Beloved smiled, inclined her head at me and confided, “She’s marrying her goddaughter.”

Conversation stopped dead at the dinner table, a group of us Episcopalians sitting amidst a very crowded room of Catholics at the local Friday Lenten Fish Fry, and all turned to stare at me.

“Okay… maybe that could be… phrased… differently?” Turning to the group, looking at their stunned faces, I realized everyone seemed to have the same unspoken question.

What, you’re into bigamy now?

“Aaargh, it’s not like that! I got an online license to conduct weddings! She’s marrying her boyfriend! They didn’t have anyone to conduct the ceremony!”

The priest in the group looked amused. “Well, so much for YOU as a godparent. She doesn’t go to church?”

Oh my god. I can’t win for losing.

My mother, also at the table, was initially horrified at the idea I, a marginal churchgoer at best, would be conducting the holy sacrament of marriage. She had been mollified by knowing I was helping a couple in need. I decided against telling her the bride’s sister offered to make me a website showcasing my ministerial services.

Seriously, I have great respect for men and women of the cloth and I’ve no intention of going into business as a roadside religious enterprise.

Weeeeelll, okay, I’d be tempted around my sister. For everything she’s ever pulled on me, if we’re ever near a body of water, I’ll be hard pressed not to baptize her. Heh, heh, heh. Only thing is, she’s a wily and vindictive creature, and with my luck, SHE would be the one standing over me as I sat in a foot-deep pond with duck feathers in my hair, saying “I don’t know why you thought you could dump ME in there. Baptize my ass, I don’t think so…”

I’m willing to help people stand up and make it legal, but I’m under no misconception that I’m actually a priest.

However, to accommodate the situation, I am, according to the Universal Life Church, a minister, legal to conduct weddings, baptisms, funerals and various other sundry pastoral care thingies.

Two days before the wedding they sent me an email, addressing me as “Reverend” and noting I had overlooked obtaining evidence of my status.

They strongly recommended I obtain an Ordination Set (for a mere $29.95) with an Official License, a parking hang tag and placard (presumably when I have a clergy emergency and have to park in an offensive place – “hey officer, sorry about the illegal parking job but y’know, I’m a pastor…”), a clip on minister badge…

However, if I want a certificate for my honorary doctorate, which “commemorates your self-directed study in the field of divinity”, that’s an extra twenty smackers. Check out the awesome gold seal!

Interestingly, they also offer an “emergency wedding set”. Not sure how many wedding emergencies occur, but hey.

The other thing that fascinates me, probably somewhat morbidly, are the other items they sell to the ordained. For $3.99 you can get a pack of three individual communion wafer and juice sets. It’s a tiny little cup of grape juice, hermetically sealed, and topped with a wafer that would survive the third world war.

Conveniently packaged as a single unit, you can save time and the bother of having people come up to the rail for the sacrament and instead you can just fling these little mass-y missiles to the congregation. I envision a trebuchet of these little packs being flung into the pews.

Unsurprisingly, they also offer a book about tax… uh…. implications for non-profits. Other bookshelf offerings include “How to Rid Your Home of Ghosts and Spirits” in case you’re they exorcist type and “Candle Magic for Beginners”… because candle magic is one of the easiest types to learn.

Gotta admit, in my ignorance, I had no idea there were different kinds of magic.

Didn’t need any of that. This was a run o the mill non-religious wedding.

At the rehearsal.

Run of the mill was right. People you haven’t seen in years, minor disasters, family everywhere… yep, run o the mill… The things that make backyard weddings the wonderful, unpredictable and hilarious events they are.

The arch fell on my head, or it woulda done if the best man and the maid of honor hadn’t’a grabbed it – the wind kicked up a bit at times.

Before the ceremony

It was beautiful and joyous and several people cried. It was an incredible honor to tell a man facing away to “turn now” as the bride started down the aisle so he caught the first glimpse of his beloved in her dress.

Watching intently for the arrival of the bride.

I loved it. I would totally do it again.

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