form wherein I myself am not a participant in the resulting marriage (and am therefore not personally married to a stranger, which is ideal). It must be, though I haven't researched this to confirm, that that usage has become outright archaic. There is almost always a delay in understanding between me and whomever I'm speaking to, and that brief but distinct journey to comprehension tickles me every time.

"Is that really why you officiate weddings, Jamie?"

Of course not, but if I don't find small joys of all kinds as I venture through my one precious life--sometimes forging courageously ahead, sometimes groping blindly along--then I will have missed out on countless opportunities to recognize and appreciate the beauties and wonders of both the natural world and the one constructed by humans.

Speaking of humans, I have met and connected with dozens of incredible people. The couples I've wed, their families and friends, and other wedding professionals, having conversations I never would otherwise and seeing the potential for humanity's generosity and kindness fulfilled by real-life humans. People have welcomed me to stay for the rehearsal dinner or even the wedding reception. Sometimes both!

Small gestures from practical strangers engaging warmly and with curiosity during a meaningful moment in their lives, offering connection that is somehow equal parts fleeting and steadfast, knowing that though we may never celebrate together again we can nonetheless make the most of our time together. We can learn from each other and be inspired by each other. Speaking for myself, anyway, I carry with me on both a personal and professional level, the gifts of myriad interactions with people of all ages, from many places, and with a variety of backgrounds and identities.

Those experiences make me a better person, and a better officiant. Though frankly, if I may, I've always been pretty good at it. Writing and performing wedding ceremonies really tie my skills and interests together.

While not first in terms of logistical importance, I am absolutely a romantic at heart. Based on my movie-watching habits, even a poorly told story can compel me to be emotionally invested in other people's love and happiness. When it comes to my straighforward ability to do the job, I'm an improviser and emcee with university degrees in theatre and performance. I don't mind the attention or the pressure to maintain it, yet I know how to direct that focus onto the guests of honor whom everyone is there to celebrate and support. In both content and presentation, I'm always in favor of balancing the sweet sincerity of the ceremony with well-placed humor and a dash of personality (mine, sure, but more importantly, the newlyweds'). As far as the writing goes, I think I do a decent job and the feedback has always been positive. I'm reluctant to call myself a writer even though my mother thinks I'm a very good one (and as alluded to earlier in this post my dad thinks I'm hilarious--while I'm sharing incredibly biased views about myself).

I will always support a couple choosing a friend or family member to preside over their wedding ceremony, as that's clearly a deeply meaningful choice and might kickstart someone else's journey into professional officiation. However, I understand that not everyone knows someone who's comfortable standing in front of a group of people and speaking publicly, despite or perhaps especially considering the importance of the occasion. Sometimes people just need guidance, and I'm available for that, too!

As much as I can offer advice toward writing and performing a ceremony, I am not currently a premarital counselor. That said, I'm happy to suggest resources, e.g. books, podcasts, and modern relationship scholars, and am always open to researching counselors and additional resources on a couple's behalf! Having someone on your team who can save you the time and effort of narrowing down the seemingly infinite options to a more manageable set based on your specific goals and concerns, can be a valuable service add-on (or else another task you can give to a trusted loved one).

As my journey continues, I look forward to meeting more incredible people and continuing to work toward creating a welcoming space for folks to celebrate love, honor their truest selves, and step into their next life chapter with confidence and excitement.

Future possibilities on the profesional expansion and personal growth fronts include returning to school for a second Master's Degree, this time with a focus on the intersections of religion, culture, literature, and feminism (with a view to standing up against Christian Nationalism in the United States, in the ways I feel most capable). Alongside that train of thought, I'm hoping to acquire additional ordainment from the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism and the American Humanist Association.

One project I'm very excited about, if still far away from executing in full reality, is a road trip and contest through which I travel to the 48 contiguous American states, and possibly Alaska, to marry queer couples at practically no cost to them. There are a lot of details to pin down and a lot of possibilities sketched out on paper, but I'd like to think this is a practical goal for 2025.

In the meantime, I'm marrying wonderful people in and around Austin, Texas, plus a little bit of side hustle to pay the bills, feed my soul, and see new places. I'm engaging politically, reading and listening to people much smarter than I am, working on my self, and discovering, one day at a time, how to best serve others and be fulfilled with my own choices.

With any luck and a bit of hard work, I'll get to keep hearing people pronounce "I do", for many years ahead. (Because, again, this wedding officiant loves the job.)


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