Toby Ricketts’s first wedding vow was a solemn one: “I agree that I will always put salt in the water and allow it to boil before cooking the pasta.”
Pasta, after all, is holy business to Ricketts and his bride Marianna Fenn, whom he married on Saturday.
The couple consider themselves members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, worshipers of a spaghetti-and-meatball god. And on Saturday, these two Pastafarians became pioneers of their decade-old religion: the first believers in the world, they think, to marry in a government-sanctioned ceremony officiated within their church.
The mythos of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was created by Bobby Henderson, now a 35-year-old resident of Portland, Ore., in 2005. Since then, thousands of people have paid for a $25 certificate of ordination as a “ministeroni,” and an unknown number have simply declared themselves followers and thus become Pastafarians, Henderson said on Monday.
The religion’s tongue-in-cheek creeds mock organized belief, particularly Christianity. But Henderson and other followers insist that while they might not all believe in the literal truth of their doctrine — neither do many followers of other faiths, they point out — their religion is in no way a joke.
While a judge in Nebraska ruled only last week that this belief system is not a religion, Pastafarians elsewhere have won the right to wear their religious headgear — a pasta strainer — in their photographs on driver’s licenses and have put up noodle-themed banners alongside Christmas trees on public property.
And now, in New Zealand, they have officially conducted a state-sanctioned wedding.
Ricketts and Fenn, who had dated for four years, did not think they needed a wedding to formalize their love. Until Ricketts, working on a documentary on why religious groups (not including the Pastafarians) are tax exempt, learned that the Flying Spaghetti Monster church had recently been added to the list of 727 religions, denominations, congregations and ministries authorized to perform legal marriages in New Zealand. And if they acted fast, he and Fenn could be the first bridegroom and bride.
Rapidly, they declared themselves believers and found a ministeroni.
“Our deity’s just as valid as any other supernatural deity,” Ricketts said on Monday.
“The church doesn’t require that anyone literally believes. Skepticism is encouraged. Asking questions is part of the faith,” Fenn said. But she added that she likes her Pastafarian god. “The Flying Spaghetti Monster, I believe, is as plausible as any of the other thousands of deities around the world. And the idea makes me happy.”
The wedding took place aboard a pirate ship, with the couple and their 40 guests dressed as pirates, because the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster teaches that all humans descended from pirates. Without much precedent to draw on, Fenn and Ricketts came up with their own wedding rituals, including an exchange of rings while blindfolded. A la “Lady and the Tramp,” they ate the same strand of spaghetti until their mouths met in a kiss.
Henderson says that he has heard of other weddings performed in the church he founded, but he believes those couples also obtained civil marriage certificates.
U.S. laws vary state by state on who can perform a wedding.
In the District, Deena Whittington, supervisor for the marriage bureau of the D.C. courts, said that a judge formerly had to approve of would-be marriage officiants and might have turned down a Pastafarian ministeroni. As of about a year ago, Whittington said, anyone can pay $25 for a temporary officiant license, no religious questions asked.
However, Whittington said, she hasn’t heard of any Flying Spaghetti Monster weddings in Washington yet.
Henderson himself said he has not been to a wedding in his church. And if he ever marries, he’s not sure his own wedding would be pirate-themed or spaghetti-catered.
“I would think about it. I’m not sure,” the founder of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster conceded. “I think usually the lady gets to pick how weddings go down.”