Noe Valley Voice September 1997

I Married Again

By Florence Holub

Yes, it is true. It was on a sunny Sunday in a lovely Berkeley garden on July 6 of this year that I married a young lady named Elly Kevorkian (no relation to the doctor) to a musician by the name of Greg Eklund.

As a certified minister of the Universal Life Church, I'm allowed to conduct religious rites such as weddings. I must admit that performing in this capacity has never been for me a sought-after occupation. Occasionally, however, I'm moved to respond to a cry for help.

This one came in the form of a phone call late in June, as I was quietly attending to my household duties. It was from Ann Karlstrom, director of publications at the de Young Museum and a regular reader of the Noe Valley Voice. She remembered my column in the July 1996 issue titled "The Year I Married Richard." She was calling to ask whether I still performed wedding ceremonies.

No, not really, I said. But after she related the predicament that a pair of young lovers had found themselves in, I was inclined to be more sympathetic.

The story concerned the offspring of Karen Kevorkian, Ann's coworker at the museum. Karen's daughter Elly had recently rushed to her mother's home in tears after spending a session with the minister chosen to preside over her upcoming wedding. The minister evidently would not agree to Elly and her fianc's desire to rewrite parts of the ceremony. What's more, he was asking a sum of $700 to perform the service.

Also, time was running out for the starry-eyed young couple. The groom was a drummer with a popular rock band called Ever Clear, which often went on tour. The band played all over the West Coast, and was getting ready to move its base of operations to Los Angeles during the summer. Not wishing to be separated for long, the couple needed to get married quickly between band tours, so that their families and friends could be with them to celebrate the occasion. After tying the knot, the newlyweds would settle in L.A.

After her mother Karen explained the situation to me, I agreed to conduct a wedding ceremony that would be more to the couple's liking. As for the fee, I told Karen that I would prefer not to accept payment for my services. That was against my religion!

I still had a copy of the last ceremony I'd presided over, which I mailed to Elly. She read it, made her changes -- including adding a small section in accordance with Armenian nuptials -- and said she would type the revised version large enough for me to be able to read it easily.

Less than a week later, without having rehearsed or met with any of the participants -- and without having in my hands the words I was going to say -- I set out with my man Leo to find the big white house in Berkeley.

We arrived two hours earlier than the designated time of the wedding, but immediately knew we had come to the right place. The front yard was adorned with ribbons, flowers, and wedding bells -- a dead giveaway.

There was not a soul in sight, however. After waiting for what seemed like a long time, I went up the stairs and rang the bell. No one responded, so I rang again. I was just about to leave when the door opened and the wet head of Elly's mother appeared, saying, "You got me out of the shower!"

We laughed and introduced ourselves, and I asked if she had the words I was looking for. She shook her head, but said her daughter had them and was expected soon. She kindly invited us in, but we thought it best to wait in our car out front, so that we wouldn't miss anything. We didn't.

As Leo and I sat there, we watched a young man come along to mow the lawn, then depart. Soon another man emerged and found a few unclipped spots that he attended to. Next arrived a lady wearing a flouncy dress and carrying a basket full of rose petals, which she sprinkled over the lawn.

When a large white van pulled into the driveway, a crew of men and women got out and started carrying crates and boxes into the rear garden. The caterers had arrived!

Guests of all ages, bearing gift-wrapped packages, began to appear soon thereafter, so we knew the time was near. But where was the bride?

Suddenly a car shot into the driveway, and a casually dressed young woman jumped out, burdened with armfuls of baggage. It was Elly, of course. She rushed up, thrust three pages into my hands, and explained that she was late because her sister had gone out to buy nylons and hadn't returned for two hours! Then she hurried on into the house to dress, and I sat in our car familiarizing myself with the script.

It was good to see that the names of the couple had been shortened to first names only, which meant I wouldn't have to stumble over the last names. Since I am prone to dropping things, I folded and taped down the three pages, reducing them to two facing pages which I could hold up in front of me to read. The Armenian addition was not clear to me, but since the bridal party was frantically dressing upstairs, there was no chance for us to discuss it.

Leo and I went into the rear garden, which had been lovingly decorated with blooming plants, hanging lanterns, and more wedding bells. Little paper butterflies dangled in the shrubbery leaves, and plump white cotton doves perched on the branches. This delightful, whimsical decor was fashioned by the bride, her mother, and her two sisters.

There were 70 guests congregated when the bridal party made their entrance. We presumed the young man with blond hair and a flashing smile was the groom because he had the largest boutonni¸re. He wore one gold earring, a deep blue pinstripe suit, and a large pair of bright blue suede shoes.

The bride made a lovely picture in her cream-colored chiffon gown, which was sleeveless with a slightly flared skirt. Scattered here and there on the dress were clusters of red roses that had been handpainted by its designer, a close friend of the bride. Instead of a veil, Elly wore large pink and white roses in her dark upswept hair.

As the wedding party stood quietly in place in front of the expectant audience, I began to read from my script, looking from time to time into the bride and groom's serious young faces, which seemed so filled with the importance of the moment. The words flowed easily until I came to the Armenian section. Uncertainly I said the word "wine," then "Dave," directing my gaze to the startled best man, who sputtered, "Wine...? No one told me!"

Laughter swept through the garden, and several of the ladies in the family ran off in different directions. One of them returned with a flimsy plastic champagne glass, but it was not up to the occasion. Then the mother of the bride appeared, holding the intended pewter goblet.

The couple held the stem as red wine was poured into the glass. Then each of them took a sip as I read the words explaining that this rite symbolized the sharing of all things thereafter.

Finally, with the power vested in me, and with more authority than I felt was warranted, I pronounced them husband and wife.

We were then swept up into a whirl of congratulations, libations, and conversations, as well as introductions to a host of Greg's relatives. Everyone gravitated toward the food-laden tables, and a mariachi band played Guantanamera.

Cameras clicked continuously, ensuring that there would be lots of wedding pictures, some of which included the Rev. Florence Holub herself.

(My favorite was taken by Ann Karlstrom. It shows me wearing my burgundy popover and my Viking cross. There is a white dove in a nearby tree that seems to be sitting on my left shoulder. I am holding in my right hand a bottle of beer, brewed appropriately in the Pacific Northwest, which is where the couple met while attending college at the University of Oregon in Eugene.)

When Elly's mother Karen and I met face to face, we fell into each other's arms laughing heartily and agreeing that this was indeed a memorable wedding. And when the happy newlyweds expressed to the reverend their sincere appreciation for her contribution, she found it most heartwarming!