Tracie & Michael, married 07/20/06 on left and Julia & Bob, married 10/04/13, on right.
Here I stand, chatting with the photographer while waiting for the wedding couple and party to arrive. After a week of autumn storms I’m pleased to see that the weather has cleared to gorgeous, warm and sunny. I’m glad I recommended this beautiful location on the Willamette River: the Foothills Park in Lake Oswego. The bride had called me from North Carolina only the week before. She was arranging her impromptu wedding to coincide with a visit with her sister and husband here, a couple I’d married 7 years before at the Rose Garden. She was excited that I was available on short notice; the family had clearly liked and remembered me. I wish I could say I remember them; I officiate well over 100 weddings per year and they sort of run together.

But when today’s Matron or Honor, the bride of 7 years ago, arrives, I recognize her immediately. Their wedding was so much fun!  She had worn a big traditional white gown with a train, while the groom and groomsmen had dressed in suits—and flip-flops. (These were leather rather than rubber and therefore, evidently, their “dress” flip-flops.) I also recall that during the ceremony when I’d asked for the bride’s ring, the Best Man dug and dug into his pockets, appearing to have lost it. Finally, with great fanfare, he produced a bright green candy pop ring. It was joke, which surprised and delighted the bride. She threw her head back and laughed and laughed, thanking him graciously with a Southern drawl and even pretended to give the ring a lick. The real ring was then presented and we went on with the wedding, the bride still chuckling.

When I meet today’s bride, I find that she is even more laid back than her sister.  Today the two are dressed semi-casually but in classy southern style; pretty blue dresses accessorized with cowboy boots! Dad is clearly feeling at home in denim overalls, though they appear to be brand new. The groom is polite and kind, making sure to tell me that if I’m ever in North Carolina, I’m welcome to come and visit them. It’s a pleasure to reconnect with the parents and brother, who have all traveled to Oregon once again for a family wedding.

I don’t get much in the way of repeat business—ideally once I join a couple, they will stay together for a lifetime. I sure do love getting referrals of their family members, though. It is such an honor to serve the same family again and share in yet another joyful occasion!

I firmly believe in minding my own business on a couple’s wedding preferences. This includes whether and when to marry, whom to invite to the wedding, and what to wear. That last item can cause some discomfort for traditional folks who have fixed ideas on what is proper wedding attire. The fact is here in Oregon many of us are pretty laid back. At local weddings I’ve seen my share of tank tops, shorts and flip-flops among the guests—and sometimes the couple themselves.  I prefer to follow the old adage of not passing judgment until I’ve walked a mile in their moccasins—or possibly socks with sandals, a common fashion misstep in these parts! 

Anything goes, really. I see all kinds from brides who arrive in a big ball gown that practically takes up half the chapel, to couples that dress like they are on the way to the beach—and quite possibly they are. I would never dream of judging a couple’s fashion statement. It is only my job to help them tie the knot in whatever style is comfortable to them.  I have no idea what’s happening in their world or what is behind their choices. However, when they share their story, sometimes it can be very illuminating.

Case in point was a couple who arrived for their elopement-style wedding both dressed in t-shirts, cutoffs and tennies.  Their demeanor was just as casual.  The bride kept cracking jokes during the ceremony, like: "Can I skip that part?" And when I was talking about life-long commitment, she said, “He gets five years and then we will have to renegotiate!” They were laughing the whole time, she especially.

Afterward she shared with me that she's been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  She showed me the scar on her scalp from her surgery; at least she got to keep most of her hair. Her docs have given her five years to live. I see now that humor is her way of coping. My heart goes out to both of them. I don’t care what they wear on their big day. What really matters and what I so respect in the groom in particular, is his heart full of love and devotion for his new wife, while knowing he is likely to lose her all to soon. The courage and grace with which they face an uncertain future is a wonderful thing and h.  I wish this brave couple all the best in their journey together.

A recent bride told me she was so glad to have found our little chapel for her second marriage.  She explained that she wanted a simple civil ceremony, which we are happy to offer. But she definitely wanted to skip the courthouse setting she’d chosen the first time around. That wedding was apparently interspersed between divorces; when the clerk had announced the next item of business on the judge’s docket, he had called them up as, “Smith vs. Brown.” She should have known then that the marriage was doomed, she told me! 

