It all started with Facebook and a Facebook Message.
Or maybe it's called Facebook Chat. How am I supposed to know these things? I'm 66 years old and I use Facebook to show off photos of my grandchildren, not for messaging or chatting. I'm not fluent in social media.
The Facebook Message appeared on my cellphone on Monday, September 16, 2013 at 11:01 p.m. I know this because I still have the message. I'll never delete it. It will be part of my Facebook for the rest of my life.
Looking back now I'm surprised I was still awake at 11:01 p.m. on a Monday, but that night I was. Call it fate.
The message was from my friend and co-worker (before I retired) Stephanie.
"Hi, John!" it said. "I wanted to ask you in person, but I can't wait that long! I was wondering if you'd like to be the officiant when Cody and I get married next October. I know this is a little off the wall, but you are the first to come to mind! I think you'd be great at it!"
I was floored. I'm not an ordained minister or an elected public official, the people who usually officiate at weddings. I'm not even an ordained columnist or an elected blogger. I've officiated a few football and basketball games in my day, but never a wedding.
But I am a little off the wall. So I couldn't wait until the next morning to tell my wife.
Me: "I got a Facebook message from Stephanie last night."
Wife: "Oh? What did Stephanie want?"
Me: "She asked me to marry her."
Wife: "Oh? And what did you say?"
Me: "Are you kidding? She's a beautiful, intelligent, fun young woman. Of course I said 'yes.' Who wouldn't?"
Wife: "So Stephanie asked you to marry her and you said 'yes.' Do you see any problems here?"
Me: "None whatsoever."
I've had a knack for getting myself in this kind of trouble our entire married life.
Last Saturday, October 4, I had the unbelievable experience of marrying Stephanie and Cody at Ross Camp Chapel west of West Lafayette. Being asked to do this was an amazing gift.
I discovered that other than getting married yourself, marrying another couple is one of the most incredible experiences in life. But only a very few people get to do it.
At least that's what I thought.
As it turns out, anyone can marry anyone in Indiana today. All you have to do is go online.
The Internet strikes again!
After I received the message from Stephanie I did some Goggling and found the Universal Life Church Monastery website and studied the information: "As an online ordained minister of the ULC Monastery you will fully possess the legal status to officiate at marriages . . . or preside over funerals and burials," I read.
I've actually presided at a several funerals so I looked forward to something more upbeat.
I clicked the button that said "begin ordination now" and got ready to answer some deep, complicated questions about the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
But all I was asked was my name and address. For $60 I also got instructions on how to perform a wedding ceremony and certificates to prove myself should anyone ask, like maybe the County Clerk – not to mention the mothers of Stephanie and Cody.
With my certificates in hand I sent a note to Tippecanoe County Clerk Christa Coffey asking about the legalities of this because I wanted to make sure this great couple didn't discover on their 50th wedding anniversary that I had married them illegally.
I was impressed with how quickly Coffey responded.
"If you have paperwork showing an ordination, even online, in Indiana that does qualify," she wrote. "Congratulations!"
I was in!
Don't think for a moment that I took this lightly.
I am a member of First United Methodist Church in West Lafayette. I told Stephanie I could connect her with any number of wonderful ordained Methodist pastors who would do this. But, she said they wanted me.
And I have to admit, I wanted to do it. My grandfather was a Methodist minister and I felt I could channel him in uniting this couple. I remember his "Marryin' Sam Suit" that hung in his closet. "Marryin' Sam" was a preacher character in the cartoon strip Li'l Abner, but that was long before Stephanie and Cody's time.
It was a religious ceremony as this couple wanted. I talked with a Methodist pastor friend who explained the service to me and told me what to do and say. We prayed during the service. I pronounced them husband and wife not only by the powers vested in me by the state of Indiana, "but more importantly beneath the loving and approving eyes of God."
I even got to preach.
Here is some of what I said:
Follow the advice of the Beatles: "Love is all you need." You might be able to live on love alone. But you can live even better if you make some money so don't quit your day jobs.
The Bible says: "Love is patient and love is kind." From my experience, this is far more easy to say than do especially when the one you love hasn't taken the garbage out after he's been asked three times. We won't name names.
When I was young there was a book and movie named Love Story. A famous line from it was: "Love means never having to say you are sorry." It's a beautiful thought, isn't it? It's not the least bit true. But it is a beautiful thought. Love actually means having to say you are sorry again and again and again. Love means forgetting the things that upset you, and remembering everything that brings you together today.
I talked about their romance that led them to marry. It started on Facebook. While Stephanie and Cody are three years apart in age and went to elementary, middle and high school together – even riding the same school bus – they never dated.
They graduated from different colleges and ultimately lived in different Indiana cities. They had gone their separate ways. But they were friends on Facebook. And when Cody got a motorcycle and posted a photo of it, Stephanie post that she'd like to go for a ride on that.
Cody contacted her. Their first date was actually a slow, romantic evening boat ride around a lake. Their second date was to a tractor pull. It was less romantic. But it worked.
The ride on the motorcycle came later.
At one point in the ceremony I looked at Cody. His eyes were tearing-up. I looked at Stephanie. There were tears in her eyes, too. It was all I could do to keep going.
I believe in marriage and the sanctity of marriage. My marriage has enriched my life beyond all my dreams. I love my wife. She has given me happiness, fulfillment, love and comfort. And that's not even to mention children and grandchildren.
And she makes a great Thanksgiving Dinner! I mention that because it's been on my mind lately as we move quickly through autumn.
So Stephanie and Cody, as you return from your honeymoon this weekend I have one final wish for you. I wish you all the love and joy in your lives together that I have experienced in my marriage to Jeanne.
And that will make you like me: among the happiest people on the face of the earth.
I also have just one last instruction for you as I end my official officiate responsibilities.
You may now change your Facebook status to "married."
Copyright@ John Norberg