Many of my Bunny with a Toolbelt fans know that I'm also an ordained minister who has helped eight of my closest friends legally tie the knot over the past decade and a half. I met local minister Steve Sharp when he and his wife bought one of my pieces at Crafty Wonderland. He has performed ceremonies for many couples in the Portland area for the past few years, and I thought he'd be an excellent subject for an interview......or if you've simply are curious about what Reverends talk about when they're off duty:
BWAT: Hey Steve--thanks for agreeing to do an interview on my blog. My first question for you is: "What led you to become a wedding officiant?"
SS:I've always liked the idea of being part of such a positive celebration, and so I became ordained through the Universal Life Church in 1996. I started to put the word out that I was able to legally marry people, and I got the chance to perform my first ceremony when my daughter recommended me to her best friend. We held the ceremony in a park on the banks of the Columbia River on a beautiful June day, and I found the experience to be immensely rewarding. I was hooked!
My next ceremony was the backyard wedding of one of my wife's co-workers. They initially viewed marriage as "just a piece of paper" that they needed to "make it legal". After the ceremony, however, the groom made a tearful speech describing how his eyes had been opened to the spiritual bond he now felt between him and his wife. Reverend Steve was on his way!
BWAT: Tell me about the Universal Life Church and what you like about
SS: Although I am a very spiritual person, I do not feel a particularly deep connection with any single organized religion. Rather, there are elements of many different religions which resonate with me. This is what I like about the Universal Life Church philosophy. They want you to pursue your spiritual beliefs - whatever they may be - without interference from any outside agency, including government or church authority. Their mantra (if you will) is "Do only that which is right", and they believe that every person has the natural right - and the responsibility - to peacefully determine what is right.
BWAT: What's your process for working on a ceremony with a couple?
SS: After the initial contact through my website - aBeautifulCeremonyNW.com - or WeddingWire.com, I schedule a time and place for our first meeting. I also email the couple a questionnaire so that I'll have all the basic details (venue, date and time of the wedding, etc.) in front of me. At our meeting, I will go over the details with the couple to make sure we're on the same page and then we'll talk about what kind of ceremony they have in mind. We talk about the tone of the ceremony (religious, spiritual, secular,) and what kind of "inner ceremonies" (roses, sand, candles, etc.) they may desire as well as elements such as parental honoring that they might want me to include.
I then compose a first draft of the ceremony based on our conversation and email that to them for approval. If they have any changes, additions or deletions, I will rewrite the ceremony and submit the revised version to them. This usually becomes the final version of the ceremony.
BWAT: What's the most unusual wedding ceremony you ever officiated?
SS: There have been some strange requests over the years, but I think the most unusual setting would have to be the wedding I performed aboard a moving steam train in the winter of 2009. It was about 14 degrees that day, but the bride still bravely wore a low cut wedding dress. The passenger car we were in lurched from side to side as we made our way down the track, but everybody took it in stride and the ceremony was one of the most upbeat and happy ones I've experienced.
BWAT: How do you choose what to wear when you're "at work?"
SS: I always ask the couple what they prefer, and they almost always opt for a dark suit.
BWAT: My biggest occupational hazard is being sentimental. Do you get
wrapped up in the magnitude of what you're doing and choke up while
I've been known to get a little misty, but I never allow myself to really get choked up. After all, I am there to perform the ceremony on their special day and I would never forgive myself if I let my emotions diminish their experience in any way!
Thanks Steve for letting me into your world! You can find more about Steve's techniques in the FAQ section of his website A Beautiful Ceremony NW.