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No Preacher at the Wedding? No Problem.

Special Feature by Jeff Haden of BlackBird Images No wedding goes perfectly – but some go less perfectly than others. Say you’re getting married on a beautiful hilltop situated 400 yards from the main house… and the best man forgot the rings. No problem – someone runs back to the house, you smile sheepishly, and everyone remembers how gracefully you handled the moment. (Plus it’s a story you can tell your grandkids.) But what happens if months of planning come together, 300 guests are in place, your dream wedding is about to start… and your preacher doesn’t show up? It actually happened at a wedding we photographed last year – but don’t worry, there’s a happy ending. Here’s what happened. The wedding took place at a prestigious country club just outside Washington, D.C. They took over the entire facility except for one of the small members-only bars. The bride spent over a year planning the wedding and was incredibly nervous because her mother had been back-seat coordinating the entire time. As a result she wasn’t just afraid her guests wouldn’t enjoy the day; she was also afraid to hear her mother say, “I told you so.” (Note to moms: Offer to help, but don’t make your daughters feel they’ve failed if the wedding doesn’t go perfectly; the bride is under enough pressure as it is.) I was with the bride in the last moments before the service, and she appeared to have more than the normal last-minute nerves. We build great rapport with our couples, and it was natural to ask her if she was okay. She pulled me aside and said, “The preacher’s not here – and he’s not coming.” Gulp. Then I made the mistake of saying, “Wow… so what are you going to do?” She burst into tears, so I went immediately into fix-it mode. “Let’s look at your options,” I said. “Do you want me to let everyone know there’s a delay so we can try to find another minister?” She didn’t. (Plus it’s not like we could call Preachers R Us for a last-minute replacement.) “Do you want to tell everyone you’re skipping the service, go right to the reception, and get married later?” No: Fate worse than death. Running out of ideas, I said, hesitantly, “Do you want to fake it?” (I know – not my finest moment.) To my surprise she looked up and with a hopeful tone said, “Could – could we do that?” Okay… I’ve carried flowers, cut cakes, subbed for DJs… never played a preacher, though. Plus I needed to photograph the “service.” So I’m out. My second photographer is in her mid-20s and looks nothing like a preacher (in a good way). She’s out too. Then I thought, “Hey, this is the (name of the country club omitted to protect the innocent); home of CEOs, congressmen, captains of industry… someone here should be able to pull this off.” I went to the bar and explained the situation. I expected to be laughed at, but instead they all looked genuinely concerned. Then four men at one table turned to another and said, almost in unison, “Michael… that sounds like a job for you!” Turns out they were right. We quickly went over the service, printed some opening remarks off a website, jotted down some brief notes, found a Bible… and off he went. I’ll skip the rest of the details – all you need to know is he was perfect. (In fact, he was smoother than many preachers.) A couple times he looked to me for cues, and I nodded in the right direction to keep him on track (like at the string quarter, and later at the singer), but no one noticed. No one. The “ceremony” and later the reception went off without a hitch. And the bride pulled off her dream wedding. Even today no one knows. During their honeymoon they found a justice of the peace and were legally married. As long as her mother doesn’t see the marriage certificate… her secret is safe. And now with you, too.
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