California Wedding Officiant
Hi, I’m Brian Lyke. As a California Wedding Officiant for over 30 years in Big Sur and on the Monterey Peninsula, I’ve enjoyed helping couples create a ceremony that reflects their values and intentions for their life together. I’m comfortable with large or small weddings, with inter-faith marriages, and with those who want a spiritual but not necessarily religious ceremony.
The following are some of the questions I am most often asked about me and my approach to California weddings and the wedding ceremony along with my responses. If you have questions which are not addressed here, I hope you will write or call. I look forward to helping you create a ceremony to mark this important transition in your life.
1. What is your training and experience as a Minister?
I am a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary where I earned a Master of Divinity degree (M.Div.). I have served as a college chaplain (Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA), as a Hospice Chaplain (Hospice of The Central Coast in Monterey, CA), and as an Interim Pastor. For 20 years I was on the staff of Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA.
2. What sort of ceremony do you do?
It depends on what you want. I believe that couples choosing to get married should have the opportunity, if they wish, to participate in the creation of their own wedding ceremony. I have a lot of experience in helping couples find ways and words to honor their spiritual values and create a ritual that has meaning for them. Sometimes the ceremony looks very traditional and sometimes it is less traditional. In all cases I strive to create a mood and atmosphere that is sacred and heartful but not stiff and uncomfortable. Ideally, we would have one or more conversations by phone or in person to get to know each other a bit so that I could develop a ceremony in consultation with you that is a reflection of your most deeply held beliefs and intentions for your life together. Click here to see a sample wedding ceremony.
3. How long does your ceremony last?
Again, it depends on what you wish. We can do a simple, traditional ceremony with no frills and take as little as ten minutes. Or, we can take 20 minutes or longer, and know that we have done something very special together that you and your loved ones will be glad to remember for the rest of your lives.
4. We’re not very religious people. We don’t belong to a church or any sort of faith community but we’d like a ceremony that honors the spiritual dimension of life. Can you help us with that?
Absolutely! I find that most people want more than a civil ceremony. They may not be sure what they believe about God or may not want a lot of religious terminology, but they do want to frame their commitment in spiritual terms.
5. My partner is of another faith and we want to have a spiritual ceremony but don’t want to offend anyone by having a “Christian wedding.” Can you help us with that?
Yes. I believe that together we can create a ceremony that honors your spiritual roots and also honors your decision to grow beyond the confines of any one tradition. The important thing to remember is that you are planning the first major event in your new life as a married couple, the wedding ceremony itself. This ceremony, ideally, should be a reflection of your values, beliefs, and intentions for your life together. At the same time you don’t really want to offend anyone on this most special of days. I’m sure we can find a way to keep our balance on this tightrope.
6. What do you need to know from us?
About you personally, I’d like to know as much as you’re willing to share. I’d love to hear the story of how and when you first met. When did you realize that this relationship was special? What kinds of challenges does this relationship present to each of you? Have either of you been married before? What happened in that marriage? Do you have any children? Would you like to involve them in the ceremony in some way? Who will be in the wedding party? Will your parents be in attendance? Will someone “give the bride away?” Will you be exchanging rings? Are you planning any music, anyone singing or playing a special song? Are there any particular readings you’d like as part of the ceremony? Are you planning a rehearsal? Would you like to write your own vows?
7. How much lead time do you need to prepare a ceremony?
If you want something very simple and traditional with nothing to make it personal to you, I can do that immediately. But if you want a ceremony that really speaks to who and where you are, that puts this moment in the context of your life, I would appreciate as much notice as possible. In any case my calendar tends to fill quickly so it’s best to call as soon as you know your date.
8. Do you wear a robe or suit?
I wear a very simple black robe, and I’m comfortable wearing a suit. I’ll let you decide what’s appropriate for your wedding.
9. What is your fee?
The wedding officiant fee depends on a variety of things. How complex is the ceremony? Is there a rehearsal? How many consultations will we have? Is there significant travel involved? There is no charge for an initial consultation, and after that first meeting, we will determine the fee.
10. Will you officiate at a ceremony for a same sex couple?
Now that the Supreme Court has declared the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional, it is now legal in California for couples, regardless of their sexual orientation, to marry. While I’ve been happy to officiate ceremonies for same sex couples before this ruling, none of them had legal status. With this decision same sex couples in this state may now enjoy all of the rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage. I am pleased to honor such relationships with the ceremony of their dreams.
