‘CRES’ founded 1982 _ “On the web since 1997”  » —   Pilgrim Chapel 816.753.6719    WCHNotes.PDFMem
Key words: Kansas City weddings package officiant minister interfaith Civil Secular Budget mixed marriage same-sex gay LGBTQ Vern Barnet CRES, Kansas Missouri special

We draw upon the worlds secular and religious traditions, respecting the perspectives of both doubter and believer.

“Vern worked with us 
to design the kind of 
ceremony we wanted, 
with excellent suggestions. 
We were really pleased. 

“Our families, from different backgrounds, were thrilled, 
and our friends keep talking 
about how special 
the wedding was.”

     Pilgrim Chapel is an exceptionally beautiful site for your wedding, and I am delighted the folks there have invited me to assist you in planning your ceremony and leading it on the day you and your beloved marry.
     Whether you want a traditional, civil, multi-faith, or unique service, and whether you plan a small private or larger public ceremony, you may want to look over some of the points below before we meet. 
     Here is a 3-minute video of a young couple's wedding at Pilgrim Chapel.
Current Health Concerns and Suggestions

1. Obtaining a marriage license

Weddings at Pilgrim Chapel require a marriage license good for 30 days after it is issued by any Missouri county courthouse. 
Details: Learn more.
     The law requires both the License and the Certificate. The minister provides the couple with the witnessed Certificate of Marriage after the ceremony on the altar-table (unless other arrangements are made) and returns the endorsed license to the state. LEARN MORE
2. Common wedding features and options
    A simple wedding often includes

    Witnesses signing the marriage documents   — 
    This is often most convenient before the ceremony.

  • Entrances (different styles)
  • Welcome by the minister
  • Exchanging of Vows traditional or you write your own
  • Exchanging rings
  • Pronouncement, and
  • Concluding Blessing-Benediction-Wish
    Some additional options ————————
  • lighting of candles
  • prelude, processional, and recessional (music)
  • reading or readings (examples)
  • the couple writing their own vows or selecting alternative vows from Vern’s resources
  • a prayer
  • blessings from the families
  • a unity candle ceremony
  • a sand ceremony
  • a wine-box ceremony
  • a wine or cardamom seed rite
  • a vow of parenthood to include a child or children
  • giving flowers to parents
  • symbolic gifts
  • remembrances of those not with us
  • rites from specific faiths such as Christian Eucharist, Hindu aarti, Buddhist bells, Muslim Bismillah in Arabic, Jewish breaking of a glass and Priestly Benediction in Hebrew, American Indian smudging, pagan hand-fasting, and so forth
    An impromptu ceremony
         Plans can be made on the spot
    just before the ceremony begins.

    An adaptable wedding ceremony————

    a. Two witnesses sign the license and certificate 
    b. Special Seatings
    c. Informal Greeting (and announcements)
    d. Candle-Lighting
    e. Entrances and Processional

    1. Welcome (Bride’s bouquet to another to hold)
    2. Declarations of Intent (Couple respond)
    3. Presentations/Blessings (Families and all respond)
    4. Prayer 
    5. Reading(s)
    6. Optional rite
    7. The Vows 
    8. The Rings
    9. Optional rite 
    10. Pronouncement and embrace (Bride’s bouquet returned)
    11. Benediction
    12. Recessional (and Dismissal)



3. Click to download planning notes (PDF)
     or send a self-addressed envelope to
     Wedding, Box 45414, Kansas City, MO 64171
     and well mail you a copy. 
                       (Or you can use this html version)

4. Fees
     Fees for the minister’s services are included 
     with Pilgrim Chapel arrangements.

5. About the minister

Dr Vern Barnet, ordained in 1970, founded CRES in 1982 as a multifaith resource for Kansas City, and in 1989 created the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council. For eighteen years, his column, “Faiths and Beliefs,” appeared each Wednesday in The Kansas City Star into retirement. Here are some of his columns about weddings.
     The recipient of many awards for his civic and professional activities, and author of numerous articles, poems, and reviews, and several books, he has taught at area colleges and seminaries, and has studied and spoken throughout the United States and abroad. His general approach to weddings is here.
      Bio sketch and photos.Vern vested.
     He prefers to be called simply “Vern” — though if you wish to include his name 
on a printed program, please use this style:
The Reverend Vern Barnet, DMn.

