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Eagle correspondent recounts officiating cousin’s wedding

Logan Carney, right, stands with newlyweds Micheal and Samantha Scialabba. Submitted Photo.

Question, which is better: Christmas season or wedding season?

Of course, it’s wedding season.

Two love birds tying the knot is an event everyone looks forward to, especially those lucky enough to be involved in the ceremony itself. I had the opportunity to officiate my cousin’s wedding, Samantha and Michael Scialabba, toward the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And yes, introducing the couple with the last name Scialabba was one of the scarier parts of the evening.

Logan Carney - Submitted Photo

The process started way back in 2019 when I jokingly got ordained by the Universal Life Church as a senior in college. I half-kidded on social media about the ordainment. I say half-kidding because I did actually want to officiate a wedding.

And then my cousin got engaged! After a recommendation from my aunt, who saw my social media post, to likely personalize their special day — and save some money — Samantha asked me to officiate their wedding. I immediately accepted, bought the $30 certificate, badge and marriage book online and got prepared to officiate my first wedding.

Yes, all it cost was $30.

Of course though, I had to do some research on what an actual wedding officiant does. That’s when I learned that the role goes way beyond just reciting words. The role was the central figure in making the marriage legal. To add onto that, I learned that not every county actually recognizes marriages by the Universal Life Church.

In fact, nearby Allegheny County was sued by the ULC for denying their ministers the ability to solemnize legal marriages in the county. The church accepted a settlement last year in which the judge also ruled that denying a ULC minister that ability was a violation of the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Thankfully though, the Scialabbas lived in Butler County, whose only requirement in my case was, “just be able to prove the union is legal if it’s challenged.”

With that boosting my confidence, I got on with the planning. I met Michael for the first time and reassured him by saying, “This is the first wedding I’ve ever officiated, so I’m not entirely sure how this works. But I think we’ll be fine.”

Reassuring indeed.

I then asked them a series of questions about their relationship and ideal wedding. Things like, favorite memory together, how they met — a dating app, believe it or not — and more that could fit in the wedding.

In my role as an officiant, whatever I said had to reflect the couple. It was my job to lead the service, but whatever I say should reflect the relationship of the couple. That’s what my mindset was going into it.

The ULC provided a direction sheet of how the wedding ceremony plays out as well as some lines that I could read. I went over the sheet with the couple, and allowed them to choose what elements to include. I had come prepared knowing what was traditional, religious, to help them understand each element. However, I wanted them to have control over every aspect of my part in the ceremony, because it was their night.

For example, they didn’t want to read or write their own vows; however they did want a wine ceremony. That’s an event where both of them pick their own individual wine before mixing it into one glass and then drinking it. I think the symbolism is obvious, so no need for me to explain that. It was certainly a cool feature.

Together we came up with an outline of how we wanted the wedding to go. This happened many months before the ceremony, giving me a lot of time to workshop the actual words I’d be reciting.

It’s safe to say that my wedding sermon was the most nervous I’ve ever been while writing something. I’m a narcissist who, during this time of my life, had recently self-published a novel and won multiple awards for articles in college. However, the thought of writing something stupid for a couple’s most important day absolutely terrified me.

With my hands trembling, I submitted my first draft. And what do you know, they loved it. Of course, minor changes did happen, as they always do in writing from a second opinion, but what I said at the wedding was, almost entirely, my first draft.

Then the day came. I feel confident saying that outside of the couple and immediate family involved, I was the most nervous person at the wedding. The night before I was up for hours rehearsing my lines and even the physical actions I was to take, like moving the wine table over. And that preparation led to a ceremony that went without a hitch.

Well, almost without a hitch. After all that planning, rehearsing and pronouncing “Scialabba” to myself, I referred to Michael as “your wife,” during the “I do” portion. It was literally at the very end of the ceremony.

The couple, though, laughed, and I think that one mistake added to what was a perfect evening for them. You see, when two people are in love, it starts with the attraction toward each other's good qualities, but evolves into loving what makes each other unique.

What truly makes people unique are our imperfections. Think about it, if everyone was perfect, then how could we tell each other apart?

Oftentimes the stories we remember from weddings reflect people’s imperfections. Whether it’s the aunt who had one too many cocktails and fell on the dance floor or the officiant accidentally misgendering the couple during the “I do’s.” Because a wedding is about celebrating the perfect love between two imperfect humans, so we remember the funny mistakes of the night.

At least, that’s what I tell myself when a relative goes, “Hey, you remember when you called Michael a woman?” Yes Uncle Mike, yes I do.

Logan Carney is an Eagle correspondent.

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