11. Do you require couples to have counseling before officiating their marriage?
This is an important question. Most couples, if given a choice, will choose not to have counseling. Perhaps they feel it’s unnecessary because they think they’ve already talked through all of the issues that could trouble their marriage. Or perhaps they’re so caught up in the romance and excitement of their relationship that they can’t conceive of anything ever coming between them. Going to a counselor who will ask questions and stimulate discussion about “personal” matters may then seem intrusive and a waste of time. And if it’s a counselor who is also a clergy person, it may feel even more threatening if their experience of “religion” or clergy is has not been positive.
Having said that, it’s my experience that ignorance isn’t really bliss at all. Going into a marriage without going through a process of self-examination and open discussion with your partner is like walking into a mine field. You don’t really know what to expect. Marriage is perhaps the most complex of human relationships, and it’s intended to last for a lifetime, but unfortunately many couples are not equipped to deal with the challenges they face in marriage. It’s estimated that over half of all first marriages will end in divorce, the average marriage lasting less than seven years.
Loving someone doesn’t mean there will never be conflict, but how you deal with the conflict, how you communicate with each other as you work through the conflict is vitally important. We are all required to study and take tests, written and practical, before getting a license to drive a car, but no such tests are currently required in most states before getting a marriage license. Those couples who are already living together before marriage may think that is adequate preparation, but statistics show that cohabitation prior to marriage does not increase marital success. There is no substitute for good preparation.
I use a tool developed by Life Innovations called, Prepare/Enrich. It’s an inventory that each partner takes separately which when scored shows the strengths and growth areas of the relationship. It teaches valuable communication and conflict resolution skills and helps couples become aware of important issues before they turn into major problems. During our first session together each partner takes the inventory and in subsequent sessions the results are discussed. This inventory is scientifically designed and based on the scores of hundreds of thousands of couples. It can discriminate premarital couples who get divorced from those that are happily married with about 80-85% accuracy.
I believe strong marriages and strong families are the foundation of a healthy society, and so I strongly urge every couple to take the time to prepare wisely for their marriage. If they put as much time and effort into preparing for their marriage as they do in preparing for the ceremony, I’m convinced our divorce rate would be significantly reduced.
12. Are you available to do other kinds of ceremonies, in addition to weddings?
I began Life Celebrations primarily as a wedding website and it has been very successful in connecting me with couples who want an opportunity to celebrate their love in a way that affirms, without a lot of “religious language,” their values and the spiritual connection that binds us all together in the human family. Most of the couples that find their way to me are not looking for a church wedding (though some are, and I’m happy to work with them as well.) They’re seeking to be more inclusive and they want a personal touch and a relationship with an officiant who has time for them and their concerns.
I’ve enjoyed doing the premarital (and post-marital) counseling that some couples have chosen to do with me, and I’ve been delighted to hear from couples whom I’ve married who have been blessed with a child and have asked if I would be willing to do a baptism or Christening. I find that this is an opportunity to explore with them the meaning of baptism and it’s role in the life of faith. I’ve also been asked to officiate at memorial services for families with whom I’ve worked. Having come to know and trust me from the wedding experience, they thought of me when the need arose to celebrate the life of a loved one who passed on.
In addition I’ve created home blessing ceremonies and even parting ceremonies for couples who found themselves going in different directions, and after counseling, realized their marriage was not healthy for them. Such a ceremony is an opportunity to affirm their love for each other and their gratitude for a shared journey while also releasing each other from those wedding vows.
Still others contact me when they wish to affirm their love in a vow renewal ceremony. Often this occurs after the couple has endured some period of stress and uncertainty about their relationship. Having worked through the difficulty, often with professional help, they want to celebrate this victory of love and forgiveness with an appropriate ceremony.
What’s true is that life is full of transitions of various kinds, and what’s also true is that in our culture we are impoverished when it comes to acknowledging these transitions with appropriate ceremony. Many people today do not have an ongoing relationship with a community of faith. They may have grown up in a particular religious tradition, but many have left it by the time they entered college. Though some find their way back later in life, many do not, and feel the loss of their connection with Spirit. My work, my calling, if you will, is to be there for such people to create with them a meaningful ceremony to mark a time of transition. If you would like to talk with me about such in a time in your own life, or in the life of someone you love, please contact me.
Thanks for visiting my website… I hope to talk to you soon!
Rev. Brian Lyke, M.Div.