EnGaiged and Then MarriedOct 01, 2020 10:47AM ● By Karey Solomon
Planning her daughter’s wedding took fourteen months, but the results were worth it. “It was the most perfect, spectacular wedding,” Minister Robin Gaige says a decade later. The experience inspired her to take online courses and get into wedding planning full time. It’s a complicated job, requiring the planner to know the best venues, photographers, bakeries, florists, and more—all in a variety of rural locales and all while soothing nervous brides and about-to-be-in-laws. She says she learned that “it’s a lot of fun,” but that “I like the actual day of the wedding best.” So, she continues, “after five years as a wedding planner, I decided to get ordained online with the Universal Life Church. You have to take their course and it’s a long vetting process.” At the end of it, Robin was officially a minister, qualified to perform weddings, and officiate at funerals and baptisms too (though she’s never been asked to do either). Most important, she’s legally able to perform a wedding and sign the marriage certificate, allowing her to concentrate on what she loves best.
When clients reach out, she typically meets with them several times. The first meeting is a getting-to-know-each-other time when she listens to what the couple wants. Some want to write their own vows or add a personal touch to traditional ones. She’s seen lovely personal vows people have written to each other. At the heart of most is the promise: “I’ll love you forever.”
“Some are not religious. Other people want a more lavish service involving their personal beliefs and feelings. Everyone’s different and everyone has different beliefs, so I adapt the service to whatever people want,” she muses. “I’ve done same sex weddings, some where people don’t want to say any vows at all—they just want to get things over with and be married! Others last forty-five minutes because they want to involve family or personal rituals.”
Eventually, the service is crafted, and they’ll meet again to fine tune it. Then there’s the rehearsal and the ceremony—and her job is done. “It’s kind of the fun of wedding planning without all the angst,” she says.
Some weddings have been more enjoyable for her than others. At one wedding, the couple’s child was their ring-bearer. At another, an older couple’s wedding, there was a Halloween theme and guests were encouraged to come in costume. Robin was told she too was required to wear a costume, which posed a bit of a dilemma for her, as Halloween is not her favorite holiday.
“That was actually the very first wedding I performed,” she says. “It was a huge wedding, very open and relaxed; they didn’t want any sentimentality. They just wanted to get it over with and party, so they didn’t want to dawdle over the necessary part.” Although she tried to avoid a costume, the couple was insistent. “I got a Groucho nose, glasses, and moustache and wore it with my pink suit and everyone was happy.
“I’m a very openminded person, ‘Live and let live is my motto,’” she continues. “We don’t get into a long bit about what their beliefs are—there’s no judgement here. You should do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. People who want to be together and cement it in a marriage ceremony—God bless them, I’m happy to do it.”
Robin confesses to tears of joy last June when she officiated at the wedding of her nephew and his bride. “I was thrilled,” she says. Because the bride is a professional event planner, she adds, it was probably the largest and most elaborate wedding she’d been part of. “It turned out to be perfection,” she says.
Robin, who has been married to the love of her life for forty-four years, notes that, “I’m very happy marriage seems to mean more than it did a few years ago. I’m so pleased by the number of people who seek out the sanctity of marriage and have a ceremony to affirm that commitment. It’s heartwarming.”
In this current, not-so-usual wedding season, she’s also anticipating the prospect of some much smaller ceremonies, as 2020 has become a time when large gatherings are not for everyone. Robin recognizes, though, that, “Love does not stand still.” Thus, for anyone who wants to simply get married, she’s offering her services free of charge through the end of October “to any couples who have had to postpone their formal wedding ceremonies because of travel bans or other reasons. If you want to get married in a simpler ceremony, it is an easy thing to maintain safe social distance and still tie the knot. It may be just you, your love, and me as officiant in the room, but you will be officially married.” And after all, that’s what it’s all about—the party can come later!
So far, she reports, she hasn’t had any takers, but as she says, “These times have been terrible for all of us, so anything any of us can do to make things better...”
In more business-as-usual times, Robin is invited to stay for the reception, and, if she knows the couple well, she does. Because, in addition to the good feeling of seeing two people who love each other formally joined in the eyes of the world, there’s another, never-to-be-overlooked source of good feelings at weddings large or small, whenever and wherever they occur.
With a smile in her voice she says happily, “One of the perks is, there’s always cake!”
You can find Minister Robin Gaige on Facebook, at (607) 368-9998, and at 10263 Bennett Road, Painted Post.