Posted by: Mike James | July 13, 2009

Holy Matrimony Batman

One night in early 1988 I was quaffing a few Henry Weinhard’s (my beer of choice at that time) at Cheswick’s West Tavern. Having heard that my bartender, Valerie, had recently become engaged to an Irish lad, Derek, I told her the story of my dad performing my brother’s wedding (see story below). Inspired by the story, she asked if I would become ordained and officiate her ceremony. After a few more Henry’s on the house, I readily agreed. I was, after all, a chip off the old block.

The next week I sent off my request for ordination, with a donation of $10, to the Universal Life Church of Modesto, California.  When I wasn’t waiting by my mailbox, I was at the library preparing my ceremony (The Prophet, Apache Wedding Blessing, Wedding Ceremonies for Idiots).

Just days before the wedding I received my ministry license and got my tie back from the dry cleaners. I was ready.

On that special day, in the bridesmaid living room, I performed my first duties as the Right Reverend Mike.  The longest, knee-trembling, nerve-wracking, cotton-mouthed, three minutes of my life. It wasn’t so much being in front of crowd, it was the enormity of the event. I wondered, who was I to sanctify this act, would Valerie and Derek later regret this decision and blame me, would I be smitten by lightning and leave a stain on the carpet.

A shot of Jose would put me at ease. (After 20 years, Valerie and Derek are still married and living in Florida with their twin daughters.)

The word of my prowess as a minister soon spread throughout Ocean Beach. “I don’t know what he said, but it was quick.”

I was soon booked by numerous couples to perform their nuptials.

Still not feeling completely comfortable in this role, I at first refused any monetary compensation. I did however accept a donation of a case of domestic beer (Henry Weinhard). Later that would upgraded to imported beer (Pilsner Urquell) and even later, having stockpiled more beer than I could drink, I began accepting honorariums of $100 (Crisp Twenties).

Since 1988 I have performed something like 50 or 60 weddings. If I knew in the beginning I would do more than a few I would have kept count. I was honored to later perform my brother Ron and his wife Mary’s wedding.

Statistically my record follows the national average of success for marriages (around 50%).  I’ve only had to honor my guarantee twice “If your marriage fails, your next ceremony is on the house”.

wedThere has been many wonderful moments sharing this day with the hundreds of brides and grooms. I always loved the expression from the aunt from Albany as she spied me doing shots with the groom before the ceremony. Or the shocked look from grandmas as I did my James Brown impression at the reception.

Where people do the sign and take your hands-ah
And dancin’ to the music James Brown band… mmm

They’re dancing on the good foot
I got to get on the good foot
Got to do it on the good foot
Do it with the good foot

Said the long-hair hippies and the afro blacks
They all get together across the tracks
And they PARTY
Ho! On the good foot
You know they dance on the good foot
Dance on the good foot

“Wasn’t that the minister doing the splits on the dance floor?”

There was the day I performed two weddings at La Jolla Shores, after the minister failed to show at a neighboring ceremony, I was quickly recruited from the first couple’s reception. Unbeknownst to the second couple, I had already consumed a few cocktails and may have forgotten the “I do” part during their vows. I think it was still legal. No, really.


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