We are gathered here today …


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



This past Saturday morning, alarm clocks across the nation started waking up thousands of soundly sleeping Americans just before 5 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. These were people who didn’t want to miss a moment of the British celebration of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding day.

My alarm clock rousted me out of bed at 3:45 a.m. No, I’m not obsessed with British Royalty. I wasn’t willing to trade three hours of sleep for a glimpse of the gown.

I had to get up to drive my brother to the airport. Jeff’s flight was scheduled for 6:55 a.m., so I knew we should be there around 5 o’clock.

We yakked the entire hour it took us to get to the airport. After dropping Jeff off at the entrance to Southwest Airlines, I headed for home. Instead of keeping the radio on the Margaritaville channel that provided background noise for our drive to Columbus, I tuned in to CNN.

News coverage of the royal wedding events was just starting. I switched around, trying to get some real news from Fox and HLN, but the wedding dominated all channels.

As I pulled away from the airport, I heard that Oprah had just arrived. She was followed by many other celebrities. George and Amal Clooney, Elton John, David Beckham and dozens of other apparently famous people, most of whom I had never heard of before.

Some reporter, with a slightly British accent, described the gowns in detail and spent a lot of time critiquing the lady’s hats. No one seemed to care what the men were wearing.

There was an amusing comment from an American reporter who wondered out loud if George Clooney was actually casing the castle in preparation for a movie about stealing the crown jewels. I thought that was odd until they explained that it was a reference to the Danny Ocean character that Clooney has made famous. Danny Ocean is always preparing for his next big heist.

By the time I passed the Jeffersonville Mall, I was starting to get interested in what was going to happen next. There was plenty of speculation about Meghan’s wedding gown. Reporters were discussing and guessing whether Prince Harry would be clean-shaven or still be sporting his short, reddish beard. They even wondered what Harry and his brother, William, might wear to the wedding.

I pulled into our driveway at about 6:15 a.m. By then, I was hooked. Debbie always prepares the coffee pot the night before. All I had to do was turn it on. As the coffee brewed, I settled back in my recliner.

Just as I settled in, Prince Harry and Prince William arrived at Windsor Castle and started walking to Saint George’s Chapel. It was a heart-warming sight; watching as the brothers waved at well-wishers as they walked and talked together. I wondered if there might have been some good-natured teasing as they walked.

When Debbie finally woke up, I filled her in on all the details. Together, we watched Meghan and Harry exchange their vows. We watched the fairy tale ending, as they rode off together in their horse-drawn carriage.

I smiled as I thought about the difference between the ultra-expensive royal wedding and the ceremonies I had performed as mayor of Wilmington. Officiating at weddings became one of the most enjoyable parts of being mayor.

During my four-year term, I officiated at numerous weddings. I was even blessed to join my daughter Jessi and her husband, Sean, in wedlock. Several months later, my son Thad and his fiancé, Ashley, asked me to officiate at their ceremony.

All the weddings were enjoyable, but those two were very special.

One afternoon, a young sailor dressed in his white uniform, stopped by the office with his fiancé. They wanted to get married before he left the next day for a long deployment. There was sheer joy in that wedding.

Most people called first, but some couples just stopped in. Often it was just the couple. Sometimes my office was filled to overflowing with family and friends. A few times we had to move the ceremony out onto the second-floor landing or into council chambers to accommodate all the people.

Several times, I even went on the road to perform wedding at private homes, campgrounds, front porches and backyards. It was always fun.

My assistant, Andrea, was great at making certain we had all the paperwork in order and that the vows were ready. We always gave the couple a personalized copy of their ceremonial vows as a keepsake of their special day.

I enjoyed it so much that I told Andrea that it would be one of the things I would miss most after my term ended. She explained that for $14.95 I could become a licensed minister in the Universal Life Church and could continue to legally perform weddings. It sounded like a great idea, so I did it.

It’s just a shame that Harry and Meghan didn’t call me. I could probably have saved them a ton of money.

I still work cheap.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and a local resident of more than 40 years.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist

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