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Mares: Two Weddings

With much deserved recent public attention on legalizing gay marriage across the land this summer, my private matrimonial focus was to preside at two traditional weddings in September. First, two former students of mine, David Parker, in history, and Jess Andreola, in beekeeping, surprised me with their request. Then, a month later our elder son, Tim, called from Bangkok to say that he and his Thai fiancée, Natt, wanted to get married in Vermont this fall. Would I officiate?

Since 2008, Vermont law has permitted individuals who register with the secretary of state and pay a fee of $100, to become a temporary, one-day officiant for the purpose of performing a specific marriage ceremony. I registered, paid the fee – a bargain, I thought - and in the span of eight days, performed two weddings - first at Burlington's Intervale and a week later, on a hilltop in St. Johnsbury.

This was as close to the priesthood as I’ll ever get, so I took my role seriously - even though both couples wanted secular weddings and I was only a bit player.

I talked to friends with enduring marriages. And a justice of the peace I know who’s done scores of weddings gave me a great check list that ended with a note to remember "It's not about you."

It reminded me of advice I’d received from a wise Waterbury farmer upon my first speech as a Legislator: "Stand up and be recognized; speak up and be heard; sit down and be appreciated."

Undeterred, I decided to reflect briefly on the institution and practice of marriage.

What makes a lasting marriage, I asked rhetorically. Surely love, but perhaps even more, respect. The bonds of matrimony should not be chains, but many silken threads woven together. A good marriage consists of the parabolas of two individual lives that depart on their own arcs and then return to continue their joint journey. And a good marriage requires the surrender of some of your selves for the greater good of the union.

The vows were appropriately the couples’ own, and the rings were conventional, except that in our son's case, Augie the border collie was ring bearer.

And finally, both locations had special meaning. The Intervale wedding was not far from the hives of bees where I’d taught Jess. The wedding in St. Johnsbury was at the precise spot where my wife and I were married 44 years ago.

Writer Bill Mares of Burlington is also a former teacher and state legislator. His most recent book is a collection of his VPR commentaries, titled "3:14 And Out."
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