First Person Singular: Georgiana Havill Wedding officiant, Fairfax County

(Mike Morgan - For Washington Post)
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Sunday, January 25, 2009

I hardly ever marry anyone in a courthouse. It's so unromantic. I feel I serve a really important need as an alternative -- I once saw a bride in a white gown at the Montgomery County courthouse being wanded for security! Some lawyers do it in their offices: just fast, dry, in and out. I'd rather meet in a park or their home, my home, a ballroom, an inn, a garden. I get to use a lot of poetry in the cathedral of the outdoors. I get paid to read poetry -- how nice is that? I augment the ceremony to make it personal and urge them to savor the moment, which will never happen again. Drop all the worries about the band and the photos. I hope they hear the wedding much like a symphony, full of emotions and thoughts.

Over a decade ago, I was substituting for another celebrant. Looking up from my book at the bride and groom, I realized the groom was flirting with me! My eyes were darting almost anywhere but at his face, but, oh, no, there he was again, smirking and posturing with even more boldness. I wanted to tell the bride to pick up her skirt and run. Then, examining their license closely for the first time, I noticed that this was at least his fourth or fifth time at bat. Was this marriage going to make it? Everyone deserves for their hopes and dreams to come true, but this one certainly seemed doomed to me.

My husband of 44 years is not all "My dear! You're home!" as he springs from the couch. When I got married, he wrote me poetry -- doesn't anymore. But some things are more important, like steadfastness. You don't need the fireworks. We got married at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Washington. I eloped. The priest asked, "Is there an emergency?" I thought, "Well, I just ran away from home!" I suppose he meant was I pregnant. We were very young. Most couples now have taken more time, for which I'm grateful. With more time, you can consider your decision and understand yourself better. You're seasoned, and everyone can take comfort in the decision you're making. Both of us came from homes in which there were many divorces. [Some of them] hadn't worked harder to make it work or didn't have the patience or the fortitude to stay together. There was a lesson to learn in giving marriage our serious and ardent effort.

Interview by Ellen Ryan


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