LEGAL DETAILS:Vern complies with the Missouri requirements for a wedding officiant. The law states:
     Section 451.100. "Marriages maybe solemnized by any clergyman, either active or retired, who is in good standing with any church or synagogue in this state. Marriages may also be solemnized, without compensation, by any judge, including a municipal judge. Marriages may also be solemnized by a religious society, religious institution, or religious organization of this state, according to the regulations and customs of the society, institution or organization, when either party to the marriage to be solemnized is a member of such society, institution or organization." 
     Section 451.115. Anyone "not authorized by law to solemnize marriages who shall falsely represent that he is so authorized, and who, by any pretended marriage ceremony which he may perform, shall deceive any innocent person or persons into the belief that they have been legally married, shall, on conviction, be adjudged guilty of a class C misdemeanor."
6. Planning the ceremony
     For one-hour rentals, please visit this page.
    We can meet by Zoom or exhange emails to design the kind of ceremony you want. Your schedules are important, so let’s find a time when all three of us can meet.
   Please complete the planning notes before we meet with as much information as you have currently.
   If you are considering a wedding planner or 
coordinator, or just want a checklist, please see this advice.
   Often I am available one or more of these times: 
            Central Time
     Mondays 8 am 
     Tuesdays 7 pm
     Fridays 10 am
     Saturdays 8 am 
To view planning dates
currently open for me, 
visit this calendar.
         I am never available Sunday mornings, 
   but other times might be arranged. My daytime 
   schedule is irregular and often fexible. Evenings 
   are more difficult but might be possible.
If you would like to plan, or begin planning, your ceremony by email, please prepare by completing these planning points and emailing them to me. 
     If you wish a simple ceremony and do not wish a planning session, please complete the 
COUPLE INFORMATION section and the first five items unless you've already sent me this information.

7. Wedding day check-list
     Click here for details for your wedding day.

8. For additional information
    For inquiries about, and scheduling of, 
    Pilgrim Chapel, please call 816.753.6719 or
     write pilgrim@pilgrimcenterinc.org .

     For more about wedding ceremonies, 
     baptisms, and other rites of passage,
     email me, vern@cres.org  --
     my desk and flipfone numbers can be
     made available for your convenience.

     For select adjunct services (photography, 
     music, limo) click here.
9. Our approach

The folks at Pilgrim Chapel and I 
want planning your ceremony to be convenient and enjoyable, and your ceremony extraordinarily joyous and memorable.
Vern Barnet

Wedding Time Checklist

Congratulations and Best Wishes!
I am happy to preside at your wedding.
Here are some useful reminders.

1. As soon as you arrive (unless we made other arrangements), you’ll want to place the two-part

  • license-certificate envelope package
on the altar-table  It takes me about five minutes to complete my part of the "paperwork" and then I'll have the two adults you selected sign at the bottom of both the license and the certificate. Their signing before the ceremony lets you enjoy your guests, take pictures, or whatever you’d like to do afterwards immediately. You have nothing to sign. After the ceremony, be sure to take the Certificate envelope with the certificate from the altar-table when you leave! -- or designate someone to pick up the certificate for you. I return the license to the state. LEARN MORE

2. If the ceremony includes any of the following, you’ll want to be sure they are in place before the wedding begins. (Often the best place for the vows and rings is on the altar-table. If I m preparing vows on scrolls for you, I'll get them on the altar-table before the ceremony begins.)

  • vows 
  • rings 
  • candles
  • wine 
  • sand 
  • other 
      If you are concerned about placing tight rings on your spouse’s finger, a little soap on the ring’s inside might help.

3. The Chapel staff is eager to assist with entrances and exits.

4. For many weddings, just before the ceremony begins, I’ll informally greet your seated guests and, if appropriate, light chancel candles.

5. Weddings with bride and groom often begin with the Minister entering from the side with the Groom immediately following, then followed by the best man. Alternatively, couples may process or appear together, and other plans best suited to the facility and the couple’s wishes determine the plan. LEARN MORE.  Same-sex couples have many options. *

6. After the men are in place in a bride-groom wedding,  usually the hostess (or someone you designate) helps the Bride’s party to enter from the front door of the chapel to process in. In case of rain, umbrellas or a "Plan B" may be used.

7. During the ceremony, you will want to enjoy looking at each other — not me — except when I’m giving directions. We’ll not rush. Feel free to stand naturally  and reach out to each other — and hold hands if you like at any time. I'll guide you through the ceremony so you do not need to worry about remembering anything -- except to kiss after I pronounce you married!

8. After welcoming everyone, in many weddings as arranged, I’ll motion for the bride to give her flowers to her maid/matron/man of honor to hold until the end of the ceremony when the bride takes them to recess with her husband.

9. With your permission, I’d like to take a photo of you together after the ceremony. If your photographer wants me in any posed photos, this would be a good time. 

10. The certificate is yours to take when you leave — unless we make other arrangements, you will find it after the ceremony on the altar. It is legal proof of your marriage. Be sure you have it when you leave the chapel. I return the license to the court. If you wish, you can obtain a certified copy after it is filed. If you applied for a certified copy when you applied for your license, it will be sent to you automatically after the court records the endorsed license.

11. Please feel free to let me know as any questions arise.

Again, thank you for inviting me to be with you on this happy occasion!

Vern #sequence

*A sequence for wedding entrances and exits follows, but adaptation for same-sex couples and each situation is best.

0. The mothers of the bride and groom and others designated for the honor of speacial seats, usually closest to the chancel, are seated after all other guests are seated.

