Two summers ago, when I officiated the wedding of my friends AJ and Sarah, I assumed it would be a one-time thing. Though I didn’t know what I was doing and feared that I’d mess everything up, ultimately, I think it went pretty well. Besides forgetting to tell the crowd to be seated, I did good. Michelle even overheard someone say, “Wow, that is a young pastor.”
I received my ordination from the Universal Life Church. I always end up telling people that this aspect of officiating a wedding, the actual ordination, is very uninteresting. All I did was give my name, address and credit card number. I keep my card in my wallet as a conversation piece, but I never I’d use it again.
I met Zak, and then Kristi, through Squad 6, the Milwaukee Bucks fan section paid for by Andrew Bogut. Zak was in charge of the rowdy group and soon Kristi became his co-leader. Zak an I bonded immediately over our shared love of movies. I also became good friends with Kristi’s brother, Chuck. Perhaps it took Kristi a bit longer to connect with me, after all, I was loud, rowdy and constantly pushing the line. Nevertheless, eventually one of my favorite parts of Bucks games was chatting with her.
Shortly after Zak and Kristi got engaged and Chuck and I became roommates, they asked me if I would do their wedding. I was honored and happy to oblige them. Why me though? And why did I say yes? I’ve thought a lot about both.
Why me? Well, I’d done it before and perhaps knowing that I am outgoing, kind and a writer by trade had something to do with it. I guess you’d really have to ask the couples.
Why did I say yes? Being asked to marry a couple is a meaningful honor. But it can also be nerve wracking. I think I said yes because I live for experiences, and I trust myself to do a good job. Also, is is pretty easy to agree to anything when it seems really far off.
Nevertheless, that long distance between them asking me and the date went quickly. Kristi, Zak, Michelle and I had a very enjoyable dinner at Mo’s Irish Pub in Tosa, where we talked about their expectations for the service and their story.
One of the things I told them I could do was deliver a message during the ceremony. I feel like a well thought out, representative message is the strongest thing I can bring. Also, it keeps me thinking about the couple.
Lead up to the Day
A few weeks later, I heard from the best man, Dan, asking me to come to the bachelor party. I am glad I went. Prior to this, I only knew Zak and Chuck, meeting his friends, playing paintball (at Brew City Paintball) and poker, I knew would go a long way towards ensuring a great wedding experience. Luckily, all the guys were great, just like Zak, and they accepted me like one of their own.
Then, the wedding weekend was upon us. The nerves became real on Friday morning. I took a half day from work to ensure I had everything ready. The wedding was to be held at veritable Milwaukee landmark, The Domes, where I’d be headed shortly for the reception.
My favorite part of any wedding I’m involved in is the coming together of family and friends that begins at parties and showers, grows during the rehearsal and other lead-up events, and blooms on the wedding day, especially during the reception. It is another reason that I was so pleased to be part of this day.
Arriving at The Domes, I knew I wanted to, for the most part, run the rehearsal. I’d seen pastors do this for other couples and didn’t realize whose responsibility it was during my first wedding. I wanted to take the responsibility on, the couple shouldn’t need to worry about that. It went smoothly, we ran through the ceremony twice, and Zak jumped in when he need to.
Strangely, The Domes were still open to the public at this point, so people were watching our little crew figure everything out. Despite a few unknown variables, I felt that this practice would allow the service to run smoothly.
The most interesting aspect, for anyone who has been to The Domes is that the seating for the wedding would be primarily where the entrance is, where we performed the ceremony was on the exact opposite side, so we were relatively far from the majority of the crowd, besides the families, who were seated in the pathway leading to the stage. This made for a very long walk for the couples, but nothing we couldn’t handle. It was actually very cool and different. I asked if there would be a podium and Zak said they told him there would. We were set.
Later, we met at Marty’s Pizza in Brookfield for the rehearsal dinner. Zak and Kristi were kind enough to get my own personal pizza sans cheese. Dan, the gregarious best man, read a speech verbatim off bestman.com, not even changing the first names of the fake bride and groom. Everyone talked and joked. Zak gave the groomsmen superhero t-shirts to wear under their tuxes, it was a great touch.
Back at my place, Michelle, Chuck, his girlfriend Andrea, his future brother-in-law Dan and I created a Parks & Recreation drinking game. Every time someone on the show said Pawnee, we lifted our glasses and repeated “Pawnee” in unison, then drank. It still makes me smile just thinking about it.
