While I believe the narrative of any wedding couple is their property to hold or share, I can testify that having the opportunity to be the officiant in a wedding was a unique and profound experience.
My roots with the family involved reach way back to high school, as the older brother of the bride was a runner five years behind me in the cross country and track program. As a result, we ran together some, shared the same coach and built a few memories that have lasted all these years.
His younger sister got to know me through that connection. We also collaborated when she was looking to promote an athlete clothing line a few years back. I helped her open doors to some running and cycling stores in the Chicago region.
We connected on social media after that and have shared some laughs. I always tease that I want her dog for my own. She has a beautiful border collie pup with eyes that steal your heart.
Yet from all my writing about theology and God, she wondered if I was an ordained pastor. “Not yet,” I replied. “But I can get that done.” So I applied through the Universal Life Church website where my son Evan was also ordained, and we were ready to go.
About five years ago a handsome man started showing up in her feed and they built a relationship that blossomed into love. Both of them love the outdoors and that’s why she asked me to serve as the officiant for their wedding. She’s read my blog and even hired me to write a nature-based piece for the magazine where she used to work. He’s also a cyclist and we traded a few training and racing stories along the way.
The wedding was held in a beautifully spare old church west of Elgin, Illinois. Her family built the one-room building back in 1843 in remembrance of their roots back in Scotland. The building has no heat, so we could see our breath the entire ceremony. The greens decorating the church had a spare and lovely quality about them. The plain benches were cold, yet welcoming in that honest fashion that harkens all the ages and people that have sat there before you.
Outside the church were many graves, several with the namesake of her grandfather, the sportswriter that covered my running career back in high school.
Weeks before the wedding, I interviewed the couple by phone and sent them questions around which the wedding talk was built. Some relevant scriptural perspectives were added, but the main message was that creation itself is the connection they both shared in having been raised by people with a strong love of nature.
That outlook is right up my alley in terms of life philosophies. It was a pleasure and an honor to invite the people in attendance to share in those ideas. I led them in vows, then an exchange of rings. But when it came time to declare them “husband and wife” it struck me how profound a moment that truly was. All I could think of to say after the bride and groom leaned forward to kiss was a simple, “Bless you both.”