1. The minister may provide informal greetings to the guests. 

2. The minister, the groom, and best man enter from the side and wait in the chancel. 

3. Groomsmen follow the best man immediately from the side or can escort the bridesmaids from the front door of the chapel.

4. The bridesmaids singly or with groomsmen escorts begin the procession.

5. The ring bearer and/or flower girl.

6. The maid or matron of honor.

7. The bride, often with an escort -- her father or other close male family member or friend on her right.

8. When the brides father reaches the chancel, he may kiss her and then place her hand in her grooms hand.

9. The minister begins the ceremony by welcoming the guests.

10. He then motions for the bride to hand her flowers to her maid/matron of honor to hold during the ceremony.

. . . .

11. After the couple are pronounced husband and wife, the bride is handed her flowers in preparation for the recessional.

12. After the benediction, the couple recess, followed by the wedding party.

Some of Verns

Kansas City Star

about Marriage 
and, in the dark ages, Holy Union

Weddings celebrate love

I like weddings. Presiding over my first one forty years ago, I was probably as nervous as the bride and groom, but I’ve long since come to relax and savor the proceedings.
   After all these years, I sometimes find myself performing the weddings of the offspring of those I had married years ago, a thrill I could not have imagined when I was a young minister.
   But the fun still starts when I meet with a couple to plan their ceremony. It’s interesting to hear how the couple met.
   What I most like to ask is, “Would you name one or two things that you really like about your future spouse? Speak your answer directly to your beloved.” You can imagine what hilarious as well as tender things I have heard.
   I recently met a young man and woman who had thought, after their failed first marriages, that they would never find someone who would fit both them and their children. I was glad they brought the young ones along to the planning session because the good time the kids were having with each other reinforced what a superb match the parents are for each other, and I said so.
   A couple I married last month wanted humor within a reverent ceremony. They decided their wide circle of friends should be acknowledged with my opening the wedding ceremony by explicitly welcoming those “from KState — and KU — also honoring Mizzou.”
   Both bride and groom played a lot of sports and were particularly known for soccer, so the wedding rings were presented to them on a soccer ball, a touch that rang true with the wedding guests.
   [This column appeared before same-sex marriage was legal.]
   Whether the wedding is traditional or unusual, simple or elaborate, whether there are two witnesses or hundreds, whether it is a religious ceremony blessing a same-sex couple  or also a legal contract between a man and a woman, whether the couple is young or old, whatever the complications of their or their families’ spiritual allegiances or none, whatever the social standing, my job is to keep the focus on the love being celebrated.
   That’s one reason that I like meeting the families and friends as they tell their stories and share their hopes for the couple.
   For a wedding is never just between two people, even if some of the relationships are strained. Weddings and holy unions, like other forms of commitment, are strong fibers from which society is woven.
   At receptions, I especially like the exuberant three- and six- and ten-year-olds dancing with their grandparents. I see generations created and supported as love is transmitted with a joy I call holy. With all the bad news, it makes me believe there is a future. 

Happy couples can start new traditions

Weddings belong to the happy couple and their guests, not to me, the officiant. I yield to their considered wishes, but I offer my  professional advice as we plan the ceremony.
   * For example, it does not make sense for a couple who have been living together for some time to appear at the ceremony from separate entrances, at separate times, with separate escorts.
   Still, even older couples sometimes want the bride to be escorted down the aisle by her father, and it is important to honor that expectation. 
   A wonderful variation, especially for a young couple, is for both of them to be escorted by their parents.
  * “Giving the bride away” treats her like property. I prefer to ask, “Who presents this woman to be married to this man and blesses their love?” to which her family responds, “We do.” 
  Then I ask, “Who presents this man to be married to this woman and blesses their love?” to which the groom’s family responds. 
   This avoids the sexism of archaic language and is easy to adapt for same-sex couples. 
  * The exchanging of vows is the pivot of the ceremony. The couple can speak their vows directly to one another, without the “repeat after me” interference from the minister. I suggest they compose their vows from various examples and from what is in their hearts, write them on parchment paper and read them in front of their guests. This gives the guests something to see as well as hear and it  dramatizes the commitment. Some couples like to frame their vows for their home or include them in their book of wedding memories. 
   * A few couples still insist on my saying, “You may kiss the bride.” The state has given me the right to solemnize marriages, but I am uncomfortable giving one partner permission to kiss the other.  I’ll tell the couple an embrace  is expected after I pronounce them hitched, and they’ll probably feel like kissing then. But they don’t need me verbalizing permission. 
  * Sometimes couples want to acknowledge someone who cannot be present — an ailing aunt or a deceased grandfather. This can be done with a note in a printed program, if any, or by the officiant saying something like, “This day we remember . . . .” 
  * In a planning session recently a couple told me that while their wedding day would be so very happy for them, they wanted their ceremony to recognize that not everyone is happy, that there is much sorrow and suffering across the planet. 
  This couple’s marriage, I am sure, will better the world.

