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Become a minister in five minutes and perform marriage services

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What does your dream wedding officiate look like? Are you thinking dignified, temperate, and stately? Maybe clad in traditional vestments or a clerical collar or chasubles? For me, it was one of my besties wearing a kilt and sporran, black combat boots and red socks, and a black shirt and vest.

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My wedding officiate didn't go to seminary for three or four years. He became a minister in the easiest and fastest way possible.

"I was drunk and tooling around on the internet, then I remembered someone told me they got ordained online. So, I Googled it and five minutes later I was a minister. The ordination was free, but I paid a little extra to get a card for my wallet and a doctorate in divinity. So, now I'm a reverend doctor, like Martin Luther King Jr.," David Vienna explained.

Ordination in hand, David was able to perform my marriage to my awesome wife nearly a decade ago in a sunny glen at the See Canyon Fruit Ranch. The service was funny, personal, and much more special because the man joining Anna and me was our close friend.

THE REVEREND DOCTORS Longtime friends David Vienna (left) and Glen Starkey became online ministers and performed each other's wedding services, and you can too. - PHOTO COURTESY OF STEVEN E. MILLER PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Photo Courtesy Of Steven E. Miller Photography
  • THE REVEREND DOCTORS Longtime friends David Vienna (left) and Glen Starkey became online ministers and performed each other's wedding services, and you can too.

You, too, could become a minister in five minutes and marry your friends and family. Go here: getordained.org. Go ahead. I'll wait. When you come back, you could be a reverend doctor like David Vienna and me. Yes, full disclosure. I performed the wedding ceremony for David and his wife, Larissa, 19 years ago as a Universal Life Church minister. Later, out of jealousy, I upgraded from a "minister" to a "reverend doctor" to keep up with the Viennas. Now when we see each other, we say, "reverend doctor," and nod slightly. "reverend doctor," the other says nodding slightly.

Unlike David, who's only done a handful of weddings, I've performed a couple dozen. I became ordained around 1990 so I could perform my friends Wayne and Dena's wedding at the Madonna Inn. Over the years, I married both my sisters, which only sounds weird. I married one brother-in-law, lots of close friends, and even a few strangers who sought me out by word of mouth. And David?

"Just three so far," he admitted. "Clearly word has not spread about what a fucking fantastic minister I am."

Some people make a business of this. I searched online and found people asking for $350 to perform a service. I've never charged anything, and David said, "So far, my price is nothing but a bottle of nice bourbon."

When I married David and Larissa, it was a co-officiated service with another friend, Jennifer Wordan, also an online ordained minister. Why in the world did they decide to go with Jennifer and me?

"Larissa and I agreed that weddings are typically pretty stuffy, so we wanted ours to be an epic party during which we took a few minutes to get married," David explained. "So, having two of our best friends lead the ceremony seemed like the perfect way to do that. And we were right."

It was an epic party. As we walked from the Cambria Pines Lodge down a back trail into town along a long staircase, I took a header, bounced back up to my feet, did the sweeping baseball "safe" sign, and kept on trucking.

When it was time to fill out the marriage license, I thought under the church affiliation section it would be fun to write "Lucky Lucky Boy" rather than "Universal Life Church." Needless to say, the SLO County clerk refused to accept the license and we had to fill out a new one. There's a price to pay for thinking you're hilarious!

Is David still mad about that?

"No, but I'm not even going to tell you what I plan to write on your death certificate," he quipped.

I should note that David and his wife, Larissa, are former colleagues at New Times. Now they're big time Hollywood people, she's doing graphic design for Warner Bros. studios, he's writing books and screenplays. They have a pool in their backyard and everything.

I know David was raised Catholic, but one nice thing about having a friend do your service is you don't have to include any religious angle if that's not your bag.

"I always dug the idea of karma, but I'm not religious or spiritual, really," David said. "That said, I don't have a problem with religion nor do I have a problem incorporating that into a ceremony. But my standard script is religion-free. The most spiritual thing I do during a ceremony is quote Douglas Adams."

WEDDING SELFIE Glen Starkey snapped a photo as a bridesmaid makes her way forward during a wedding in San Diego—the last one he performed before retiring from the wedding racket. - PHOTO COURTESY OF GLEN STARKEY
  • Photo Courtesy Of Glen Starkey
  • WEDDING SELFIE Glen Starkey snapped a photo as a bridesmaid makes her way forward during a wedding in San Diego—the last one he performed before retiring from the wedding racket.

I, too, can do or not do religion. During one wedding, at the request of the couple, I rented a clerical collar from a costume shop. It was weird how deferential people were. There's definitely power in the clergy, and having people think I was a Catholic priest was uncomfortable.

I think it's best to be up front and let people know that the church that ordained me used to advertise in the back of Rolling Stone. Other than that, having a minister's license is cool. Sometimes I bless everyone's cars in a parking lot for kicks. And overseeing a wedding? That's a cherished memory!

"There's literally no downside," David noted. "I really enjoy being a part of such an amazing moment in people's lives. Everyone's always so nervous, so I try to keep things light and fun. Plus, you gotta love an open bar."

David had another reason to get ordained beyond drunk internet searches and open bars.

"Back when California first failed to legalize gay marriage, I posted all over social media that I would officiate any LGBTQ ceremony for free," he said. "My point was it might not be legal in the state, but it would be in the eyes of whatever god you worship. In that way, even an atheist can use ordination to make a religious and/or sociopolitical statement.

"Also, a neat trick is randomly absolving the sins of your friends. You'll be the life of the party!"

If a couple about to marry already has a minister, priest, rabbi, or imam they're associated with, they basically know what their wedding service is going to look like. Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Islamic weddings are mostly traditional affairs. If that's what you want, good on ya, mate. But if you're thinking a bit outside the box, maybe encourage one of your friends to take the minister plunge.

But don't ask me. I'm retired. Δ

Contact Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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