What an utter delight and surprise to receive a last minute request to officiate a wedding right here in my own community. The very first blessing ceremony I did here on Bainbridge Island was for a team of women who were sailing in the Race To Alaska. One of our wonderful local shop owners was at the ceremony as she was also supporting Team Sail Like A Girl by selling their swag in her store. Ever since then, Terri and I have had a sweet, friendly acquaintance based on our mutual love of cheering on and championing women and having mutual friends as neighbors.
How unexpected to receive her email saying “help! our officiant just had to cancel for our wedding in four days. Would you officiate for us?” Now the women’s champion needed some support and I was thrilled to get to say “Yes! Of Course!”
Terri and her dear partner, Donna have been together for twenty six years and somehow decided it was finally time to get around to making it official. We had a quickly scheduled zoom call and talked ceremony design and logistics and oh how fun this would be for us to share this happy event together.
As with all the weddings I am called to officiate for, I do my best to really align with the couples’ style and wishes for their ceremony. Terri and Donna had already put a lot of thought into their ceremony elements and so mostly my job was to “show up at the church on time” aka a magnificent, waterside home of dear friends on a bright, sunny Autumn day.
What is always so delightful as I prepare for these beautiful calls to service, in the name of LOVE, is waiting for the inspiration for what small “extra” contribution I will make as my Grace offering for the couple.
It just so happens that I am in the midst of a move and so all the “stuff” that is usually packed away has been pulled out to prepare for packing. One such hidden treasure is an old 45 record of Andy Williams singing Hawaiian Wedding Song. I have had this little vinyl record since I was a child and used to play it on my parents big, old hifi stereo almost as an endless loop. I dreamt of my own wedding one day in Hawaii and had utterly no idea that I would both end up living in Hawaii ( twice) and become a wedding officiant there.
Forward many, many decades later and I was packing up my mother’s home when we had to move her to an Assisted Living Center. Tucked away in her hidden storage was the little record still inside a very tattered paper record sleeve that she had written my name on. Some how over the years as I grew up and went off to build my life, my mother realized how important this little record was to me and made sure that if it ever were to be misplaced it would find its way back to me. And so it did. Coincidentally, I had just moved back from Hawaii and had just started officiating, when I found the hidden treasure. No longer having a record player, I purchased the Hawaiian Wedding Song on Itunes, both the Andy Williams version and The Elvis Presley one and was certain that it would be part of many weddings as I anticipated continuing my officiating here on the mainland. Yet somehow the record and the idea of including this song in ceremonies, went completely underground.
UNTIL Terri and Donna invited me into their ‘I Do’s’
I arrived at their friends’ beautiful home and their tiny band of guests had already been busy at work setting up a charming gazebo alter and gorgeous dining table ready for post ceremony feasting.
Time to begin. Terri and Donna joined me at our alter table and their friends gathered around in our small, intimate garden space. We began with a few moments of quiet breathing to settle nerves and allow everyone to become present. I gave thanks to the Spirit of Love for bringing these two, beautiful women together and asked that they be blessed with the benediction of the divine as they prepared to make formal their already deep, abiding, dedication to each other.
The Dearly Beloveds, gathered to bear witness to this joining, were reminded just how powerful and important their task was. With their observing the joining of these two lives, they were changing that which seemed separate into a unified field, a wave of light that would forever flow between Donna and Terri’s hearts and souls.
Then it was time for the vows. And Wow to these Vows! It is common for marriage vows to express appreciation for each other’s unique and beautiful qualities and to proclaim commitment to being our best self, come what may, through good times and hard times.
What was so beautiful about Donna and Terri’s vows, was that they were also a mutual commitment to grow together and to have their relationship be a contribution to the world. Together they said “We Do” to purposely directing their lives toward a more peaceful, uplifted world and to consciously offer their compassion, not only to themselves, and each other, but to all beings everywhere. I was profoundly moved by this deep awareness and dedication to having the personal blessing of love and marriage also be a gift to their community and global family.
Rings were exchanged with more sweet happiness to wear this symbol of love and marriage for all the world to see.
And then on to my surprise. When Terri and Donna and I were planning, I asked them if they would be including any music in their ceremony. I am a music devotee and can hardly do anything without some kind of inspirational or fun music being part of the experience. Neither of the brides were very inclined to include music and even though it was a surprise to me, I am most happy when I am honoring the wishes of those I am to serve so no music it was to be.
Well, not so fast!!! As I am meditating and asking for the gift I will add to Terri and Donna’s already beautifully designed ceremony, I hear clear as a bell, “play the Hawaiian Wedding Song”
I wrote and asked if I could include a small surprise with assurance that it would not be any jokes or pranks. They consented and I moved past my concern that this might not go over so well. I had no idea if either of them had even heard of the song or had any affection for or interest in all things Hawaii.
I have learned to trust these messages from the Spirit of Love, so I searched for a version of the song by a female artist and sure enough Tammy Wynette was right there waiting for me on Itunes. Song purchased, tears fill my eyes as I listen to her beautiful voice singing my beloved ballad and then I hear the familiar line, “soon bells will be ringing”
I know there must be bells at the ceremony. I race around to find my own collection of tiny fairy bells and find a few more in town in our magical shops that seem to always come through for me when the wedding inspiration drops in. Terri even helped me with a purchase from her own shop for a wedding earlier in the season so it seemed only fitting that she should have the favor returned by wonderful shop keepers who helped me find bells for her and Donna.
I arrived at our venue and set up the alter and while Donna and Terri were getting ready, I secretly enrolled a few of the guests to be bell ringers at the appointed moment.
Our ceremony was ever so sweet, small and intimate and filled with love. Tears were already sparkling in eyes when it was finally time to add my final blessing to Terri and Donna’s wedding. I shared a little bit about how this song had been a childhood favorite and that never ever had it been part of a ceremony, even after years of imagining that it would and that now it was offered not only by me but by the Spirit of Love whom I trust with all my heart to choose the very right gift for each couple.
I turned on the music and invited us all to sway and feel the Aloha love as it was being showered upon Terri and Donna. I prompted my secret helpers to be ready and sure enough, right on cue, as Tammy sang: “soon bells will be ringing” out came the tiny bells and the air was filled with bell ringing delight and quiet laughter.
There is a moment in the song when the singer says, “I Do” and it is returned with another voice that says back “I Do” and then the same for “Love You”, echoed by “Love You” with all my heart. In the older versions, this refrain is sung by first a male voice and then a female voice. Imagine my delight when the Tammy version had two female voices singing the famous declaration of love. Perfect for my dear women friends and brides who were finally having their moment in the sun, singing their “I Do, Love You, With All My Heart” to each other.
We concluded with Terri and Donna being blessed with rose petals, the all powerful, “I pronounce you married” and of course THE KISS. And more bell ringing and tear filled eyes.
Our ceremony complete, hugs and toasts and of course cake before dinner, because when you have waited this long to get married there just is no reason why not to have cake before dinner. A magnificent feast was served by our hosts and their helpers. Thank you to everyone who came together to celebrate our dear friends Terri and Donna and to share in their happiness.
Congratulations on all the beautiful new adventures that you are both beginning, Donna and Terri and may the joy of your wedding continue into a blessed and beautiful Happily Ever After.
Love and Aloha, Grace