Thoughts by Richard Bleil
This isn’t what you think. Yes, I’ve been married. Yes, it was a short and dreadful affair. Yes, I’m still a hopeless romantic who believes in and yearns for marriage. No, this isn’t about being married. But rather, marrying.
See, some years ago, doing what men do when they cannot sleep at three in the morning, I found myself on one of “those” websites. You know the kind, all men seem to gravitate towards them. Yes, a website that offers to make you an ordained minister in their church for just twenty dollars. Why men seek out sites to make them ministers I’ll never understand, but I figured, hey, it would be willing to lose twenty bucks.
The next day, I spoke with my friend, who actually is a minister. He went to divinity school, is ordained in a national church, and asked about this local California church that sold me the rights to be a minister. He replied “yep, it’s recognized by most states. You can marry ‘em and you can bury ‘em.” Technically, I can do more. I could, for example, start my very own church, maybe in Texas, and serve punch.
This church started off as a tax dodge. It was wildly popular for a time when, in fact, ministers did not have to pay taxes. That has since changed. When the government caught on, they changed the rule so ministers do not have to pay taxes on fees collected in their ministerial duties. In other words, as a chemist, I have to pay on fees I make as a chemist, but when I marry a couple, I don’t have to pay taxes on fees for that service.
When that happened, this church had to change its recruiting strategy. Today they (correctly) say that if you become an ordained minister, you can marry your friends and relatives. I mean, you can’t get married TO them. Well, I guess you could, I mean, whatever, but you can perform the ceremony. This is a seriously cool thing to be honest. If someone is very special to you, you can perform the ceremony for their marriage. Imagine, for example, you have a step-daughter who is very special to you, but she wants her biological dad to give her away. So, he can give her away, and you can provide the service.
I have performed a few ceremonies in my day. All of them were students at some time or another who had discovered of my ordained status. I never took my religious duties seriously, but I do take my weddings seriously. In other words, I tend to be less than serious as I perform the ceremony, but I do like meeting with the couple beforehand to see if they are devoted to one another. In my opinion, a couple should be married before their married. In other words, they should be devoted to each other in their hearts before they walk down the isle.
The prices might be off a bit. I’m working off of memory, but I think the ministry cost twenty bucks. For another ten bucks, I could get my Doctor of Divinity. And all of those fools going to school for years for that! But, I was already a doctor then (and still am today in chemistry) so that seemed a bit, well, unnecessary. And for another five, I could be a saint. Saint Bleil. Can you imagine?
While interviewing a student and his fiancé, I was about to start a new position as the Dean of the School of Science and Mathematics, of, the Dean of S&M. Hey, I didn’t name it. His fiancée started laughing hysterically and told me that I should become a saint at the church, the Saint of Science and Mathematics. So, yes, not only am I a minister, but I’m also their Saint of S&M.
One of the more interesting ceremonies I performed, and what inspired this post, was the “Hand Binding” ceremony I did some years ago at a Renaissance Fair. All of the people claiming that the divorce rate was so low back then rarely realize that you didn’t just marry in the Renaissance. You started with a “hand binding” ceremony, a public (and religious) declaration of the intent to marry. They would undergo a hand binding religious ceremony with a priest, with a rope loosely binding their hands together in a kind of engagement period. For one year, the couple would live together as if they were married, sharing a home as a husband and wife. If, at the end of the year, they still wished to marry (I would not have), then they go through the formal ceremony, again using hand-fasting as part of the ceremony, but this time with their hands tied more tightly.