When Dylan Ashbrook of San Francisco married his wife Liza in 2007, they sealed the deal on an on-again, off-again relationship that had been developing since high school.
When they began to plan the ceremony, amongst decisions like flowers, attire and location, the couple found they had strong feelings about not having a clergyman or woman officiate:
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"I had known for a while that I wanted to keep many of the trappings of organized religion out of our ceremony," says Ashbrook, "and I loved the idea of a true mentor and a true friend marking the occasion where we made our love official. I'm not a religious person, Liza isn't particularly observant either, and I didn't see the need for a figure from an organized religion, whether Presbyterian (a nod to my background) or Jewish (a nod to hers) to sanctify our choice in marriage."
Since their love had blossomed in high school, they chose a history teacher who had inspired them both to officiate. Now, that person holds an even more significant place in their shared life, says Ashbrook: "We see him and his wife for dinner once a year when we're back home in Boston. If anything, having involved him in such an intimate moment in our lives created a special bond that I don't see ever breaking." Ashbrook's experience isn't unusual—more couples than ever are eschewing the tradition of getting married by a member of the clergy, instead choosing to be wed by a friend or relative.
These ceremonies aren't just a special moment for the couple. When Jack Murnighan, who lives in New York City and is Director of Content at Babble.com, was asked to wed a hometown friend and his fiancee, he was flattered, and became deeply involved in the process, even helping the couple pen their vows. Not that the process wasn't terrifying.
"It's hard to imagine a public speaking situation with higher stakes," Murnighan says. But he would do it again in a heartbeat, calling the day "triumphant" and saying he now feels, well, wedded to his friends.
"It was one of the great joys of my life. They were so appreciative and it meant so much for me to do it."
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