Even through common travel blunders, a weeklong over-indulgence and a catamaran injury to the bride the night before her wedding, one still finds a way.
When my friend and his now wife were venting about the officiant of their destination wedding, without hesitation, I said, “I’ll get ordained.”
The task was undeniably gratifying, and continuing to perform weddings for others is something worth my consideration.
Couples utilizing a non-denominational wedding officiant is not uncommon. According to the city of Albuquerque, the Planning Department no longer keeps information on how many wedding officiants are registered as businesses in the city. However, The Knot, a popular wedding site, lists 20 officiants in Albuquerque.
Roy Ricci and his wife, Kelly, run Amor Ceremonies in Albuquerque and have been part of the wedding industry for 17 years. They are non-denominational wedding officiants, but were both traditionally ordained in their respective churches.
“I find it very rewarding for both of us,” Roy Ricci said about performing a wedding. “No matter what, we come home happy. It lifts us up; it almost reinforces our own feelings for each other. … It’s good for everybody.”
Amor Ceremonies has won multiple awards, including being named best officiant on Wedding Wire and Perfect Wedding Guide, and the accolades can be attributed to their flexibility, accommodation and acceptance of love without boundaries.
The Riccis are normally booked in advance by organized couples, but they have performed day-of ceremonies in parks, their driveway or even the airport.
After same-sex marriage was approved in New Mexico in 2013, Roy Ricci said they did 300 weddings within a year after. One couple even flew into Albuquerque, “got off the plane, found two witnesses, got married, and got back on the next flight out,” he said.
Marriage has a definition, but it’s rather subjective in regard to how the betrothed-turned-newlyweds approach their life together. There’s no one generic script – especially in the contemporary era. Each ceremony offers a new take on love.
Though Amor Ceremonies averages around 100 bookings a year, Roy Ricci admitted he still gets chills just talking about performing weddings for people. “It’s almost the same perspective, but in a different way. It’s fun, I still enjoy it.”
Due to the modern shift in wedding ceremonies, non-denominational wedding officiants have become a legitimate option for couples to consider.
I took the online route to ordainment through Universal Life Church. The old cliche suggests becoming an officiant takes a mere five minutes. That’s an exaggeration; it takes far less time than that.
George Freeman has been the head chaplain at ULC for 16 years, and says the church “accepts all people.”
“It seems to me, our conscious level is speeding up. … We gotta stick together, or we’re going to fall apart collectively,” he said.
ULC has millions of members from different backgrounds and belief systems. It allows individuals to become legally ordained at no cost. Freeman noted that in the last five years, ULC’s ordinations in New Mexico have increased over 60%, which is far above the global average of 40%.
“More and more people are not attending formal churches,” Freeman explained. “Regardless of who you are, if you’re in love, you’re in love, and it’s not a crime.”
To be a wedding officiant, it’s important to be well-versed in the legal process of marriage. Each state, even each county, has its own laws, which can be found on any city’s website. With this in mind, my performance abroad was a mere formality. The couple were legally married in North Carolina by another ordained minister before they left for the Dominican Republic.
Life’s a beach
After landing in the Dominican Republic, everything was going to plan. Most had abandoned their useless quarrels with the airlines the moment they were granted access to paradise by the impassive customs workers. The resort was all-inclusive, so the group wandered freely from restaurant to restaurant, pool to pool, bar to bar, lounge chair to lounge chair.
At one of the many shops, I purchased a Panama Jack hat for the ceremony. One doesn’t truly embrace the tourist role until you make questionable fashion choices to fit in with a culture.
Yes, the resort had everything, except a hospital, of course.
The afternoon before the ceremony was scheduled to take place, a majority of the wedding guests boarded a catamaran to sail down the coast. Let’s just say that moving boats, a slick deck, alcohol and the “Cupid Shuffle” don’t bode well for balance. Our lovely bride slipped and suffered a distended ligament in her knee, forcing an off-resort doctor’s visit. The physician informed her she would be in a wheelchair the rest of the trip. She wasn’t happy about missing the one small walk she had been planning her whole life.
Her bridesmaids prescribed enough motivation to help her make that walk.
The ceremony was on the sand, shoes optional. The invitees relaxed, draped in short flowy dresses and linen suits. The cadence of the tame current complemented the ambiance of sea-foam stretching toward distant nothingness in the backdrop. Random beachgoers swiveled their loungers and other guests leaned against their balcony rails to catch a glimpse of the union of two soulmates.
Then the bride and groom took turns saying “I do,” and I vested my power.
All for love
Being an ordained minister allows you to provide memories and collect a few of your own. This specific tale is one of support, as love is something that is earned and should be recognized.
“People are people,” Roy Ricci said about marriage. “It’s part of humanity. … If two people are in love, why should culture get in the way?”
Every couple’s fairy tale deserves a happy ending because each journey is unique, because for love, people find their way.
UpFront is a Journal front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Carl Knauf at 505-823-3856 or firstname.lastname@example.org.