Weddings Week 2011: Reverend Michael Marshall’s behind the scenes look at holy matrimony

Weddings Week 2011: Reverend Michael Marshall’s behind the scenes look at holy matrimony

Reverend Michael Marshall, parish priest at St. Andrew-by-the-Lake on Ward’s Island, has been joining couples in holy matrimony for 20 years. Before you pick your officiant, consider the view from his side of the altar

(Image: Vanessa Heins) 

Best part of the job: I like spending time with the bride and groom prior to the big day. I talk to them about their hopes, the meaning of marriage, and then also a lot of practical stuff, like finances, if they plan to have children, what role they want friends to play in their relationship.

And the worst: There is no “worst,” but there are challenges, like maintaining Anglican traditions while allowing couples to express their individuality. I recently officiated for a couple who, in addition to their vows, wanted to pinky swear. I was hesitant but ultimately decided that it wasn’t harming anyone.

What every couple should know: Where to get married and whether or not to have a religious ceremony is a big decision. People get very wrapped up in the reception and other things. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but religion is an important consideration.

Professional philosophy: The bride and groom should be the stars of the show. I find that too often the officiant is the focus. When I officiate, the couple stands on a step and I stand below them, to make sure they’re the main event.

Current trends: A lot of couples are asking to play pop music during the ceremony or just after. Some of my more traditional colleagues aren’t happy about this, but I don’t have a problem with it, as long as the song is not too far off the map and the couple can explain to me why it’s appropriate for them. “Here Comes the Sun” works beautifully. I once had a couple ask me for AC/DC, but I steered them in a different direction.

Biggest misconception: People assume that religious ceremonies take hours or that they’re very strict, which isn’t the case. I recently officiated a ceremony at the Royal Ontario Museum’s dinosaur gallery, which was pretty cool.

Biggest change: A lot more couples are living together before they get married, which can require some tweaking of the ceremonial language. I might say something like so-and-so have come together to share the love that they have already received, and to proclaim it in a public place. I try to make it subtle.

Some traditions never die: The kiss-the-bride moment is a classic, although it changes from ceremony to ceremony. There are some pecks, and then occasionally couples will go for the big smooch, but most are something in between.

Comic relief: During one ceremony, I was asking the usual—does anyone know any reason why this couple should not be joined in marriage?—and all of a sudden a red squirrel darted across the front of the church. Everyone looked up and started laughing.

For more information on how to make a wedding perfect, see our Weddings Week 2011 coverage