306.     000712 THE STAR’S PRINT HEADLINE: 
Life meanders by design, and so we meet 

DES MOINES—The chairs have been set up, it seems, for a lecture, but that’s not the occasion. If I were showing overheads or using a flipchart, the arrangement might make sense, but I’m about to preside at a wedding, here under the dome at the Botanical Center.
   Except for the positioning of the chairs, I don’t see any straight lines. Everything is organic. The Japanese koi do not swim directly. The finches do not rise and swoop according to compass alignment. The orchids and spider lilies are shaped by inner design, not forced rectilinear pattern. The fig tree and the coconut palm have bumps and bends, suggesting not so much a ruler as the moving sun and the changing wind. 
   So I quickly put the chairs in meander mode. It seems so natural that no one notices as guests take their seats. The people now are participants in this lush environment, not intruders from a land of rigid pews. 
   The groom and bride did not find each other by orthogonals or lime lines. Life is often haphazard and unexpected, beauty growing out of chance circumstance more than blueprint. The love we celebrate spills over boundaries, uniting two families as well as two persons, an enriched ecology, not a new wing to a building. 
   It is an unexpected splendor. Who could have predicted it? The spirit, Jesus said, is like the wind: you don’t know whence it comes and goes. 
   Yes, we need straight lines, rules and plans, in their place; but on this occasion, in this space, to celebrate the spirit and ways of love, subverting the rows and files of chairs seems a better way to match this garden glory.

140.     970430 THE STAR’S PRINT HEADLINE: 
Multifaith weddings shouldn’t offend

If the one you are planning to marry has a religious background different from yours, how can you best design your wedding?
   One way to is to include only themes and practices common to both faiths. Offending no one is the goal.
   A second approach instead assumes that different faiths are enriching. The goal becomes embracing the two traditions as living spiritual inheritances, not as dead weights.
   How can you create such a marriage or holy union ceremony?
   1.  Rather than downplaying religious differences, joyfully recognize them with clergy or representatives of both traditions, or with a single officiant familiar with both faiths.
   2.  Respectfully incorporate language, liturgy and music from both traditions.
   For examples, wine is used in both Jewish and Christian practices, and a creative ritual reformulation can powerfully express reverence for both faiths. Or light, a Christian symbol of the Spirit, can be evoked in the Hindu ceremony’s use of fire. An American Indian chant sung in the native tongue and an English hymn can engender a warm sense of heritages joined.
   3.  Choose the locations for ceremony and reception with sensitivity.
   4.  Rethink routines to make the ceremony fresh. Replace the patriarchal “giving the bride away” with a time for both families to present blessings to both partners. In return, the couples may wish to honor their families with flowers or by lighting a “unity candle” from candles lit earlier by each of the families.

42.     950614 THE STAR’S PRINT HEADLINE: 
Love and marriage and weddings

How many weddings will you attend or hear about this month?
   Each ceremony is an opportunity for us to place into a larger, spiritual context the love and commitment of two people finding each other.
In some Christian weddings the happy couple’s bond signifies “the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church.”
   The erotic poetry of the Song of Solomon becomes an allegory pairing God and his people. Every marriage is a new fulfillment of the model of Adam and Eve.
   Plato gives an ancient Greek version of the idea of “soul-mates.” His “Symposium” specifies that originally all humans had two heads, four arms, and so forth, until the gods split them, some into two men, some into two women, some into one man and one woman. Ever since humans have searched for their other halves. Finding one’s other self gives the sense of being compete lovers often enjoy.
   Sufi theologians have often understood God as a lover and our task to see God’s love everywhere. The mystical jihad, holy struggle, is to find divine beauty in everyone, in every place, and to disregard lesser thoughts about others, in order to love as God loves. Connie Rahima Sweeney, a Kansas City Sufi leader, says the lover imitates “Ya Ghaffar,” God’s forgiving nature, and “Ya Ghaffur,” which does not even notice the faults of the other.
   Linda Prugh of the Vedanta Society of Kansas City cites Swami Vivekananda’s advice that if you can’t see God in everyone, start with your spouse: “As long as you can both see the ideal in one another, your worship and happiness will grow.”