Some courthouse weddings might be sweet, and judges friendly.  But a couple cannot expect immediate service. First of all, they may not always get right in. During busy times it may take weeks to get on the docket. Then once there, it may take awhile for their turn to come up. And they may not be the only ones waiting. I’ve heard about criminals also hanging around in the courtroom, waiting for their cases to be heard. One couple joked that their courthouse wedding was “love among the felons.” That gives a whole new meaning to the term “ball and chain!”

Then, too, courthouse weddings by nature are very brief, virtually no more than a blip on the screen in a busy judge’s day. After all, the court has to work you in around other important business. With us, a couple is our only and most important business--and you won't have to wait. Once you have your marriage license, we can often marry you the very same day (though you will need to get a waiver of the 3-day waiting period--just ask the clerk when you get your license). Even if you prefer short and sweet, we will make your wedding warm and personal, something to remember fondly as you begin your married life together.

The daughters/bridesmaids connect with family in New Zealand.
We live in an electronic age for sure. While virtual weddings aren’t legal yet, at least not in this State, guests are finding inventive ways to “attend” a wedding from afar.  While officiating one such ceremony I noticed the bride holding something next to her bouquet.  I mused:  A small Bible?  A photo of a departed loved one?  Nope, turns out it was a cell phone.  Dad couldn’t come, but he was right there with her on speaker phone. 

At another wedding of an older couple, their daughter stood with them holding her brother, or at least the laptop through which he was Skyping from Hong Kong.  After the ceremony, the family posed for an interesting picture; the sister stood between her newly married parents, holding the electronic version of her brother, whose smiling face filled up the entire computer screen.  It gives a new meaning to the expression “talking heads.”

Speaking of “talking,” it’s a good idea for the guests to hit the mute button at their end. I recently officiated a wedding at our chapel in which guests were Skyped in from New Zealand. I’m sure they were not aware that we could all hear their running commentary, in a thick New Zealand accent, amongst each other.

At still another in-home wedding, a young couple traded vows in front of the fireplace before a dozen or so guests.  They perched on the living room couches and chairs, with two more on the coffee table—that is, two laptops.  One was connected to loved ones in California and the other to a branch of the family in Canada.  Following that ceremony, the couple squatted down in front the coffee table with a glass of champagne, in a virtual toast to each computer, and to the kinfolk who could not be there in person. I wonder if wedding invitations will change their RSVP Yes-lines to: “I plan to attend in person,” or “I plan to attend via cyberspace.” Yes, it certainly is an electronic age we live in!
Some families come ready made.  On Friday we officiated a simple elopement-style wedding at our chapel for Sondra and Al.  Included in the package deal were two little ones, a 4-year-old boy and his red-headed sister  who is, well, terribly 2!  She responded to every question or comment with an emphatic, "No!"  Due to this restless little native, we skipped the unity candles for a short and sweet ceremony. As soon as she was back in her mother's arms, all was well with the world.
Some couples want to show off their love to the world and others prefer to keep it a private affair.  Over the weekend at our chapel we officiated for two couples who wanted privacy. They were kind enough to allow photos of their hands displaying shiny new wedding rings.
One of our couple's family members re-created this cake, inspired by one they'd found on Pinterest. We think they did a masterful job and it made their mini-reception, following the wedding at our chapel, very special!
Congrats to Amanda & John, married at our chapel this afternoon with one hour's notice. Courthouse weddings often need to be scheduled in advance. In their case, there would have been a 2-week wait, as the judges have to schedule around other important business. But with us, a couple is the most important business! We happened to have an opening the same day and were glad to help them tie the knot! They were only too happy to reenact the kiss--a number of times, in fact. :-)

Our chapel is small, but sometimes the bride's gown is big!  It is so fun when a bride wears a dress with a long train. We captured an image of the back of Janna's lovely gown, standing next to her handsome new husband, Jason.

Most couples we serve are happy to share a photo or two for our website or Facebook page, but occasionally there's a shy couple who would prefer not. And we certainly respect that. Some will consent to an anonymous back view shot, or photo of just their hands. Whether sharing this joyful occasion only with each other and a small circle of friends and family, or "shouting to the world" on social media, we honor your wishes to be Wedded Your Way.