Every one looked straight at me as a hundred Koreans rushed the ceremony. To my left was the bride to be, to my right, my beaming brother. Within the mass, I spotted a confused looking guide holding a tiny American flag. We had been invaded.
Last week I had the opportunity to work on one my most meaningful life list items yet, officiating my brother’s wedding. I really enjoy the opportunities where my life list interweaves with my family experiences. My family has been extremely supportive of my bizarre goal driven lifestyle since the beginning. Most of the time this manifests as cheering from the sidelines but on special occasions it involves being with me on adventures. Be it exploring the Middle East with my sister, visiting my 50th state with my dad, venturing to remote Alaska with my mom or getting lost in a country I didn’t know existed with my brother, these experiences consistently rank as my favorite.
I had actually been working on this particular item (becoming ordained and officiating a wedding) for a long time. It started in mid-2011 when I finally took the steps to became ordained online. (You can find the free and quick process on how to become ordained here). Last year my brother pushed me forward when he asked me to officiate his forthcoming wedding. I was humbled and honored from the start. I wasn’t going to take this lightly.
I spent the next several months decrypting the legalese surrounding the marriage license process in Washington State. It wasn’t inherently difficult but I wanted to be 100% sure that I was doing everything perfectly.
My brother and his fiancé were incredibly easy to work with. I had feared the worst (a bride/groomzilla combo) but was happy to see they were much more carefree about the process than I was.
Finally their big day came.
I woke up early and headed to the ceremony site. The wedding took place at a public viewpoint which looked over the Seattle skyline. When I arrived, my dad was already there and prepping the area. Even though we had city permits reserving the area, there was a constant influx of photographing tourists. It was clear that this small and private ceremony was going to be public regardless of what we had planned. My family is quite easygoing and we let this work as part of the festivities. The more the merrier we thought.
This eventually got out of hand.
Five minutes before the ceremony was set to start, I spoke with the couple to be. They seemed calm and eager. I felt good and was excited to start. The tourists were being respectful and giving the wedding party plenty of space.
Wedding Crashed: Gangnam Style
Finally at noon, it was time to start. The entire party arranged in a semicircle, quieted down and looked in my direction.
As I always do before speaking in public, I felt my nervousness rising.
Right as I planned to get started, I heard the unmistakable sound of bus doors opening. Less than a 100 feet away an enormous group of excited and noisy tourists unloaded from multiple buses. They walked in our direction and overwhelmed my family’s group. We were completely surrounded.
Half laughing and half confused, I identified the tour guide. I explained that we were starting a wedding ceremony and had reserved the park. I invited his group to enjoy the viewpoint from beside our group and told him we would only be 15 minutes. He smiled and asked when we were starting.
I nervously said “about a minute ago.”
His smile quickly left his face and he shouted out in anxious Korean to the group. After taking more than a few photos of my laughing and confused family, they ventured away. Well… most of them ventured away. About a dozen of them decided to join and experience a real American wedding for themselves.
It was the Gangnam Style version of Wedding Crashers.
As soon as we regrouped, I started the ceremony.
Completely to my surprise, I immediately felt sick. This was different than temporary nervousness that I usually feel doing important moments.
I have spoken in front of thousands of people, stalled a racecar in front of diehard NASCAR fans, publicly embarrassed myself in front of gorgeous women, stalled an airplane while flying over LA, been interviewed on live television and fallen into a crevasse in Antarctica but I have never felt more nervous than I felt at that moment.
I don’t know if it was the extreme importance of the occasion, the unexpected interruption of the tourists, the odd feeling of wearing a suit or the proximity of my entire family, all I know is that I was freaked.
Despite my irrational fear, I pushed forward.
The ceremony ended up going quite well. My initial nervousness created a juxtaposition that highlighted the authenticity and sureness of the bride and groom’s vows. They were well thought out, raw and flawless. They both said them with complete confidence. As the ceremony went on, I started to feel normal and actually started to enjoy myself. The moment and feeling passed.
With a simple kiss (and the power vested in me by Washington State), it was over. My brother and his wife were officially married. :-)
Everyone in the group, including our new tourist friends, cheered and wiped their eyes. As they had done since I first met them, they taught me a lot that day. It had been an honor and privilege to share the moment with the fantastic bride and groom.