Private ceremony, public place

Not all weddings take place in a church. Today I performed one for Joshua and Jenna at Washington Oaks State Park in Palm Coast, FL. If you’re going to get married on January 3, you might as well do it under a canopy of live oak trees in front of a beautiful rose garden on a slightly-overcast, 80 degree afternoon. The attendance of our small gathering was augmented with other park guests enjoying the walking trails that intersected right where the couple took their vows. It was an intimate moment in full view of anyone who paid park admission.

And both enjoyed the experience. I love seeing the look on the faces of innocent bystanders when they suddenly realize they are part of a wedding. I also love that moment when a couple realizes there are lots of uninvited guests sharing the moment and cheering them on when its time for the kiss.

This isn’t the first time I had a bigger than planned audience. I’ve done ceremonies in a gazebo in back of an elementary school where kids were playing on the playground. I’ve done weddings on the beach, surrounded by sunbathers. I done one at a marina, where we were joined by many boats and boaters. And my favorite was performed in front of dolphins watching from their pool. Usually you don’t realize you have such an audience until the kiss. Then the hoots and hollers say it all.

A number of years ago, I had taken a group of middle school youth to this very park to walk the trails. We wandered right into the middle of a wedding. Some of the kids yelled, “Run!” when the they saw who they assumed was the groom. It was a great moment.

In those moments when I feel ornery, I hope that unexpected guests will crash the wedding, bomb the photos, and shout loud and long during the kiss. It’s fun to pretend you’re all by yourself. It’s even more fun to know that everyone is watching.

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