 The History of Marriage 

 Last Saturday several hundred people gathered near the Plaza to protest the vote in California against gay marriage. 
    Sometimes people say that marriage has always been between one man and one woman who love each other. 
     But there are many contrary examples. Consider Solomon with his 700 wives and 300 concubines. Are we talking political alliances, procreation, property rights, honored servants, companionship, sexual opportunities — or love? 
    Producing offspring was very important to early societies. In the Bible, Onan’s father forced him to have sex with his dead brother’s wife to perpetuate the family line. This custom, the “levirate” marriage, continued into Jesus’ time. 
    Love is fickle, and what society needed was stability. Marriage did not originate in love between partners but as a compact between families or groups.
    This is why in the Bible, most marriages were arranged by the parents, sometimes when the children were infants, though Isaac was 40 years old when Rebecca was selected for him. 
    Women were like property. But David did not buy King Saul’s daughter; instead he proved his worthiness by presenting Saul with the foreskins of 200 Philistines. 
    In the Christian era, Paul prohibited bishops from having more than one wife (1 Tim. 3:2), but Christians experimented with marriage in many forms.
    Marriage was not declared a sacrament within the Roman Catholic Church until 1215. Before then, weddings were often held outside the church because they were less about love than about social stability. 
    The late Yale historian John Boswell documented Christian practices through the 18th Century of church unions of men in love. Male couples pledged fidelity for life, joined right hands before the altar, shared a cup of wine, heard biblical passages (such as Psalm 133), and received the priest’s blessing.
    In America, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) of Utah practiced polygamy until it was outlawed, and some break-away groups still favor it in practice. 
    The 19th Century experiment in Oneida, N.Y., led by John Humphrey Noyes, prohibited monogamy. The community practiced complex marriage: every man was the husband of every woman, and every woman was the wife of every man. Exclusive relationships were forbidden because members of the “body of Christ” should love each and all. 
    Laws against blacks and whites marrying continued in the US until 1967. 
    Increasing numbers of clergy in the US and in Kansas City  now perform same-sex ceremonies, and same-sex couples are asking for legal, as well as religious, recognition of their love and commitment.

649.     070214 THE STAR’S PRINT HEADLINE:
Love and be known

In his book, Myths to Live By, Joseph Campbell discusses three kinds of love, eros, agape and amor.
Elsewhere he describes eros as “the zeal of the organs for each other,” the biological urge for physical intimacy. In India, the god Kama, like Cupid in the West, is armed with arrows to afflict one with yearning for satisfaction of such attraction.
   Agape is not merely love for one’s friends and one’s neighbor as oneself, but a kind of affection which overcomes ordinary human divisions such as by nation, race and religion to embrace not only humanity at large but also one’s fiercest enemies. Here he cites Jesus who said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
   These first two types of love are impersonal, but amor discriminates. Of the three, amor is perhaps closest to the love we associate with Valentine’s Day because it grows out of an intensely personal and unique relationship. It is love not just for any person but for a particular person, a “significant other.”
   Campbell notes that amor is Roma spelled backwards in order to contrast the earlier church-sanctioned marriages of the Middle Ages, impersonal unions arranged for political, property or family reasons, with the later ideal from Islam introduced by the troubadours, that love is a divine passion between two people who, smitten with an attraction between their souls, deliberately choose each other.
   Because such love reverses, violates, the social order, Campbell characterizes it as the triumph of libido over credo, the “impulse to life” over the beliefs which supported the social order.
   While Campbell’s historical characterizations may be offensive, many scholars agree that the introduction of romantic love was a turning point in Western civilization. 
   One could even argue that the emphasis on personal relationship ultimately led to the Protestant Reformation with its teaching of the “priesthood of all believers.”
   And in fact, the Puritans came to call marriage “the little church within the Church.”
  Thus amor is just as spiritual as agape. And others have taught that eros is also inherently a spiritual energy.
   Whatever species of love may be named, it offers the opportunity to know and be known, from the kind of knowledge Adam had with Eve which enabled her to conceive, to the ineffable knowledge given to the mystics in their ecstasies with God, to the “knitting” of David and Jonathan’s souls, to the enduring companionship of wedded love.

215.     981007 THE STAR’S PRINT HEADLINE: 
Multifaith marriages walk in agreement

MINNEAPOLIS—The last time I wrote about interfaith weddings, several colleagues in the ministry called. While some thanked me for supporting their practice of uniting couples of different faiths, others complained. 
   One called my approach “eclectic tripe.”
   I am remembering this because I have just conducted another interfaith wedding, and the guests—from Muslim, Jewish and Christian backgrounds—expressed deep appreciation for the ways in which their faiths were acknowledged in the ceremony.
   In the months we worked together in designing the rite, the bride and groom were extraordinarily thoughtful in planning every word and gesture. 
   Although their religious backgrounds are different, the respect they gave each other and their families is, to me, a powerful answer to the colleague who asked, “How can two walk together except they be agreed?” 
   Last summer another couple used Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan and American Indian sources for their ceremony. With guests from around the world, they wanted to express reverence for many ways the sacred is manifested. 
   In my experience, two can walk together with mutual respect and shared values. They do not need to agree on identical faith labels. 
   The wedding here was a holy moment, enriched by several traditions and larger than any label. 
   While I respect my colleagues who decline to perform interfaith marriages, I hope they will also respect those of us who honor couples whose love and commitment embraces different faiths. 

