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    A New Year’s Eve Wedding That I’ll Never Forget

    Howard Stieremann (2)Is it any different officiating for one’s best friends? I had the opportunity to find out when, on New Year’s Eve, I was honored to marry my best friend and his partner of 15+ years.

    A New Year’s Eve wedding was less a reflection of their intention to party all night (they weren’t) but rather their desire to become legally wed by year-end. What was originally predicated on practicality became a fun ceremony imbued with tender moments.

    The couple was a bit frazzled, having just returned from visiting family out of town, so I began the ceremony with some levity to put them at ease. I followed with a request that they take a deep breath, something I do with all my couples to help them get grounded and be present. We continued with a prayer with which they were familiar, thanking and acknowledging that G~d has given us life, sustained us, and has enabled us to reach this joyous occasion.

    The seriousness of the moment caught them off guard, with one groom getting unexpectedly verklempt! After he caught his breath, I shared a quote from R. Barnett Brickner that I include in most of my weddings: “Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.” The strong relationships I have experienced are those in which the partners support each other. They consider their partner’s needs and desires when contemplating decisions.

    Then, prior to invoking standard verbiage from the State of California, I invited each groom to share words with one another. Neither had prepared any vows, love letter or recollections, as some of my couples have done. The grooms spoke extemporaneously on how they hadn’t expected this day to actually arrive; that they wanted to grow old with one another and then declared their love for each other. Their words were a tender, intimate exchange between lovers that I was honored to witness.

    A bit of nervous laughter erupted when the grooms recognized the seriousness of the moment. I was proud that I was able to fashion a ceremony that wasn’t perfunctory, even though one of their motivations to marry was for the legal benefits. Standard vows allowed me to comply with state requirements for a wedding. My close friendship with the grooms allowed them to feel the “I do” moment, not simply speak it.

    With decades of officiating experience, I have no problem bringing my whole self to ceremonies. In working with couples to prepare their ceremonies, the couples that I have married shared that they were more relaxed than they expected on their wedding day. I’m thrilled that even with zero prep, nor discussion of what to include in their ceremony, my best friends were able to be themselves: joshing, holding hands, and broadly smiling at one another.

    For all the ceremonies in which I officiate, I strive for them to be heartfelt as well as celebratory. The grooms told me that I succeeded. Well, truth be told, that is not what they actually told me. They said they love me, a feeling that is definitely mutual.

    We ended the ceremony with a group hug. And as it was New Year’s Eve, some bubbly was enjoyed by all!

    Congrats and mazel tov to my besties.

    Howard M. Steiermann is an Ordained Ritual Facilitator based in San Francisco. For more information, please visit