The Thrill and Honor of Officiating a Wedding for your Friends

I recently had the honor, for the second time, serving as the Officiant for a friend’s wedding.  Having now performed my second Wedding Ceremony I have to say what a Thrill and Honor it was.  I’ve known Rich for about 8 years and have spent the last several years getting to know his now-wife Sharon.  I was absolutely thrilled when they asked me last year if I would officiate their wedding in April of 2018.  I have been an ordained Minister of the Universal Life Church since 2013 and also had the pleasure of marrying our friends Phil and Kristi in October of 2014.

So why get ordained?  I kind of did it on a whim?  My drive to do it was two fold…  First, Cynthia and I were running a car club that we formed back in 2007 and having seen so many people come and go, children born, relationships changing, I thought, hey, wouldn’t be cool if someday I could marry someone at one of these car show events when the moment hit them.  The second reason was that I was seeing a bunch of people touting the fact that they were ordained and were bragging about their abilities all over Facebook.  I didn’t like they way they were touting it.  It was of the vain of people who brag about donating to Charity.  It’s not something that you do.  So to prove a point, I wanted to show how easy and mindless of a task it was to become ordained.

So I jumped on the the Universal Life Church’s website, I filled out a form, paid a fee and boom, I was ordained just like that.  I then ordered a certificate and a letter showing that it was official.  I then took it and placed it in my desk draw thinking, it will be there if the need ever arises.  I then let a few people know that I had become ordained and it kind of spread throughout our car club.

In 2013 we took a huge step back from the car club to concentrate on other projects in our life and we still stayed in touch with a few close friends from the club.  Then one day out of the blue, I get a call from our friend Phil.  Phil called to tell me the news before it got out all over Facebook but he was going to propose to his girlfriend, now-wife, Kristi.  I was so exited for him. They really were so in love you could tell how well they worked as a couple.  Not too long after, Phil reached out to me again and asked if I would marry them.  Without hesitation, I said yes, I’ve never done it before but I’ll make sure I have everything in place to do so.

It wasn’t until a couple days later that it really hit me. Wow, I have the chance to officiate a wedding and I have no clue what to do.  What did I get myself into by trying to prove a point. What happened next is what really changed everything for me.  I spent many hours doing research, reading blogs, reading wedding ceremonies and spending time on the Universal Life Church’s website learning all I could.  It was after all this research and reading perspectives from others that were ordained, that it really hit me as to what an honor it was to be asked and what an important part I would be playing in the lives of our friends Phil and Kristi.  As with everything I do, I take my tasks seriously and do them to the best of my ability.

So I started to prepare myself to meet with Phil and Kristi to get an idea of what kind of ceremony they wanted.  So I developed a 3 page questionnaire based on what I already knew, what I learned and what I would what an officiant to ask me.  This became part of my materials that I use today.  I then scheduled a time to meet with Phil and Kristi and the four of us went out for dinner so we could relax and chat.  We spent some time just chatting and then spent some time gathering the information I needed to be sure I was prepared and was also able to write an appropriate ceremony.  They told us their wedding date was October 4th and the ceremony and reception would be at Momento Restaurant in West Milford.

I tried to advise them as both a friend and a Minister and certainly took the task seriously and one thing I think is very important is asking the couple to write their own vows.  Who can say what you feel better than you? I told them I would help to guide them in this task.  I then began writing the ceremony based on the information I gathered and write something that I felt fit their theme, and their wishes to not be a religious ceremony with religious reference.  Having been awarded many times in school for my creating writing and poem writing, I found it to be a joy writing their ceremony.

On October 4th, 2014 their wedding was a beautiful success after some iffy weather in the morning.  You couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day and gathering of friend and family.  Looking back at this picture of Phil and Kristin arm in arm, it almost looks as though I am exhaling with a sigh of relief that I didn’t “F” up their special day.  It was an amazing experience that I still have a hard time describing.   The energy and emotion that surrounded us during the ceremony was immense and it was hard to keep from getting emotional myself, especially with the bride and groom reading their amazingly well written vows.  It certainly was a Thrill and an Honor.

So back to where I began this blog and that was having been asked by our friends Rich and Sharon to officiate their wedding in April 2018…  This too was an amazing experience and I took everything I learned from my first and my own wedding in April of 2016 and applied it to Rich and Sharon’s big day.  I asked them the same questions from my questionnaire to gather some information and I also asked them to consider writing their own vows as I felt it was more personal.  As with Phil and Kristi’s ceremony, I wrote a little poetic interlude that was to be my contribution to the ceremony and knowing they were particularly fond of Light Houses and were engaged at the top of the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, it seemed right to compare Light Houses to Marriage.  I was surprised how easily writing about Light Houses flowed from my brain to my fingertips.

As with Phil and Kristi’s wedding, I wanted to be sure I didn’t “F” it up so I practiced reading the ceremony aloud nearly 30 times in the weeks leading up to the ceremony.  I had it nearly memorized but I did not plan on performing off the top of my head.  As with Phil and Kristi’s wedding, I created a ceremony book with larger print that was easy to read and included Rich and Sharon’s vows so they also could simply read to one another.  I feel it makes it so much smoother to have something to glance at.  I have to admit, I was absolutely terrified this time around.

I wanted this to be perfect and during this week leading up to the wedding I was dealing with an infected wisdom tooth that would be removed the morning after the wedding.  I could feel my pulse racing and I was running a slight fever the entire day of the wedding.  But I pulled myself together and made the ceremony happy for our friends.

I am so very proud of how it came out and how everything went.  It was an amazing evening and again, I couldn’t be more Thrilled and Honored to have been asked by these amazing friends, Phil & Kristi, Rich & Sharon to be their Officiant.  A question I have been asked is, would I do it again?  I think the answer is absolutely yes for friends.  I’m not sure I am ready to provide my services to strangers.  Either way, this was an experience of a life time and looking back I am glad I became ordained.

Dave VanderWekke is former Electronic Engineer now Accomplished Software Engineer, former IBMer, amateur chef and amateur BBQ pit-master and definite Foodie. He is also a Paranormal Investigator, Ordained Minister and full time tinkerer into everything from Home Automation to A.I. and Robotics. Dave loves dining and dressing up for the occasion and thinks it's a lost art. "Sunday Supper should be something everyone does", says Dave. [More About Dave...]

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