I have been the best man at two weddings, but never the minister.
Until last week.
Seriously. Your Favorite Columnist has magically transformed into the Rev. Bob.
Last Thursday, I actually uttered this line while standing on Smathers Beach in Key West:
“And so, by the power vested in me by the state of Florida, it is my honor and delight to declare you husband and wife.”
At this point you are likely asking one of three questions:
“What is wrong with this country?”
I’ll take it from the top.
Best buddy gets engaged. Best buddy and fiancee want to marry in exotic location. Best buddy and fiancee need somebody to perform ceremony. Best buddy and fiancee both like Bob.
My recall of the initial conversation is a bit fuzzy at this point, but I believe that when they pitched the idea in January, they said that me marrying them would be either “fun” or “funny.” Or maybe it was closer to “downright hilarious.”
Doesn’t really matter. My response was swift.
“Hell, yeah!” replied the Rev. Bob.
I’ve known Fred Brower since our freshman year at the College of Wooster, where our dorm rooms were side-by-side and I played a significant role in corrupting the fresh-faced lad from Willoughby. Against all odds, we both managed to graduate.
While I went on to make a living writing goofy stuff for newspapers, he quickly became president of Ohio Valley Hospital in Steubenville, then was the driving force behind the 1996 merger of Ohio Valley and Sylvania Franciscan Health. He became CEO of the new partnership, Trinity Health System.
Fred is retiring this week, but now he can expand his resume to include an onstage cameo, with bride Michelle, at a rollicking Key West bar called Irish Kevin’s. In the interest of propriety, we shall spare you the details.
Irish Kevin’s would be the same establishment where a singer/guitarist summoned the Rev. Bob to the stage for a shot of tequila and a bit of impromptu “preaching.”
How did I turn into a minister?
In January, I ran an internet search for “how can I become a minister?” and ended up at American Marriage Ministries, based in Seattle.
I liked what I read:
“American Marriage Ministries is a non-denominational, interfaith church. … Our spiritual mission is to ensure that all people have the right to perform marriages. We ordain people of all religious beliefs and philosophies that agree to our three core tenets:
“1. All people, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, have the right to marry.
“2. It is the right of every couple to choose who will solemnize their marriage.
“3. All people have the right to solemnize marriage.”
My ordination required about five minutes on the computer and cost me nothing.
Well, I figured I could spring for an optional $10 laminated wallet card. It reads “Ordained Minister” at the top, with my name and address, followed by: “This minister is authorized to perform marriage, baptisms, funerals and all other congregational rites.”
For those of you scoring at home, my Minister ID number is 547374.
Today, the card is push-pinned to my wall at work, right next to my official City of Akron Temporary Panhandler Registration card, number T-083.
Versatility R Us.
Overnight ministers are not welcome in some parts of the country, but they are in most states, including Florida, where, unlike Ohio, you don’t even have to register. Believe me, we did our homework, and the whole thing is legal.
What I’m not sure Fred and Michelle factored in is that Key West is less than 1,700 miles from the equator, and in late August it doubles as a blast furnace. It also can double as the Amazon Rainforest.
Day before the wedding: 2.55 inches.
Day of wedding: 0.58 more, but with sunny skies throughout the ceremony. Which was held on the sand. At 2:30 p.m. Game-time temp: 91 degrees.
Fortunately, the groom and the Rev. Bob wore linen pants and short-sleeve linen shirts, so we only sweated out a few gallons each. The bride looked as if she were standing in front of an air-conditioner. Not sure how she did that.
Forty-eight friends and family sat in white folding chairs at the water’s edge — including an adorable young honeymooning couple from Minnesota we met the day before at the swimming pool.
American Marriage Ministries supplied plenty of sample ceremonies, as did a wedding planner, and Rev. Bob picked and chose, consulting closely with Fred and the former Michelle McNicol (who is director of the Jefferson County YMCAs, overseeing about 50 employees).
The couple wrote their own vows, which were amazing: heartfelt and loving without being sappy, packed with promises and abundant humor.
The 20-minute ceremony went off without a hitch, unless you count a short delay in the bride’s vows when a fighter jet from the nearby Naval Air Station — Admiral Bob thought it looked like an F/A-18 Hornet — passed over with a bone-rattling roar.
The reception was an epic party on a 60-foot catamaran, where dancing required a little extra concentration because of slightly choppy seas.
During the next couple of days, my ministerial counseling consisted mainly of offering advice about which drinks to order at joints like Sloppy Joe’s and Willie T’s.
The weeklong Key West blowout required the Rev. Bob to perform numerous healing rituals, mainly in the form of Angley-esque slaps to the forehead. For some reason, they didn’t seem particularly effective.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31