With eight months left to go until the wedding, everything is just about booked and finalized except for one pretty major thing:
We can’t find anyone to marry us, for the love of God! (Bad pun intended.)
More specifically, we can’t find any United Methodist minister to marry us. But Whitney, you say, why don’t you just get a judge or a “professional officiant”? Yeah, I’m being a bit stubborn here, I suppose, but here’s why: I grew up, was baptised, and was confirmed in the United Methodist Church. Some of the most formative moments of my youth happened as a result.
First boyfriend? Matt from my youth group in 6th grade. First make out session? Derek at UMC summer camp when I was 13. First high school dance? Alex from youth group in 10th grade. (That kinda looks bad…I didn’t just go to church to date, I promise.)
Growing up United Methodist was part of who I was and who I’ve come to be today, and even though I don’t routinely attend church at the moment, I fully intend and hope for my future children to have a similar youth group experience one day. Beyond that, I’ve always been proud that the United Methodist Church is very accepting and welcoming and build-your-own-adventure when it comes to church doctrine. If something doesn’t work for you? Toss it out. The most important part is loving thy neighbor, not judging others for their differing beliefs.
That all being said, I’d really prefer to have a United Methodist minister preside over my wedding ceremony. To me, having a minister officiate gives the ceremony a certain kind of gravitas–we’re not just making the promises to each other, or just in front of our friends–we’re making the promise to God that we will keep our vows for the rest of our life. And not just “God” in the abstract, but the kind, caring God that I grew up learning about in the United Methodist Church.
Doesn’t seem like too much to ask, right? Think again. We can’t find a single UMC minister who will marry us.
We started off calling the church we’ve attended a handful of times that’s near our house, the Bethany United Methodist Church. The minister there won’t do “offsite” ceremonies, apparently, meaning a ceremony that is not held in his church.
Next, we called the First United Methodist Church of Austin and the First United Methodist Chrurch of Kyle. Neither of them ever called us back after repeated phone calls and voicemails.
At a party, a gay couple we’re friends with told us about a minister they knew, and “he even marries gays, so I’m sure he’d marry you!,” they encouraged. Turns out, in protest of official church doctrine, he ONLY marries gay couples, and refuses to marry straight ones.
Having already been shot down four times, I got frustrated and fired off a very firm but very polite email to the bishops of the Austin and San Antonio districts for the United Methodist Church. One told me “sorry, but that’s not in my district” and the other one said “you should try Googling a minister.” How very helpful.
Last week, I tried one of the few remaining UMC ministers in Austin, at Northwest Hills UMC. No reply. Finally called him back after a week had passed and got the reverend himself on the phone–a first so far, we’d only been allowed to speak with minor church staff so far! Even better, he’d be happy to do it, as he was in a similar situation when he got married, before becoming a minister! Except that upon further consultation of his calendar, he had a conflict on the day of the rehearsal and didn’t feel comfortable missing the rehearsal. So close–yet no cigar.
I’m pretty close to giving up at this point, and just finding a good ol’ fashioned country judge. It makes me really sad, though. I was never the kid who dreamed about dresses and flower arrangements and all the other silliness that comes with weddings, the way some girls do. But I did at least figure that a UMC minister performing the ceremony was a given.
Beyond sad, this whole process has made me angry. It shouldn’t be this difficult to get married by a minister of a church in which you’re a member!
If anyone has suggestions at this point, I’m all ears.