139.     970423 THE STAR’S PRINT HEADLINE: 
Interfaith unions can be problematic for parents

Nowadays it is common for couples celebrating their love in a wedding or holy union commitment to come from different religious heritages.
   Some traditions discourage mixed marriages because such unions are not likely to produce children to perpetuate their faiths.
   They also question whether two people of different backgrounds share enough values to live together successfully.
   Others say that religious labels are not as important as they used to be.
   Religion is more a discovery of what is meaningful in life, and two people who love each other can have a deeply shared spiritual orientation, regardless of different institutional affiliations, or none.
   Most families want to share the couple’s joy in the ceremony. But not all.
   Parents who refuse to attend an interfaith wedding will almost certainly drive their children away from their faith, rather than cause them to return to it. Parents risk a bitterness that can harden into permanent damage to family relationships.
   A similar risk arises for family members who will not attend ceremonies for racially mixed or same-sex couples because they feel doing so would compromise their principles.
   Parents need to consider whether loving their children unconditionally is a better expression of their family values, or if taking a stand against their children’s choices is a better witness to their faith.
   If the couple does come from different faiths, how can they plan their ceremony.
   Next week I’ll offer some suggestions.

37.     950510 THE STAR’S PRINT HEADLINE: 
Weddings signify a spiritual union

For most of us today, a wedding celebrates the love between two people. But love has not always been the main object of the ceremony. In the past, weddings have been used to arrange political alliances, settle property rights, or sanction sexual relationships.
In most traditions now, the wedding is a spiritual initiation.
   SUFI. Allaudin Ottinger, a Kansas City Sufi leader, performs ceremonies using vows from Pir Inayat Khan, including the question, “Will you consider this woman (man) to be your husband (wife) the most sacred trust given to you by God?”
  Ottinger says that a wedding celebrates the partners’ recognition of the divine in each other. Marriage, which is “a union greater than the sum of its parts,” includes “daily tests” through which the spouses polish each other, like gems.
   CHRISTIAN. The Rev. Celena Duncan, pastor the Metropolitan Community Church of Johnson County, says that a holy union ceremony for those of the same gender is spiritually no different than a Christian heterosexual wedding. In both cases, a couple comes before God to ask a blessing on their relationship. Both are serious commitments, “with deep meaning and dignity.”
The ceremony reminds the couple to put God at the center of their partnership and as they interact with others in all activities.
   JEWISH. Rabbi Mark Levin of Congregation Beth Torah says that the Jewish wedding ceremony is called Kiddushin, Hebrew meaning “to make holy.” The consecrated partners become separate from others and are special to each other. When the ceremony is completed, the couple spends a short time by themselves before joining the guests at the reception.

My General Approach to Weddings
I'll do what you want, but you might consider these notions.

1. I like to help couples design their own ceremony -- civil, religious, simple, elaborate -- that best expresses their desire and needs for themselves and their guests. 

2. Some think of weddings as a time of instruction; for me it is a time of celebration. Isn't it rather late at this point for the officiant to offer lecture or discourse on the requirements for marriage? The wedding should be about the couple, not me; references to the minister should be as few as possible; instead, let the focus be on the love and commitment of the couple and the joy they bring to their family and friends.

3. Here's a specific example. After the couple has been pronounced husband and wife, many officiants say to the groom, "You may now kiss the bride." Frankly, I have no right to give permission for the groom to kiss the bride. A kiss is customary and I encourage it, but why should the minister presume to authorize such an intimate moment?
     When couples request me to employ this language, I ask to be excused from such duty. I tell them, "You'll be legally married at that moment. The law gives me the right to pronounce you married, but it doesn't give me the right to tell a husband he may kiss his wife. Or that the wife may kiss her husband. I'll make it clear by gesture when a kiss is appropriate according to tradition. In my experience, guests much prefer to see this happen without me using this patriarchal, possessive, authoritarian, sexist, controlling formula. It is much more fun for your guests to see a kiss unprompted." 
     It's a bad way to start a marriage by having a third party presuming to give a couple permission to embrace. I have done hundreds of weddings, and couples invariably, naturally, and easily kiss without my having to give them permission.

4. Many old sexist customs, if used, can be reinterpreted to treat each person of the couple equally. This can be easily done to enhance the dignity of even the most high-spirited ceremony. An example is the sexist practice of the father giving the bride away. Instead, both families can present (not give away) and bless their children and the marriage. 
     Most Brides want to process into the chapel with an escort, perhaps her father, up to the chancel area. This Western custom originated with the sense that she is her father's property to "give away" to the groom. Another different traditional practice is for each set of parents to enter with each of the couple and remain with them for the ceremony. A contemporary alternate is for the couple to process together into the company of family and friends to celebrate their love and commitment; they may have attendants precede them to the chancel area.

5. I've pretty much given up on the idea that each action should express appropriate meaning because most couples want to do the expected or pretty thing. 
     For example, some weddings begin with a procession of women walking down the aisle before the bride, to stand at the front opposite the men who had assembled when the groom appeared. At the end of the ceremony, the men escort the women out, following the new husband and wife. But why should the men and women match up that way? Nothing has happened between them; they didn't get married; why should they exit as a couple when they entered singly?
     In fact, why should a couple to be married who have been together for years not enter the church and walk down the aisle together?

