Funniest and best wedding story:
-My best wedding story happened at the Methodist Church of St. Peter the Fisherman in Ninilchik, Alaska in 1962. Two young adults from Ninilchik came home from college to be married in their home church: Dennis Ogren and Martha Blossom. Due to their schedules, it was impossible to hold a rehearsal. I told them that this would be no problem. Just do what I say and everything will go smoothly. As we proceeded through the ceremony all was well until it came time for the groom to repeat some words “after me”. We did well until we came to the Trinitarian ending. I said: “In the name of the Father” and Dennis looked at me like a deer caught in the headlights. I repeated the words: “Say ‘In the name of the Father.'” Still no response. Once more I whispered, “Just repeat after me, ‘In the name of the Father.'” Dennis took a deep breath and said loudly: “Floyd Blossom.” The name of his bride’s father. The congregation erupted with laughter. I quietly but firmly gave him his instructions one more time and he finally got it right.
Fast forward into the 1980’s when I was a pastor in Anchorage. We received an invitation to a wedding for their daughter who was marrying a young man from our church in Chugiak. What to do? Should we mention this story that I had told over and over again or would it be best to just let that memory slide? No problem. When we got to the wedding we were quickly informed that this had been a family story through the years and they were still telling the story on themselves. So we could move smoothly on to the next generation. I tried to get the story published in The Reader’s Digest, but they were not interested. Maybe they knew I was not a subscriber???
My most unusual wedding:
– A couple came to my home in Kenai to arrange for their wedding and her first question to me was: “Given what the Bible says about divorce and remarriage, how can you, in good conscience, officiate at my wedding?” I obviously had not thought this through completely, so I asked for a few days and then I gave her my answer. Jesus forbade divorce in biblical times to bring justice to women and I consented to do weddings in the 20th century to bring justice to women. She allowed me to officiate at her wedding.
Back story: Her ex-husband had been the pastor of Kasilof Bible Church. He had been abusive and they were divorced. She continued to participate there along with several children. A wonderful bachelor fell in love with her and agreed to support her and her children. Her pastor explained that he could not officiate at her marriage, but she should go to John Shaffer. He would do it. Hence the question.
I officiated. Her pastor did not come, but the pastor’s wife sponsored a reception for the couple, and the pastor and his wife took care of the children while they had a brief honeymoon.
Some of my members were very angry at that pastor for his refusal, but I said that it was consistent with his belief system. Yet, he was troubled enough with his belief system that he did everything he could do, except sign his name on the legal document. The belief system needs to be challenged and I have done my part.
Divorce is tragic in some cases, but it should not cause guilty or innocent parties to be punished forever, at least not in this life.
– There were the school teachers who were not comfortable being married in the sanctuary for a variety of reasons, so the wedding was held in a Sunday school classroom. The marriage didn’t last long.
– One time a very immature couple came to me for counseling. While my typical counseling was three sessions, I didn’t tell them how long the counseling would go on. They broke up before a wedding date was set. I wasn’t as firm at her next attempt at marriage and I think she had three failed marriages at last count. I officiated at two of them, the first in 1970 and the second in 1974.
– Another time the young man refused counseling and he tried to get around my requirements by bringing in another pastor. That didn’t work and I refused to officiate without counseling. So they did not
get married. In a few months he married another woman. I hope the potential bride was grateful.
– A few couples have written their own vows. One couple wrote vows that I could not read, but they were willing to make adjustment. It was simple: instead of saying “as everyone knows”, it was changed to “as the couple believes”, then we shared the sentiment.
– While at East Anchorage, the judges refused to do any more courthouse weddings and the elderly pastors providing such services retired, so I offered to do weddings, but they had to be at my church. It was my dream to recruit new participants in our church. I agreed to do these weddings if the couples would promise to come to a reception in May for all the weddings from the previous year. All agreed. Less than 20% did it. Not only was that disappointing, but very few church participants were recruited. They wanted courthouse weddings for a real reason. One year I had as many as 100 such weddings. All told, I have officiated at 563 weddings.
– One of my firm rules is that the couples should be sober for their wedding. One of the courthouse wedding parties didn’t take me seriously. As I observed their demeanor, I announced the wedding was cancelled. They pleaded and pleaded so long that they got sober and I relented. It took several hours. Reminded me of a biblical story when the woman pestered a judge to do justice by her.
I agreed to do one hotel wedding while at East Anchorage. Out of curiosity I asked how much the hotel bill would be and it was $15,000.00. Inflation would probably put that closer to $30,000 today. I toyed with the idea of asking that my fee be 10% of the cost of a wedding, but I didn’t ever do it. $1,500 would have been a good piece of change. As it was, the fee changed from $5 to $150 in my lifetime. Now it is $200 at my local church.
– While at Sitka in the 1990’s, a grandfather agreed to officiate at his granddaughters wedding. I did the pre-marital counseling and then sat on the back row with my wife. It was a beautiful service, not using United Methodist liturgy. I asked the grandfather if I could have a copy of his service. I was shocked to see that it was written by Dr. John C. Irvin, the minister who officiated at my own wedding in 1962. We will never know if he used that same service at my own wedding. I don’t remember anything about that ceremony. But I have used that service many times since then. Such events are fascinating.
– In Spokane, Washington, I did a wedding outdoors. I had reservations, but it was their wedding. They also insisted on having a unity candle. The wind kept blowing out the candles. After the unity candle had been lit, I looked at it and it was OUT. I went over to relight it, but before doing that I held my hands close to the candle and it burst into flame. I should have had an altar call at that point. The congregation was very impressed, as was I. What power!
– At another outdoor wedding in Spokane, every single parent and grandparent had divorced and remarried and they all got along beautifully. That contact was from a church in Anchorage, Alaska. We live in a small world.
– At Manito United Methodist Church, we had a wedding coordinator. At one wedding, the father of the bride had neglected his daughter in real life (another divorce) with a very large and expensive wedding. He was treating the wedding coordinator like dirt. I asked him into my office and explained that we were doing the wedding as a favor to his family and there was no obligation on our part to do what we had agreed to do. If he didn’t shape up, I suggested they could go elsewhere. He repented and things went smoothly. There are some success stories in life.
When I was married, the officiating pastor gave my gratuity to my bride. I wish I hadn’t been so cheap. I continued the tradition for a while, but eventually I stopped it. Don’t know why.