I’ve done over 100 weddings in my career as a minister. Some stand out more than others – marrying my beloved nephews to their chosen spouses; Greg and Jen’s wedding where I dropped the rings and blurted an impure word during the holy exchange. One of the most memorable ceremonies was a ZOOM wedding during the pandemic.
Prior to the event, Emma and James, did what most couples do – they booked the venues, selected the cake, the meal, and the music. They met with me to discuss the ceremony.
Then the pandemic happened, and all plans eroded. It was a slow, uncertain crumbling, probably painful for them. With each new quarantine rule, wedding plans dwindled from a large event, to a small gathering, to possible cancelation.
Emma called me to ask for advice. She and James wanted to get married and wanted everyone to be safe. They didn’t know what to do. As I took an in-breath, ready to suggest that they wait, Emma started to cry. “My grandma is on hospice-care,” she said. “And she really wants to see me get married before she dies.”
That got me. We explored a few options – having the wedding at her grandma’s house. Couldn’t do that because of other quarantine issues. So within the hour, I was on the phone to the state of California asking, “Is a ZOOM wedding legal?”
“The bride and groom must be in the presence of the officiant,” they said.
We held a ZOOM wedding in Jen and Greg’s backyard with two witnesses, a cameraman, the bride, the groom, and me. We hand sanitized while signing the license. During the ceremony, we stood six feet apart. Only the bride and groom touched. I bellowed the vows into Jen’s laptop, placed on a stool in front of us. Out of the corner of my eye, on the ZOOM screen, I could see Emma’s grandma, wearing a nasal cannula for oxygen. She was smiling.
What I love about this wedding is the sacrifice. This bride and groom sacrificed their elaborate plans. They made Emma’s grandma’s needs more important than theirs. They let go of their dream wedding to make room for greater love. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13).
After the wedding, Emma and James wanted a picture with me. We decided to hold our breath and break protocol, standing six inches apart from each other rather than six feet. We stood in front of Jen’s garage door, looking like a cheery police line-up. It was a bit awkward. You can see us holding back, afraid to get too close. But when I look at the picture now, I see the perfect messiness of being; how messiness can pierce our lives, but also how it always tills the ground for the shy emergence of love beyond plans, love beyond love.
This will be a good marriage.