Valentine’s Day Ferry Vow Renewal Celebration launches Officiant Grace in the PNW!!!
I have officiated SO MANY ceremonies over my career as a spiritual and personal growth facilitator and began doing wedding ceremonies while living in the magic, wedding kingdom of Hawaii a decade ago.
When I returned to the Pacific Northwest, other creative work and service opportunities claimed my time and energy and my passion for offering ceremony blessings went on the back burner.
THEN ONE DAY two years ago, I was listening to the news and heard an announcement that the Washington State Ferries was offering a Valentine’s promotion to ten lucky couples. They just needed to respond to the WSDOT facebook page and they would win a free wedding on the Bainbridge Island to Seattle ferry on Valentine’s Day.
I responded immediately saying, “I don’t want to get married, but I am an officiant, so if you need one, please consider me.” I received an immediate reply: “YES!!! PLEASE!!! The captains are no longer allowed to do ceremonies on the ferries, we would love to have you.”
Thus began an email back and forth that included one message, “Grace, we now have twenty couples who want to get married on the ferry, can you officiate twenty couples? We don’t want to turn anyone away.”
And thus also began a frenzied phone call search to the various county offices that regulate weddings and no one had the answers I needed for doing mass wedding ceremonies. I finally reached out to our local island City Hall and of course, being Bainbridge Island, the lovely woman who answered the phone said, “Oh would you like to speak to our judge? She does all the courthouse weddings.”
Who knew you could pick up a phone and talk to a judge??? Of course she was available and we had a delightful conversation in which she reassured me that there were no reasons why I could not marry forty people at once ( 20x’s 2) but reminded me that that would also be twenty licenses to accurately complete plus the ceremony all within a thirty five minute ferry ride.
Good news, the Wedding Gods were with me and in the end there were only eight couples and they were all Vow Renewals, so no licenses.
I showed up to the floating church on time and we had THE MOST GlORIOUS CEREMONY experience I may have ever had in my life. The whole event was intended to be a promotion for the ferry system, so the full flotilla of press was there, including television cameras and newspaper reporters.
The front of the inner deck of the ferry had been cleared of chairs and as I set up my alter, the couples arrived and gathered in a semi circle facing out to the water and the beautiful city scape of Seattle.
The captain came to join us and the ferry riders quietly and curiously gathered behind our couples. As I began to welcome everyone, suddenly the camera crews moved forward and filled up the space between me and the couples. My Officiant Mother Bear came out and insisted that they step back. They pushed back and said they were the reason this was happening, I pushed back and said, the reason this is happening is that these lovely people are here to renew their wedding vows! Fortunately no one was injured in the duel, and the press respectfully re positioned themselves so we could begin.
Our circle of couples included a husband and wife, their two pre teen kids and their golden retriever, a couple that came in lumberjack boots, plaid shirts and the bride wore her veil from her wedding, a couple that had gotten married the weekend before in a silent Quaker ceremony, a couple who did not speak much English so they said their vows in their own language, and even a couple that the staff met and invited to join on the street on the way to the terminal who were visiting Seattle for their anniversary.
Opening words of welcome, an Eagle Feather blessing, ( because of course, it is the Pacific Northwest and we are on the Salish Sea) the renewal of vows, the re giving of rings, a poem about how Marriage is like a Ferry Boat, a blessing from the Captain and the Pronouncement and Kiss!!!
One couple misunderstood the instructions and began kissing before the signal. When I said “Hold It, Hold It!” they again misunderstood and instead of thinking I meant, “wait!” they thought I meant, “HOLD THE POSITION” so all during the pronouncement they held their kiss and the press were set loose to capture all the happy embraces.
Staff and ferry riders clapped joyously, cupcakes were served and Officiant Grace was duly launched in the Pacific Northwest. I was in ceremony bliss and I was not even the one getting married. Bringing people together for any and all celebrations of love is my passion and my calling and it felt like the entire world had aligned to invite me back into this holy calling.
A month later, the pandemic lockdown happened and in came the emails from the local judge. “Grace, couples are still needing their licenses and the courthouse is closed. Can you do these weddings?” YES YES and YES! ceremonies in gardens, ceremonies in parks, ceremonies on the beach, ceremonies in backyards. When there is a will, there is a way and it has been an honor and delight to help so many couples seal their devotion with “I Do’s” and Mother Nature as their chapel and cathedral.
Thank you Washington State Ferries for your Valentine’s inspiration. There are eight happy couples out there who will never forget their Vow Renewal Day on the Sea and I will be forever grateful for your help in launching this renewed voyage of getting to be Officiant Grace right here in my own beloved Puget Sound.
2 Years Ago
Happy Valentine’s Day Ferry Weddings – I got paid in Hugs and Cupcakes. In all the flurry of press coverage, I missed getting pictures with the couples. If anyone has pics please share.