Little known fact about me: I am an ordained minister. While never attending seminary, nor rarely seen in the pews at mass and only having a precursory knowledge of the Bible, I am a man of the cloth. Granted, I am more Friar Tuck than Thomas Aquinas. In fact, I just recently learned that there is a New Testament. I became an ordained minister in a very simple and easy fashion—I filled out an online application.
According to the Church of Universal Life, I am Friar Ben Raskin. To steal a pocket quote from the good Reverend Bad Brad Wheeler, I have the power to marry and the power to bury. In my infancy of surfing the web, I came across the Church of Universal Life and decided that it wouldn’t hurt to be a minion of the Big Guy upstairs. For the additional cost of $9.99, I got a cool certificate to hang on the wall next to my University of Nevada diploma and picture with Dan Patrick.
What good has my heavenly powers brought to the world? Not much but I have officiated three weddings. The first was my brother Mike’s wedding to Melissa. Held in the middle of August in suburban Boston where the humidity was higher than the 90-degrees outside, I mumbled my way through a prepared sermon that was very unimpressive. Fortunately, the infestation of mosquitos and crippling heat is what most people remember from that day not my subpar presentation.
The second wedding I conducted was my pal Pete and Jamie’s service here in Utah. They married last December at the Little White Chapel up by the capital. With the exception of the brother of the bride showing up 45-minutes late and me suffering from extreme laryngitis, I think it went off without a hitch. It was humbling having them ask me to marry them. I was friends with Pete but I didn’t know Jamie as well as I wanted to. I worked hard to write a service that honored both their relationship and the future that was ahead of them.
Humbling is an interesting word choice for having a friends asking you to be the lynchpin of their relationship. Behind the bar, I am rarely humbled by anything. Much like Lincoln Hawk turning his hat around before going over the top, I never get put into a position while bartending that leads me to feel meek or modest. It’s not my nature. This is what makes working at the Salt Lake Tribune so humbling. I am nervous about writing the best that I can that I am often feeling a little more like an ant in front of a giant. It’s nerve-racking but exhilarating when I am able to come through. I highly suggest to anyone when approached with a scary proposition to accept it simply to experience the rollercoaster of emotions the endeavor will take you on.
When my buddy Brandon asked me to conduct his wedding to his girlfriend, Jennifer, I didn’t hesitate. I met Brandon over two years ago when I first starting working at Keys On Main. My first 60-days at Keys were a blur. I was still recovering from selling The Woodshed and dealing with the fallout from that nightmare. I had absolutely no confidence walking into the club and felt incredibly alone pouring drinks for somebody else for the first time in three years. I knew how to make a Mai Tai, what makes a nipple slippery and how to turn Alabama into a slammer but my mind was a bowl of scrambled eggs after getting out from underneath The ‘Shed. Needless to say, I didn’t talk to very many people.
As things have a way of sorting their way out, I started getting my booze pouring legs back and developed a bit of swagger behind the bar. I started to get to know some of my co-workers and began building friendships. I have said this often and it never rang as true as it did at Keys. I didn’t come to work to meet friends—I came to make money. The fact that I’ve met friends at work is an added bonus but it has never been one of my reasons to spend my weekend nights behind a bar away from my family.
My friendship with Brandon spawned out my relationship with Raskin’s New Friend of the Year 2010 winner, Aron Murray. Aron and Brandon have been pals for years and as my door guy on Wednesday and Thursday’s, Aron coached me on dealing with Brandon. At first I thought he was difficult, it wasn’t until I became friends with him did I learn my first impressions were correct. Brandon is complicated, loyal, funny, intelligent and brazen. Like the motorcycle he rides, he is loud and colorful. He is also strong-willed and controlling on the things that matter to him. The fact that work and family are the two things that drive him, I learned to respect him early and do to this day.
So, given the opportunity to conduct his wedding, I jumped at the opportunity. Time spent arguing with him about how things should be done at the club, talking about music, singing the praises of Chuck Klosterman and debating the finer points of such movies as Predator, Road House and Die Hard strengthen our relationship. To the person I avoid initially when I came to work those two long years ago, he has become the guy I enjoy spending off time with.
I agonized over their service for the two months leading up to their wedding. I wanted it personal and I wanted to encapsulate their relationship. Compartmentalizing a couple into a 10-minute service is difficult—making sure it doesn’t stink is really hard. The only thing that I knew that I wanted to touch on was the idea that Jenn and Brandon have been a family long before I was asked to say a few words celebrating their union. With this as the starting point, I came up with the rest.
They were married at Chapel Glen up at Fort Douglas July 22 with a small group of friends and family surrounding them. It was more intimate then I could have imagined and simply more perfect that I could have hoped for.
I wish the couple the very best. I don’t know how much longer I will seeing Brandon four times a week but when I eventually retire from Keys On Main, I will be thinking of that moment up by the University of Utah for a very long time. A toast to the newlyweds: All the best for a long and happy life filled with challenges met and happiness fulfilled. It was an honor to conduct your wedding.
Here are the nuptials in full:
Good evening, family and friends. Welcome to the marriage of Jennifer and Brandon.
On this beautiful summer evening, Jennifer and Brandon have asked all of you to join them as they start taking the first steps towards a life as husband and wife. We are surrounded by friends and family, all of whom have gathered here today to witness their marriage and to share in the joy of this very special occasion.
By show of hands, how many people have been to a wedding before? All right, we have a couple of virgins here. This is YOUR wedding. If anytime during the service I am preaching something that you don’t like, you don’t have to listen to it. Just yell out “How much?” and I’ll preach the service you want to hear. It’s your wedding, folks.
