Monday, May 16, 2011

A Wedding in Jail

I recently performed my first wedding in a prison. I had heard from other officiants about the process - the security check, the private room, and 'don't carry much with you.' Add: bring an open heart and mind. What I hoped, and discovered to be true, is that a wedding in jail is also loving and uplifting.

I've changed everyone's names...

Jane first contacted me when I was going into another wedding meeting. When we actually talk later, I am sitting outside of Saint Patrick's Cathedral in NYC - right next to a chain link fence. When Jane reveals over the phone that her wedding will be in jail, I look twice at the fence.

Jane shares that she and John are a young family, and have been together for seven years. The first couple I married in New York City were a new family even younger than John and Jane. I tell this to Jane right away, so she knows I am accepting, not judging, her situation.

Jane says she has been waiting for John to 'go the right way,' and that now she sees him doing so. Both their love and perspective are sincere. Yes, there are unique challenges in marriage with someone who is incarcerated, both now, and after release in building a new life. If bringing the stability of marriage to their union will help John on his path of being a responsible family man, and give Jane greater peace of heart, and give their child a united base, or, social justice aside, if they just really love each other... I'm in line to check my bag through the metal detector.

At the jail, John's counselor, Linda, is with us throughout the ceremony. She is positive, making sure we all know the ceremony has no time limit. Afterward, Jane and John will have 15 minutes to be alone together. Linda always calls John by his last name.

John proposes again to Jane on one knee before the ceremony begins. Jane and John hold hands and share their wedding vows in the presence of their daughter, other family and a friend. Jane had guessed John's ring size, and brought all their rings with her. She was right - a perfect fit. Their kiss is strong, sweet, and lasting. May their marriage be the same.

Jane's sister and I take pictures on my camera, after checking to make sure it is allowed.

I never asked Jane why John was in jail, or how long he would be there. It feels none of my business. I learn enough to give John and Jane a wedding ceremony that is respectful of their love, and a joyful experience. This is what love deserves in every setting.