I have been a wedding officiant in Massachusetts for nearly nine years. It has been an incredible pleasure and honor to have served over 525 couples – same-gender, transgender, and opposite gender from this region, all over the country and other countries as well.
Many weddings stand out for me in unique ways. Friendships have developed, couples have moved to Northampton once they visited and loved it here, and people have chosen unusual settings and unconventional text.
In July, life imitated art.
The weekend of July 13th was busy as planned, as I signed up for three weddings and agreed to take part on a post-performance panel for Sarah Felder’s “A Queer Divine” on Friday and Saturday evenings at Ko Theatre at Amherst College.
Then on July 10th, I added another wedding ceremony to the agenda, as two local men who are teachers wanted to get legally married before their marriage license expired.
On July 11th, I received a call that my beloved aunt had died and that the funeral would be held on Monday morning in northern Kentucky near Cincinnati.
Yes, I had four weddings and a funeral within 48 hours!
On Saturday, Tim and Paul got married in their backyard in Northampton with their two foster children at 11:30am. At 1pm, Danyelle and Angela got married at the Sanctuary at Look Park. At 5pm, Marci (a colleague of mine) and Charlie got married at 5pm at the Golf Club in Southwick.
Then on Sunday, Ben and Rowena (with parents visiting from Australia) got married in Ben’s parent’s yard at 2pm in Montgomery. I quietly conveyed to Ben’s dad that I would need to leave immediately after the ceremony to drive through the night to Cincinnati, and I asked for the best way to get onto the Mass Pike from his home. He lovingly put his arm around me and showed me the way. He also made sure we started on time.
When I left at 2:45pm, Ben and Rowena hugged me, wished me safe travels, and handed me a beautiful note with a gift card to my favorite local coffee shop. My need to get to my aunt’s funeral did not diminish their joy, nor did this young couple feel usurped in any way by own personal need.
As I made the 850 mile journey solo (my partner stayed behind to tend to our pugs), it occurred to me that there are so many beautiful people in the world. I arrived at 3am, got a little bit of sleep, and attended the funeral and other family gatherings for the following two days.
This particular aunt was the adult in my family who stood by me when my parents were not supportive. She inspired me in subtle but significant ways.
In one weekend in my life, I married a lesbian couple, a gay couple, and two heterosexual couples. Each couple hired me because of my work as a lesbian and activist for equality. Our allies in western Massachusetts amaze me, just as the lifelong ally–my loving aunt Mary who I will always treasure–was always there for me.
J. Mary (JM) Sorrell is a Justice of the Peace and Ordained Minister based in Northampton, MA. She has performed ceremonies from the mountains in the Berkshires to the ocean in Provincetown and The Islands, and she continues to be amazed to get paid for being part of such loving and happy occasions. She is grateful to Purple Unions for the number and quality of referrals for weddings. You can visit her website here: http://www.jmthejp.com