It’s hard not to feel the cheer and good will of this gathering on such a beautiful afternoon. Friends and family have gathered here under the trees to offer their support and best wishes as you two begin a new life together as husband and wife.
As they prepare to join their lives together, it is important to recognize this gathering of people are all a part of the great adventure that Jennifer and Brandon are taking with each other. We’re all along for the ride, people. Because of this, we’re not only here to witness their vows to each other but also to bestow upon them our blessing.
Traditionally it is asked if there is anyone present who opposes this wedding but I don’t think that is their style. I think the special nature of Jennifer and Brandon’s commitment demands a different question. Instead, right now, I am going to ask everyone present: You in favor of this couple? Do you going to give them your support? Are you going to pledge you support, now and forever, to strengthen this marriage by upholding Jennifer and Brandon with your love and affection?
A lot of times during a wedding, the preacher admonishes the party warning them of the seriousness of the endeavor in which they are undertaking. It makes sense. Marriage is serious business. It really shouldn’t be entered into lightly. Committing a life together means a lot of tough work. I don’t think I’d be doing my due diligence if I didn’t follow suit and give you the full Monty.
Jennifer and Brandon, as you join yourselves in marriage it is important to note that there is a vast and unknown future stretching out before you. It is filled with countless possibilities and endless potentials for a married life that is both equally rich and rewarding. By coming here today, you’ve made the first steps towards a fantastic future together. But as with all new adventures, there are countless obstacles ahead. These said challenges will be yours to shoulder for creating a future which is equally beautiful and demanding.
In a word, if you want this to work you’re going to have to make it work. It’s as simple as that. Being in love is not enough. You have to want to be in love during the highs of success and the lows of failure. Somewhere in the middle is a life worth living and I think you have all of the commitment to make this work.
Through your commitment to each other, it is my very sincere hope that you grow and nurture a love that makes both of you stronger and more confirmed in your love for one another. You must be able to enhance a love that continues to give you both a great joy and passion for living that provides the energy and patience to face the responsibilities of the life and excitement that is ahead of you.
This marriage is one expression of the many varieties of love. Through its many expressions, we know that love is infinite, timeless and forever. As Jennifer and Brandon are on the verge of a new chapter in their relationship, I think it is fitting to briefly speak about love. We live in a crazy and uncertain world. We live in a world of joy and fear and search for meaning and strength in the seemingly disorder. We discover the truest guidelines for our quest towards shared happiness when we realize love in all its magnitudes. Love is an eternal force of life. It is the force that allows us to face fear and doubt with courage and steadfastness.
Resolve that your love will never be blotted out by the commonplace nor obscured by the ordinary in life. Devotion, joy, and love can grow only if you nurture them together. You need to stand fast in that hope and confidence, believing in your shared future just as strongly as you believe in yourselves and in each other today. In this spirit, you can create a partnership that will strengthen and sustain you all the days of your lives.
Now for the exchange of the rings and vows:
Jennifer and Brandon will you face each other. Brandon, please repeat after me:
I, Brandon, take you Jennifer to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as we both shall live?
Jennifer, please repeat after me:
I, Jennifer, take you Brandon to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as we both shall live?
In this moment of celebration let us not forget that this is also a moment of dedication. The world does a good job of reminding us of how fragile we are. Relationships are as frail as the individuals in them. It is important for both parties to be full committed to each other, to always be working to strengthen the relationship and satisfy the other’s needs.
Be the force for the other and build a home that is stronger together than separate. May the love you have found grow in meaning and strength until its beauty is shown in a common devotion to all that is compassionate and life-giving. May the flow of your love help brighten the face of the Earth. May the source of all love touch and bless us and grace our lives with color and courage.
We traditionally think that as two individuals come together in marriage that this is the first steps of creating a family. Fortunately, this is not the case for Jennifer and Brandon. Ever since they have met and committed themselves to one another, they have had the foundations of a family and the evidence of this family is found within Dalton. I can speak firsthand watching Jenn with Dalton that all of the groundwork for a loving family has been put into place. Before becoming a mother with Jackson, Jenn inserted herself into Dalton’s life. So, in a way, by being here today, we are not just celebrating Jennifer and Brandon’s union but the new chapter for this loving family.
So, Dalton, may I have the rings?
A lot of ministers describe a ring as a symbol of an unbroken and never-ending circle of commitment. I think this is a cliché and overstates the significance of the exchange of rings. I think there is value in jewelry. It means that two people bestow a commitment to each other in wearing it. Behind the bar, I am always quick to note whether or not somebody is wearing a ring and often make assumptions whether or not they are wearing one. A ring means that the person is taken and there is someone waiting for them back home. It means that they have made a commitment to another person. Simply put, a ring means that Think of your rings as being more than being in a state of marriage but rather as a challenge to strengthen the bonds of your relationships
Will each of you repeat after me?
I, Jennifer, give to you Brandon, this ring, as a symbol of my commitment to love, honor, and respect you. With this ring, I thee wed.
I, Brandon, give to you Jennifer, this ring, as a symbol of my commitment to love, honor, and respect you. With this ring, I thee wed.
Before this gathering, Jennifer and Brandon have promised each other their love and have given each other rings to wear as a sign of their deep commitment. There is not much more to say. We happy here? Outside of talking about my honorarium, I think we’re done. So, with the authority of the Church of Universal Life and the State of Utah, I now declare you, husband and wife.
You may now kiss the bride.
Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Check out his podcast, the SLC PubCast on iTunes. He is available for weddings, funerals and Bar Mitzvahs—just remember his honorarium.