My first wedding was a memorable occasion. My first wedding as a pastor, that is.
Actually, I was an assistant pastor at a church in a large Michigan city. My pastor was soon-to-retire, and he was giving me more and more responsibility so I could fill the gap between his ministry and that of the next pastor.
The wedding involved two prominent church families. Pastor was out of town the weekend of the wedding. He groomed me carefully in advance, giving me the order of service and all the words written down that I would need to say.
The church was beautifully decorated and filled with family and friends as the bride came down the aisle under the watchful eye and wide grin of the groom. I stood at the front of the church in my position as the Official Authorized By Both The State of Michigan and God to perform weddings. I read from my little book all the words Pastor had given me to say. Everything went well until we came to the part where rings were exchanged.
I suppose this is one part of the wedding ceremony that carries a high risk for something unexpected to happen. How many rings have not been found in the pocket of the best man as they were supposed to be? How many rings have fallen from fumbling hands and rolled across the floor? It is almost that we now expect something to happen at this point in the service.
The best man in this particular wedding located the rings quickly and skillfully handed the bride’s ring to me. I held it up for people to see it as I read the words about the ring being a symbol of the marriage relationship. Then I handed it to the groom and said the words we had rehearsed the night before. "Place the ringer on her finger and repeat after me."
A slight but noticeable snickering went through the assembled guests. That wasn’t quite right, was it? Did I just say “ringer”? Did I make it rhyme with “finger”?
The groom kept his composure and placed the ring on his bride’s finger and repeated the words I correctly gave him. The line, of course, was about to be spoken again, since it was now the bride’s turn to encircle her husband’s finger with the ring. Or was that ringer?
I was determined to say it correctly this time. After all, I had to face many of these people in church tomorrow, and I certainly didn’t want to endure their jokes and comments about my abilities as a pastor.
The bride had the ring in her hand. Everyone was waiting for me to say the words. I was certain that a line which probably is taken for granted at most weddings now was the most anticipated line in this particular wedding.
"Place the ringer on his finger." Outright laughter now was the response of the family and friends who were gathered to witness the exchange of vows between this man and this woman. I had repeated my error. Perhaps some thought I did it deliberately, to get a laugh. I have been known to inject humor into lessons and sermons. Why not a wedding? But in all honesty, I was more surprised than anyone to hear my mistake, not once, but twice.
For the rest of my pastoral ministry, whenever I came to the exchange of rings part of the wedding ceremony, I couldn’t prevent a smile from appearing on my face as I recalled that first wedding. Fortunately, however, I never repeated my error at any other wedding;.
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