Benham wedding

Herb Benham, center, officiates the wedding of Brittany and Thomas Baker.

Courtesy of Herb Benham

The vicar. It’s got a ring to it. An English ring, a rump-roast-and-Yorkshire-pudding ring, but a ring nonetheless.

Recently, I officiated at the wedding of Thomas and Brittany Baker held on the banks of the river off Round Mountain Road at Thomas’ parents’ house. Thomas and Brittany shared the same last name before they were married — a coincidence both convenient and auspicious — but Baker sounds different now, packing twice the spirit and punch.

It says, “Watch out, we’re a team. We can surprise, dazzle or just plain do or say the opposite of what you think we’re going to say or do.”

They started early with the “opposite” part halfway through the service when the vicar put the mic in front of Brittany as she was reciting “I, Brittany, take …” She pushed it away and said, “I don’t need a mic.”

No, she didn’t. She spoke loudly, with her eyes, her heart and all 110 pounds of her. Only rookies and vicars needed mics.

This was the vicar’s first wedding so he went to "Brother" Richard, also an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church, who has 20 weddings under his belt, for advice:

“No one is there to see you,” he said. “They’re focusing on the bride and groom.”

They aren’t? How about if I wear my good charcoal-colored suit from H. Walker? My two-toned green tie? A pair of spit-shined Samuel Hubbard’s that you could bounce a quarter off and get change?

Before the wedding, I talked to the bride and groom about the length of the service. It has been the vicar’s experience that not everybody wants a wedding that is so long that it bridges time zones. However, people are getting dressed up and they’d like the service to last longer than the walk from their car to the hors d'oeuvres table.

“We want short,” said Brittany and Thomas almost simultaneously.

The vicar suggested 10 minutes and they jumped on it like a trout on a homemade fly.

“We’d like to write our own vows,” they said.

The vicar nodded wisely, thinking to himself, "That’s fine, but don’t go off the reservation." People can get way out there, with something like the following, and pretty soon guests are rolling their eyes and checking the USC score:

Him: "I love your immense capacity for love, whether it’s directed at me, your family, two little frogs, or for your stuffed animals."

Her: "I promise to grab your toes with my toes when we cuddle at night, and when old age has robbed my toes of their monkey-like dexterity.”

Brittany and Thomas kept it simple, using the same vows, because they are the Bakers and the Bakers are a team.

For the vicar’s money, and like most vicars he has more spiritual money than he does the wallet kind, it is hard to improve on the traditional vows.

"I, (name), take you, (name), for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, for as long as we both shall live."

On his way to the pool the morning of the wedding, the vicar practiced the vows because the least he could was to memorize them. Good thing it was dark and the streets were empty because the vicar couldn’t get through them without choking up. Something about two young people and that “for as long as we both shall live.”

Dark, empty and early in the morning was the time to shed tears because if guests are not coming to see the officiant, even one dressed in a smart charcoal-colored suit, they may not want one who is falling apart either.

A wedding comes on fast, especially when you’re in it. The vicar put his arm around Rob, father of the groom, and asked him how he felt to have his oldest get married. The vicar was feeling his vicarly oats.

"I’m good,” he said.

So was Sally, Thomas’ mother. She loves a party, her children and especially her new daughter-in-law.

Before I knew it, Thomas, his best man, Michael, and I were standing under a line of coastal redwoods 10 feet from the river’s edge and the familiar ritual had begun, a ritual that does not get old.

As Thomas and Brittany stood there, looking at each other on this beautiful day, one that the vicar ordered, I thought of the Springsteen song:

“If, as we're walking, a hand should slip free

“I'll wait for you

“And should I fall behind

“Wait for me.”

No one was falling behind yet and if anything, the ceremony was ahead of schedule. I talked about having known Thomas since birth and I thought I knew him until a few years ago when he stopped wearing shoes. He had shoes, he just didn’t want to wear them.

After he met Brittany, he started wearing shoes again. That’s the first thing a good woman will do; she’ll improve your footwear.

Vows and rings exchanged, it was time for the vicar to launch into one of his favorite lines: “By the authority vested in me by the State of California, I pronounce you …”

“It was a little short,” said oil field Russ, as I walked down the aisle. “You came in about 7 minutes.”

I had more material. The vicar could talk about the vicar and his vicarage for a half-hour.

What a kick. Thomas and Brittany. Bakers to the end.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at or (661) 395-7279.

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