Bonnie J. Berger, 59, is a lesbian minister who has married hundreds of same-sex couples in Washington since gay marriage was legalized in March 2010. She lives in Takoma Park.
How many gay weddings have you officiated since gay marriage was legalized in D.C.?
Pretty close to 700. Last year I did over 300. There were some days where I did four in one day. I didn’t want to turn anybody away. A lot of couples were coming from out of the area. North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama.
Are there issues unique to gay weddings?
One of the things that differentiates them is that a lot of the couples have been together 10, 20, 30 years. I had a couple that had been together 50 years. And finally they have a chance to make it legal. And a lot of these couples have already had holy unions or commitment ceremonies. So they don’t necessarily need all the bells and whistles.
What’s the most memorable wedding you were a part of?
To be there on the courthouse plaza and to really be a part of the first public wedding still stands out. The excitement. The national and international media that were there. The onlookers. It was just overflowing with love and with awe.
How have gay weddings changed just in the short five years that you’ve been officiating at them?
They really haven’t changed. Most of the couples still say they can’t believe it’s really true and that it’s really happening. When I show them the license their eyes fill up with tears to see that this document really exists. And it has their names on it. And it has legal weight. It’s a very significant moment.
Gay marriage is now legal in dozens of states. How has that changed things for you?
The reality is that fewer folks need to come to D.C. to get married. After DOMA, the floodgates opened. A lot of military, a lot of federal workers could now get some legal rights. But now they don’t have to come here anymore. Business has slowed down. But D.C. is still a wonderful destination-wedding place. A lot of couples want to get married in front of the Supreme Court because that’s really significant. That’s the place where a lot of these rights came to be.
What’s the best advice you have for newlyweds?
Be open and honest and transparent with each other. Never forget to say, “I love you.” Don’t be hesitant to say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
Are you married?
So who will perform your wedding?
Well, that’s a big dilemma because my partner is a minister as well. We met and fell in love at the seminary, so we have lots and lots of minister friends.
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