Attention United Methodist Church: you’re a pain in the ass.

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.



My Vacation Philosophy

Despite being eight months out from the wedding, our honeymoon is basically completely booked.  The itinerary includes a one-night stay at a luxury oceanside hotel in South Beach, a port-side balcony cabin on a four-night Caribbean cruise, and four nights in a cabana on an all-exclusive private island in Belize.

Yeah, it’s gonna be fierce.  Not to mention, fairly pricey.

Recently, a friend of mine took a peek at my vacation registry, and did some quick mental math.  She was aghast—not at the total price tag, but that it only covered a nine day trip.  For the amount we’re spending, she pointed out, we could easily take a trip twice that length, by simply downgrading our accommodations and resisting the add-ons like dining in the specialty restaurants and spa treatments.

“Why wouldn’t you want to maximize your honeymoon?!” she questioned.

I dismissed her inquiries by pointing out that nine days is all we could really swing in terms of days off from work (which is true, for the most part).  But the real truth is that even if we did have unlimited vacation time, I would choose a shorter luxury vacation over a longer, more modest vacation every time.  To me, that IS maximizing our honeymoon.

On our cruise, for example, we don’t plan to eat at the included-in-our-price buffet.  We’ll do room service breakfast, lunches in port, and specialty restaurants for dinner.  Nor do we plan to skip the spa, the casino, or the bar–all of which are in addition to the “standard” price. And I can’t wait!

But an attitude like mine is routinely mocked over on the travel boards I’ve been reading lately, like  The people on those boards will often book an 8- or 10-day cruise, then eat only at the included restaurants, walk around in port cities but avoid paying to join any tours or see any attractions, and smuggle on their own liquor to avoid paying the cruise line’s prices. I just don’t get it: it’s not like booking the cruise itself was cheap, so why would you turn into such a penny pincher the second you set foot on board?

For me, there’s just something about being treated like a VIP—and you can’t get that level of service by hoarding your nickels along the way.  Yes, we could easily add a couple days of sitting on the beach and doing absolutely nothing to our agenda, had we opted for an inside stateroom cabin.  But when I look back in 20 years, what am I more likely to remember?  An extra beach day, or the champagne toast we share on our private balcony at sailaway?

Then, there are also the perks.  Being that we’re already a balcony cabin, we’re much more likely to get upgraded to an even higher class of stateroom.  Since we’re in the honeymoon cabana on the private island, they’re throwing in a snorkeling with sea turtles excursion for free. If we gamble enough in the casino, we’ll get the onboard free drink card.  And on, and on, it tends to go with the travel industry.

But since I’m a little concerned I’m starting to sound like a Romney supporter, let me clarify that there’s nothing wrong with being frugal — Carl and I keep a very tight budget week to week in terms of eating out, shopping, etc.  I just feel like one’s vacation, and certainly one’s honeymoon, isn’t the place for such hardcore thriftiness.

Shorten your vacation time.  Go some place with a better exchange rate.  Look for deals on Groupon and Living Social.  Just don’t force yourself into a vacation situation where you’ll be too broke to splurge a little once you get to wherever you’re going.

In short: being a highroller for a few days is better than being a nobody for a few weeks. And that’s just my vacation philosophy.