Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Wedding Officiant's Perspective; Rev. Elizabeth Oaks

I am so excited about this new series--the answers that I am getting from my favorite wedding vendors are better than I expected!

Allow me to introduce to you the Reverend Elizabeth Oaks. I have worked with her many times and my clients love her as much as I do. Enjoy!

Q. Who are you and what makes you fabulous?

A. Elizabeth Oakes, owner/operator of MarriageToGo.Com, WeddingWhisperer.Com, RosePedalsBikeWeddings.Com, and ALovingCup.Com.

In my private wedding practice, I am a CA notary authorized to issue confidential marriage licenses and a nondenom wedding officiant; I serve the public by performing civil weddings at the L.A. County Clerk's office, and as the National Wedding and Marriage Examiner for Examiner.Com (among other volunteer community work.) In short: I issue a lot of marriage licenses, create and conduct a lot of weddings, and educate a lot of clients and the public about weddings and their significance.

That being said, I would never dare to refer to myself as "fabulous" (editor's note: I think you're fabulous, Elizabeth!) ; I'm a happily married middle-aged lady who is passionate about helping couples realize the full potential of their weddings, no matter how small or how grand. I have ten years of widely-varied experience to draw upon in service of my clients, and I look forward to many more. I'd call myself experienced, resourceful, diligent, creative, fun, and respectful of the importance of each and every wedding I have the privilege of conducting. I can write a little, too.

Q. What is it like working a wedding WITHOUT a wedding coordinator?

A. Painful--literally. Why? Because as the officiant I am usually pegged as the authority figure (and I'm almost always the most experienced wedding person on hand) so I end up as the de facto coordinator for the day. After being a coordinator-pro-tem, my feet (and a few other things) really hurt. It's not a pleasant gig.

Working with a coordinator--a worthy one--is like being a passenger in first class, while working without one is like being the flight attendant for a whole plane all by yourself. Of course I'll run around and handle everything if called upon because that's part of my mandate to be of service, but I'd much, MUCH rather leave event coordination to a capable team, as it allows me to focus more intently on my own job and do it well.

Finally, I've noticed that couples who have a great coordinator are more relaxed, and that's an excellent advantage if they want to savor their wedding day instead of being panicked wrecks.

Q. What makes a coordinator good?

A. The resolve, resources, and implacability of a MacArthur with the sensitivity, diplomacy, and social grace of a Miss Manners. Organizational skills, energy, compassion, and comfortable shoes also a must.

Q. Do you have any funny wedding stories?
A. Mostly magical ones for my private weddings--dolphins and butterflies appearing at just the right moments, babies singing, or the sun breaking through the clouds as the vows begin. Delightful unplanned stuff abounds in my work--just lucky, I guess.

Two funny ones from civil weddings at the County though:

A three-year-old guest, upon taking in the County seal, podium, and my black judicial robes, asked his grandmother in a loud whisper during the ceremony, "Is that THE PRESIDENT?" Maybe someday, kid--girl power!

Then there's this story: I had spoken the preamble for a ceremony and was just about to administer vows to this couple, when their faces suddenly blanched with horror--and I mean, slasher-movie-style HORRIFIED faces!--and the bride suddenly ran behind my podium and HIT ME!! I was stunned and completely flummoxed; she stammered, "Sorry, sorry, but, but, but I..." and she pointed to the carpet behind me. There lay a humungo cockroach, which apparently had crawled up my robe and popped his ugly head over my shoulder like Godzilla lurching into view over the skyline of Tokyo.

Not wanting to kill anything during a wedding, I scooped it up with an order form and uh, escorted it outside. When I was coming back to the chapel I heard the couple laughing hysterically, and I came in and said, "I'm so glad you're laughing!" and we three regaled ourselves with bug-recounting merriment.

Postlude: The couple was happily married without further cockroach incursions, and my County supervisors were horrified when they found out and did insect abatement ASAP. I still think it's funny--I've never, EVER seen anyone look so aghast, and certainly not at me (not even my husband, and he's seen me look pretty scary.)

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