Friend and fellow Marriage Commissioner, Joe, says I am a magnet for weird couples. He says on his day his couples are nice, sweet normal people. (I think he gets some weird ones too, and just doesn't share with the world as I do.)
Wednesday there were some interesting couples. There was the most annoying couple in the world with the 4 year old from Hell. One couple had done a cultural marriage already. She was from Afghanistan, but no accent and very American. They laughed about all the papers the groom had to sign in a foreign language. He thinks he agreed to pay for her with camels, chickens, and sheep. There were other weddings. And then there was The One.
The groom was 97 years old and in a wheel chair. He was mentally fine. The bride was 61. They have one witness. We go upstairs and I do my spiel: mute cell phones, are there rings, do you have your own vows, anyone have a camera. Then I said their names and asked, "are you ready?' And it went downhill from there. The bride said she didn't think she could do this. She wasn't sure. Give her a minute. I asked her if she wanted to come back another day. No, they had to do this now. And then she shut down. I took her by hand and went into the little lobby and sat her down.
I asked what is the problem? Deafening silence. Do you care for him, yes. Does he care for you, yes. Are you worried about the age difference, yes. Does he have children, yes. Are they against this marriage, yes. Do you care what people think, yes. Are you living with him now, yes. Will marriage change anything in the home, no. Do you want to get the ceremony fee back and go home? Long silence, no.
I told her I would get the next couple and she could take time to decide what she was going to do. Or they could go home and decide. The license is good for 90 days. And she said, "We have to do this now. There is no more time." Then she starts asking me about the process of divorce. I told her it would take a court order, she couldn't just walk away and say she was divorced. She was surprised lawyers might be involved. Again she said we are out of time. After 10 minutes she got up and said I'll do it.
But that was only the beginning.
She talked to the groom and kept asking the witness what should she do. I told them we had to start or they had to leave and come back another day. Finally she said for me to do the ceremony. I began. I was editing the ceremony. The fluff about loving each other for life, meeting the challenges of the future etc. just didn't seem to fit the occasion. I asked the groom if he took her as his wife. A resounding yes. I asked her if she took him as her husband, silence. And more silence. She sat in the floor, holding onto the groom's arm, and put her head between her legs. Silence. I talked to her, I gave her the options again, do it, stop and go home, come back tomorrow, call it all off. Silence. After several minutes (and I am ready to kick them out of the building at this point) she says I do.
I pick up the ceremony and get to the point I pronounce them married. I told her this is the last legal point of the ceremony. (I never point this out to other couples. But I wanted this woman sure she wanted to this.) She says go get the other couple and let me think about this some more. I was losing my Southern Charm and ready to wring her neck. I told them, "You either let me pronounce you married or you leave now. The building is closed for the day, the clerks are getting ready to go home." And then I said something I have never said to anyone before. It just rolled out of my mouth. " Fish or cut bait." She agreed to be married and I pronounced them husband and wife.
Why did this have to be done then? What was the "There is no more time" issue? Were they rushing to beat a court order that would give his children control? Was it a homeless issue for her? She was dirty and smelled, he was squeaky clean. Had the doctor given him just a few weeks to live?
As the Blog title says I Have No Endings . . .