This one was unique.
I had officiated multiple weddings at a number of different venues: churches, destinations, outdoors, indoors and in people’s homes. It’s what all of us pastors do.
This one was a destination wedding. The destination was unique. It was the first one I had done at the top of Crystal Mountain. It was the first one where I had to take a gondola to get to the platform … and I don’t like gondolas.
While all of that was really cool, that wasn’t what made this one unique.
They had deep faith in Jesus. They had high hopes for their future together. Again, not necessarily unique. They had lived out their faith in action during their engagement and that was certainly rare.
While all of that was beautiful, that wasn’t what made this one truly unique.
What made this wedding unique was its connection to two other weddings I had the privilege of officiating. During the Christmas season in 2011, I co-officiated the wedding of Rick and Karen Hamilton. Karen had been a widow and Rick a widower, both of them for many years. She is a nurse and Rick a retired Air Force combat veteran. Rick had become a Christian shortly after I arrived in Wenatchee to pastor First Presbyterian Church. I baptized him. It was an amazing blessing. Now they stood before God, as well as my partner in crime, Rev. Paul Pankey, me, and their family and friends to make their vows to one another and the Lord.
It was a beautiful December evening wedding — intimate, with a few family and friends, surrounded by all the decorations in our worship center that Karen had been in charge of designing and putting up for years. It was only fitting for them. God was glorified and everyone was satisfied. For me, it was another blessing in pastoral ministry; but I would not understand how great of a blessing until later.
In the fall of 2012, I was approached by another two members of our congregation. They had a crazy idea … and anyone who knows me knows I LOVE a good crazy idea. They wanted to do a surprise wedding. Tommy and Brooke Halvorson had been dating for several years and were ready for marriage. Formalities were not their style. Barbecues and jeans were; as were surprises and practical jokes. So it had to be “on the sly.” Even the premarital counseling was on the sly, at odd hours in my office when no one else would see them come in or leave. If this was going to work as a surprise, we had to be stealthy.
Just after Christmas that year, they invited their family and a few friends to their home for a barbecue. When it looked like everyone had just about finished eating and was settling in to digest, I asked the totally impolitic question at high volume in front of everyone, “So… when are you two finally going to get married anyway?”
Everyone stopped breathing. How dare I draw such unwanted attention on the two of them at a time like this?! Tommy responded, “How about right now?” Then I stood up and said in as matter-of-fact a manner as I could muster, “OK. I’ll go out to the car and get my stuff.” Everyone watched me walk out the door with their jaws on the floor and return with the marriage license and my service notebook. Murmurs commenced, “Where did they get that license? I didn’t see it in the newspaper … ”
Tommy and Brooke took their vows right then and there as Tommy’s son Kevin tossed the ring box to me at the proper moment. It was beautiful. It was only fitting for them. God was glorified and everyone was satisfied. For me, it was a first and so much fun to do a surprise wedding, but the greatest blessing was still to come.
I was standing on the top of Crystal Mountain looking at a young couple, knowing that all eyes were on them (as it should be) or on the clear backdrop of Mount Rainier behind us. It was a glorious day with a bride who I have always known to wear the most constant and genuine smile. Today was no exception. She was marrying a man very much like his dad, not very talkative but steady and grounded; even if a little impish in his sense of humor. John and Anna Halvorson took their vows in the fading afternoon light of Labor Day 2013. The venue was so suited to them — adventurous, rugged and bold. The venue and the whole ceremony encapsulated the adventure that they were entering together as husband and wife.
What made this one unique? It completed a family circle: Karen Hamilton, formerly Karen Halvorson, Tommy Halvorson and John Halvorson are mother, son and grandson. Three generations of the Halvorson family all married within 21 months of each other and I had the privilege of officiating them all to the glory of God.
And what was the greatest blessing that completed that family circle? It was the expression on Karen Hamilton’s face. At her own wedding she had the nervous and joyous countenance of a bride. At her son’s wedding, she had the abject shock and sudden rush of joy of a mother who had arrived unprepared for a long-awaited event.
This Labor Day, it was the sweet satisfaction of a grandmother, overjoyed for her grandson and rested in the joy of seeing the circle of her family growing together in Christ.
It was beautiful. It was only fitting … and, most importantly, God was glorified.
The Rev. Pat McElroy is senior pastor at Saddlerock Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Wenatchee.