"I am" is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that "I do" is the longest sentence?”- George Carlin
I remember my "Persons and Family Relations" class where it was taught that the Philippine Family Code provided the list of people who are authorized by law to solemnize marriages. According to the Family Code, among them are,
... (5) Any consul-general, consul or vice-consul ...
Those positions were just words I had to memorize for recitations and exams. Until I became one.
I don't like attending weddings. I can probably count with my fingers the number I went to. Weddings just aren't my thing. To me, they're just a formality like paying taxes or getting a driver's license.
I made sure my own wedding had no hoopla. Just a simple civil ceremony attended by close friends and family. No grandiose and gaudy church wedding for me and the Mrs., as Filipinos would expect from everyone. It helps that we're both not Catholic, she's Protestant while I don't believe in religion. It also helps that her dream wedding ceremony would be in a beach with close friends and family while mine would be in Las Vegas officiated by a half-drunk guy in an Elvis costume.
Now imagine my surprise when in a matter of months after arriving at Post, I've solemnized a number of marriages many times more than I attended. It just never occurred to me that I'd be doing this kind of thing, despite the numerous times I've been told I'd be doing it. Otherwise, I'd have asked my tailor to make me an "Elvis does Vegas" suit for the ceremonies.
The work has been interesting. I've had several types of couples come to me to get married. There's the true love variety. There's the "bun in the oven already so we gotta do this" type. There's the "last train ride" variety (do you gramma take grampa over here...). There's the couple where the bride's parents can only think "I can't believe our daughter is marrying this guy." I have yet to encounter a Madame Auring-Archie couple, though.
The ceremonies I officiate, held at the Embassy, are simple enough. I just try to read some inspiring messages and reminders about love (from the ever reliable internet), sprinkled with a mushy romantic quote here and there. Then we go to the part where I ask questions where the answer has to be "I do." Then we have the exchange of wedding rings and giving of arras. Then the "speak now or forever hold your peace" part. After that, by the power vested in me by Emperor Palpatine of the Galactic Republic, I declare the bride and groom husband and wife. Smooch. Fade to black. The end. Roll credits.
But of course, I'll have to make sure they sign all the paperwork, wala nang bawian. Which somehow makes me feel like a hangman. Unfortunately, there is no divorce in the Philippines. Then we go to the "kodakan" phase of the event. If you understand Filipino culture, you know how long this can take. Couple. Couple + me. Couple + family. Couple + Scooby-Doo. Couple + Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo. Couple eating cake. Couple drinking cola (in lieu of wine). Couple dancing to "Careless Whisper." On and on.
Of course, there's the happiest part for the guests. A little meal is often prepared to celebrate the occasion, a precursor of an even bigger reception held somewhere else.
My job is full of irony, though. I remember one time, after wrapping up a joyous wedding ceremony, I looked at my list of things to do. It included looking into cases of marital arguments here involving infidelity and child support.