The BIG Day
Zak was kind enough to invite me to accompany the party for the “First Look,” the bus and pictures. I am so glad I went. I knew it would help calm my nerves to be a part of the whole day. Chuck, Andrea and I arrived at The Ambassador where the rest of the party had gathered in adjacent hotel rooms.
I had Kristi, Best Man Dan, and Liz, the Maid of Honor, sign the marriage certificate. Zak was remarkably loose, as were the ladies the few times I stopped in. We sat around, had some beers and passed the time with jokes and Jimmy Johns.
Finally, the bus arrived and we met in the lobby for the First Look. The First Look allows couples to get the majority of the pictures out of the way before the service.
The opulent, classic lobby was the perfect place for Zak to see his bride. Kristi looked beautiful in her flowing dress and classic veil. Zak wore a tux. She came behind him, covered his eyes and the photographer snapped away. When Zak turned, he was nearly speechless.
First, the bus, stocked with beer (Lite and High Life), Apple Pie shots, and champagne, drove to an industrial area on the river in Walker’s Point. The wind whipped and chilled, but photos were taken.
Next we headed to the Bradley Center. Zak had secured access to the Bucks locker room. In all the magical experiences I’ve had during and since Squad 6, this one was pretty high up there. The locker room was set up for the game that night against the Lakers, jerseys were hung and shoes set. I got my picture by Brandon Jennings jersey. After milling out while the photographer snapped away, it was time for our next stop… the court.
There was a high school basketball game going on. The crowd cheered enthusiastically as we came on the court! We snapped some quick photos and then headed up to Section 212, home of Squad 6, were Zak and Kristi took more photos. One of the most amazing things about this awesome couple is how often they work together at different jobs, just another illustration of how perfect they are.
Our time at the Bradley Center came to a close and we headed to Miller, where the tour manager was kind enough to let us take some photos in the caves in between tours. A lot of places may ask for a permit or reservation, but Miller was great, we called them that day and they had us come. Kudos to them.
As our photo extravaganza ended, my nerves started to perk up again, after a short stop at the hotel, final preparations made, we headed to The Domes. The biggest thing I had to remember is my folder with all of the service notes, so it was impossible for me to forget anything.
Michelle showed up with my backup service notes. The Domes were open until 5 and the ceremony was set to begin at 5:30, so all of the set up had to occur post closing, it could have made for a stressful time for the couple, but they didn’t seem to sweat it. I noticed there was no podium, but we’d have to proceed without it. Finally, when the guests were seated, we lined up, Zak and I went first. I saw him take a few deep breathes, it was about to get real.
The nerves reached their crescendo once we crossed the threshold into the Show Dome, but with such responsibility, I couldn’t afford to waste much more time being nervous, as we arrived at the stage after our long stroll, I took a deep breath. I was ready.
The cute little ring bearer had had trouble following instructions at the rehearsal, so it was no surprise when he walked all the way towards Zak and I and Zak had to point him toward his father. Zak smiled and laughed about it and I admired his poise as the dad came to retrieve the little guy.
The rest of the party filed and then I asked the guests to please rise. Kristi walked the aisle supported by her father and grandfather. Zak went to bring her to the stage and then it was time. I asked everyone to be seated!
The service was quick, and truly, it was a blur. I gave my message, they lit the unity candle, exchanged vows and I proclaimed them husband and wife, they kissed and it was over! I walked out last, taking a deep breath. I went to Michelle, looking for an honest assessment of how I did. She said I did great.
Finally, I could relax.
Knowing I’d be getting married in less than a year, I felt that there was a lot I could learn from Zak and Kristi. They were both poised, took everything in stride and kept a sense of humor.
The appetizers were carried around by waitresses and highlighted by some excellent bacon-wrapped chicken! Yum, they went super fast. They had Chinese carry-out baskets for the guests to take candy from the candy bar, which was very cute, but the food was the most awesome part of the reception! They had four stations, baked potato, beef, fish fry and pasta. It was INCREDIBLE!
More speeches were made, including the Best Dan’s, where he used props! It was excellent.
We danced the night away, enjoying new friendships and a incredibly special couple. What a blessing and an honor to be part of the day!
My advice is to always say “YES!” to an experience. It might scare you or make you uncomfortable, but a great experience will enrich you beyond your expectations.