6. As I say, I've pretty much given up on such points and recognize the force of tradition and expectation. I routinely decide in favor of what the couple wants.
7. Most couples like music as part of the occasion, and most couples like to decorate. But neither is necessary. Pilgrim Chapel is already a special place without additional adornments. 
     A recent wedding showed how beautiful and moving simplicity can be. The bride, wearing a simple dress, did not even carry flowers and none appeared on the altar-table. She processed gracefully without music. The altar-table did have lit candles, a sign of sacred festivity; and a goblet and two cruets of wine, sweet and bitter, which, mixed, the couple would share; and scrolls with the vows the couple would exchange with each other. These items furthered rather than detracted from the ceremony.
     A relative was honored by reading a poem. Nothing was extraneous; everything focused on the love and commitment between the couple. And the recessional was celebrated with such enthusiastic applause that would have made music utterly superfluous.
     This was not about saving money; it was about the best way this couple had to express an unobstructed vision of their love and commitment. Their focus was not on flowers, or expensive attire, or elaborate ornaments, or other embellishments, but rather on family and friends who decorated the space from around the country with their presence.
     Couples who do wish to economize can easily do so with great dignity and meaning.

8. Specific examples and circumstances appear in the columns I wrote about weddings for The Kansas City Star.

9. Most weddings do not need a WEDDING PLANNER. If you do want professional help, please select carefully. You may want to refer them to these notes:
     I usually conduct the rehearsal. After introductions, I ask the wedding party to take their places as if the wedding ceremony itself were about to begin with the Words of Welcome from me. Then I ask the planner to help the wedding party learn how to get to those places, and how to recess. The rehearsal may include actual parts of the ceremony, depending on the wishes of the couple. Often the rehearsal ends with a prayer or a circle of best wishes.
     Planners will want to be familiar with the physical layout of Pilgrim Chapel, with possible processional options, and with the law regarding the license and certificate.
     A wedding should be well-planned, but not over-rehearsed. This is a real event, not a stage production. You want to be free of concerns about photography, arrivals, seatings, and such, to be able to rely on me to guide you through the ceremony, and comfortable enough to enjoy your wedding and each other and your guests.
     Planners should review my rehearsal routine and are welcome to contact me with any questions before the rehearsal or wedding.

1. Marriage license
2. Wedding elements and options
3. Planning notes (PDF) link
4. Fees
5. The minister-officiant -- the Rev Vern Barnet, DMn
6. Planning the ceremony
7. Wedding day check-list
8. Additional information - contacts
9. Our approach

Adjunct services: Music, photography, limo
Check-list for wedding day
Coordinator, Wedding
Entrances - Processional
Handfasting images
Name change
Parenthood vows 
Pilgrim Chapel, Pilgrim Center  (816).753-6719
Planning Notes -- PDF
Planning Points -- HTML 
     (with common parts of a wedding and options)
Planner, Wedding
Processional (Entrances)
Readings and Traditional Prayers
Sand ceremony images
Unity Candle example
Vern's email    vern@cres.org 
Vern's wedding philosophy  (but he'll do what you want)
Vows, traditional or your own
Vows on scrolls with Wine ceremony -- photo
Wedding Planner
Weddings, columns Vern wrote about weddings
     in the KC Star, 1994-2012
Wesport Coffee House
Wine or Drink ceremony (with vows on scrolls)

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max 434px -- small images 332px
Pilgrim Chapel 3801 Gillham Road, Kansas City, MO 64111
Center contact: 3807 Gillham Road, Kansas City, MO 64111
Pilgrim Center website: https://www.pilgrimcenterkc.org/

max 434px - images 332px#Sand

A sand ceremony for blended families
Click on image for larger version

Examples of sand ceremonies for couples



One style of the Unity Candle


Wine ceremony with vows on scrolls

Different styles of Handfasting -- click for larger image


1. Learn More
The Marriage License and Certificate
Weddings at Pilgrim Chapel require a marriage license valid for 30 days after it is issued by any Missouri county courthouse. For example:
Jackson County Marriage Licenses
415 E. 12th Street, Room 104
Kansas City, MO 64106
Apply in person with ID
Apply on line
Waiting period: None
License expires in 30 days
Witnesses required: two
    Downtown temporarily closed:
    use Independence office.
Historic Truman Courthouse
112 W. Lexington
Suite 30
Independence, MO 64050
The "paperwork" includes both a License and a Certificate. The envelope from the court containing them is best given to the minister at the rehearsal or placed on the altar-table as soon as you arrive. You have nothing to sign. [In special cases you may be asked to write your name and location on the Certificate.] The minister will then invite the two adult witnesses you have designated to sign the documents and he will endorse them. (Some counties also ask for the addresses of the witnesses; the forms for the License and the Certificate vary from county to county.) It is usually best to complete the "paperwork" as soon as I arrive, usually 30 minutes before the ceremony begins, so you can enjoy your guests or take photos or leave for your reception right after the ceremony.
     Following the ceremony, the minister will place the Certificate on the altar-table unless other arrangements are made. The Certificate is legal evidence* of the marriage.  In your excitement after the marriage, be sure to take the Certificate with you!
    The law requires the minister to return the endorsed License within 15 days to the Missouri  county office which issued the License. If the couple wish to return the License to the county office themselves in person, the minister requires a receipt from the couple to relieve him of this legal responsibility.

