Sunday, October 09, 2005

Solemnization Poaching

Sodden, yes. Moldy, no.

Dinner last night on Mass Ave near Porter Square was wet to and from. My massive bald spot needed the protection of the hat I had not brought. The cold needling of rain was antipodean to walking barefoot on small stones. Hairy headed people cannot know those prickly shocks.

Yet, one of New England's advantages was hidden even here on the second day of unrelenting drizzle. We seldom mold. That fungal periphery in Beaufort, in Savannah, in Tampa means walls, towels, appliances alike waft decomposition, plus those damned and sudden spots of mold. Hot and wet is quite different from cold and wet.

And Massachusetts marriage? Yes, indeed, it was a brief visitor at dinner.

We met our long-term chums. They were visiting from Mexico. So we could certainly slosh to Cambridge for dinner. We have known them for nearly 20 years, when he was the interim minister at a church whose board I chaired. They are sterling examples of being aged but not feeble of mind or body. They go. They do.

How and why is it that so many Gen-X and Gen-Y guys seem so old and so inert? Let's put that down to attitude and habit.

As we chatted over dinner, marriage did come up in a few ways. He long ago stopped counting the marriages he sanctified in seven decades of ministry. In contrast, because of the peculiar laws of Massachusetts, I have solemnized two marriages. Armed with my one-day designation of solemnization certificates, I signed those marriage licenses and those weddings remain as legal as though Governor Mitt Romney or Archbishop Sean O'Malley (both legally empowered to do so here, also) had done the deeds.

Hearing that I had done one, then a second marriage, my own minister has taken to referring to me as Reverend.

So there is that underlying, understandable spark from the friction, even if expressed comically. From the establishment of the colony here, our laws define marriage in Massachusetts as a civil ceremony. For many years, a minister's presence at or blessing of a wedding had no effect other than an emotional one. The town registration of the marriage certificate, signed by a permitted solemnizer makes the marriage legal.

Despite clerical folklore and popular culture, the minister or other religious official is not necessary. In fact, a substantial majority of marriages here are strictly civil, not in any form of church.

So, there we were at an Indian restaurant, each of the four of us with a different lamb dish. We are all talkers and got to marriage a few time. Eat, talk, drink, talk, eat again.

The real minister did mention that my blessing marriages without so much as a mail-order minister's certificate didn't seem legal. I ran down the wonderful singularity of Massachusetts' one-day marrier process.

He muttered something about that taking away business from ministers. Perhaps that might be a threat if the law permitted more than one per calendar year per solemnizer.

I confess both of mine were not so secular as playing town clerk or even justice of the peace. I believe it was minister for the day. I recommend it.

1 comment:

David A. Barrett, Esq. said...

Great story! This is a great example of some of the quirky but wonderful things in Massachusetts state law.

I love the history of Massachusetts JP's, and like to think about a time when the neighborhood Justice of the Peace could hear smaller civil and minor criminal matters on the doorstep.

I wonder if you knew that the phrase "Reading the Riot Act" originally came from a duty of a Massachusetts Justice of the Peace (i.e. to disperse unruly crowds).

Massachusetts JP's today provide very valuable advice and experience to couples seeking to get married. Much of my blog seeks to provide information as a public service.

Having a "JP for the day" can be a great option for couples with someone particular in mind, but the task should not be taken lightly.

Wedding ceremonies are times that create enduring memories, and many folks seek professional services to help assure those memories are pleasant ones.

Thanks again for an excellent story.

David Barrett
Justice of the Peace
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Toll Free - 1-877-473-7852