Some couples may wish to obtain a certified copy of the endorsed License. Application for a copy can be made when applying for the License or at a later time. The Jackson County fee for a marriage license is $50; a certified copy is another $10. The minister's own records also note each marriage as required by law.
For a name change, present a certified copy of the marriage license to apporpriate offices, such as Social Security, Drivers License Bureau, banks, and so forth. The marriage license office does not make name changes. You can make name changes at any time.

*2018 Missouri Revised Statutes
Title XXX - Domestic Relations -- Chapter 451 - Marriage, Marriage Contracts, and Rights of Married Women
Section 451.110 Certificate of marriage to be given.
Universal Citation: MO Rev Stat § 451.110 (2018)

"451.110. Certificate of marriage to be given. — Every person solemnizing marriages under this chapter shall issue and deliver to the parties to such marriage a certificate thereof, which shall be furnished in blank by the officer who issues such license, setting forth the names and residence of the parties and the date of such marriage, and the county from which the license was issued and the date of same; and such certificates shall be prima facie evidence of the facts therein stated in all courts of this state."

"193.185(3). Each person who performs a marriage shall certify the fact of marriage and return the license to the official who issued the license within fifteen days after the ceremony. The license shall be signed by the witnesses to the ceremony. A marriage certificate shall be given to the parties."
     [The county issuing the license provides an addressed envelope for the officiant for this purpose with the license and certificate which the couple present to the officiant before the ceremony. If the couple wishes to return the endorsed license to the court, the officiant requires a receipt from the couple to protect him against claims of violating his legal responsibility.]




After special seatings (as for parents and other close relatives), an informal greeting may be offered, and candles may be lit.

Several ways of formal entrances are in use. You will want to decide on which style or how to adapt one according to your wishes.

1. Traditional Plan
Minister, Groom & Best Man enter from side
Processional:down aisle honored men, 
then women, flower girl & ring-bearer, escorted bride 

2. Chapel Plan
Minister, Groom & Groomsmen enter from side
Processional:down aisle honored women, 
flower girl & ring-bearer, escorted bride 

3. Paired Plan
Minister, Groom enter from side
Processional:down aisle attendants paired, 
flower girl & ring-bearer, escorted bride

4. Couple Plan
Minister enters from side
Processional:down aisle Groom and Bride enter together, followed by (or after)  attendants

5. Custom Plan
Develop this with your minister (and wedding planner).


The Wedding Rehearsal

Most weddings do not need a rehearsal, but sometimes couples like to have them to preview the ceremony to feel more comfortable and help the wedding party be sure of their roles. or even as part of an evening prenuptual celebration by including family and friends. Whatever your reason for scheduling a rehearsal might be, these considerations might be helpful:

During the pandemic, I will not enter the chapel to start the rehearsal until everyone expected arrives and observes the safety and health guidelines.

1. Please remind folks that the Chapel is sometimes scheduled with events back-to-back, so it is important to be on time.

2. Usually I dress casually for a rehearsal. If you want me to dress up, please let me know.

2. Bring the paperwork (license, certificate, return envelope) in the big white envelope from the courthouse and place it on the altar-table as soon as you arrive unless we make other arrangements. Preparing the documents at the rehearsa with your two witnesses (you have nothing to sign) l makes it possible for you to focus on each other and your guests at the wedding itself with this detail already completed.

3. I will conduct the rehearsaI and call on the couple (and the wedding planner if one) to be sure that entrances and exits are what is desired. 

4. Often is fun to begin with introductions -- who are you and what is your role in the wedding? This can be especially important for children.

5. Rocio at the Chapel and I want to help everyone know how to enter and exit, where to sit or stand, how everyone gets in place, and to give you a good sense of the sequence of the wedding. Questions or suggestions at any time are welcome..

6. Sometimes  ending the rehearsal with a brief prayer of blessing or, for a civil ceremony, a circle of best wishes, may be appropriate.

7. If everyone is on time, and there are no technical problem with recorded music, the rehearsal usually should take less than an hour.


Wedding Rings

Many couples choose to exchange rings during the wedding ceremony. Unless you have other plans, I suggest placing the rings on the altar-table when you arrive. This makes it easy on your best man (what pocket did I put that ring in?) and maid of honor (who probably doesn't have a pocket in her dress).

It is often appropriate for the minister to consecrate, bless, or  explicate the rings, then offer them to the couple with short phrases each might repeat to the other. 

If you have any concern about slipping them on your beloved's finger, a little soap on the inside of the rings may make it slide more easly. If you have difficulty, take your time -- no rush, and if your beloved wants to help, that's OK, too.