Do You Want to Talk About Marriage? Yes, I Do

One of my very good friends, Todzia Aird from Edmonton, Canada, is a marriage commissioner. Love is her business. She tells me that getting married is still in vogue. I love weddings, it is such a beautiful occasion and the perfect excuse to splash out on fabulous outfits and jewelry. I also like seeing the bride being at the center of attention for a whole day surrounded by a small army of professionals doing her hair, make-up, and nails. Then there is the catering, being driven around, taking pictures throughout the whole event making sure to show the couple at their most fabulous. What a day! Who wouldn’t want to have a day like this?

Depending on where you live and what your religious practice is, you will need an official to perform the ceremony. Religious Christian weddings are officiated by a pastor or a priest. Jewish weddings are presided over by a rabbi and in Islamic weddings, an imam is the marriage officiant. Religious ceremonies are not the only way to get married, you can make things official in a civil ceremony which will be conducted by a mayor, a judge, a Justice of the Peace, or a Marriage Commissioner.

author joanne reed this is your quest do you want to talk about marriage
Todzia Aird, Marriage Commissioner, Edmonton, Canada

Wedding ceremonies are all about the bride and the groom surrounded by their friends and family, but in this article I would like to take the focus off them and shine the light on the person who officiates.

Marriage hasn’t always been what it is now

Through history, the institution of marriage went through three different stages of evolution. The first stage was all to do with survival of the species and the protection of property rights. In the olden days, marriage was designed to secure an environment for the perpetuation of the species through a system of rules to handle property rights and the protection of the bloodline. The institution of marriage handled these needs and was purely designed to promote the survival and economic prosperity of both families.

During the Victorian era, romantic love became viewed as the primary requirement for marriage and couples spent a huge amount of time and energy in the rituals of courting and finding romantic ways to express their love, affection and loyalty to their chosen ones. In this period, the new ideal was to marry for love and live happily ever after.

Love, particularly the long-lasting kind, has been called one of the most studied and least understood areas in psychology. This fundamental domain of human existence remains somewhat a mystery, but what we do know is that being in love and being married are good for your physical and mental health.

In this modern era, the institution of marriage is now evolving into a third stage, also known as self-expressive marriage. Nowadays, marriage resolve around self-expression, we seek not just love but mutual personal growth. We want partners who are able and willing to help us explore our feelings and our identity, partners who can help us bring out our most authentic selves.

Let’s take a trip to Edmonton, Canada to meet my friend Todzia and ask her a few questions.

How did you become a marriage commissioner?

Marriage Commissioners come from different walks of life; some are retired politicians, school principals, doctors. It is not just a question of applying for the job, you have to be appointed by the Provincial Government. My life experiences seemed to fit perfectly for me to be nominated to this position. A whole chunk of my professional career has been around weddings. When I started, I was behind the camera, now I am in front of it sharing the stage with the bride and the groom. I spent 20 years running my own business videotaping weddings. What qualified me for the job is my natural ability for public speaking, good negotiation and marketing skills, a willingness to serve my community, and my ability to understand different cultures. All this put together put me on the path to become a Marriage Commissioner. Since my appointment in 2009, I had the pleasure of officiating over 1,200 civil marriage ceremonies.

Do people still want to get married and why is it important?

Yes, believe it or not, many people still want to make that commitment❤️. Getting married is not just reserved for the young ones. When you are in love, age is not an issue. I married high school sweethearts, couples who already had children, couples who spent a lifetime living together and then deciding to make it official with a wedding ceremony with their children and grandchildren in attendance. I married couples where the husband was a soldier on the eve of being sent on a military tour to the Middle East and to Africa. The oldest couple I married, the groom was 84 and the bride 76. Being a widow or a widower does not mean the end of your love life, getting a second chance at love is something that is beautiful and should be celebrated.

Life can be complicated sometimes, and couples can go through many ups and downs. I married couples who were once married, divorced, married to someone else, divorced then came back to each other to remarry. As long as love is around, I am around to officiate and make them husband and wife even if it is for a short period of time. I will never forget the ceremony I conducted for a couple who had lived together for 35 years; the groom had cancer and had only a couple of months left to live. The ceremony was conducted in the living room of their home with their two adult children as witnesses. It was heartbreaking but also beautiful. The last thing that the groom wanted to do before he passed was to become a husband and make the love of his life his wife.

author joanne reed this is your quest do you want to talk about marriage
Marriage is something that is beautiful and should be celebrated

This is a good segment to mention the fact that in addition to being a marriage commissioner, I am also a funeral celebrant. Funerals are usually sad and somber events; when people book me to officiate as a celebrant the emphasis is on celebrating the life of the deceased by recalling happy memories and having friends and family giving beautiful testimonies. Those ceremonies are really special. I have clients who told me how the ceremony helped their mourning process in a very positive way.

[Author Joanne Reed. Note to self: Make sure to leave some instructions to my daughters to organize a ceremony/party for me when the time comes to celebrate my life and not focus so much on the dying part.]

What is the most unusual wedding venue you have officiated at?

Everyone has got in mind an image of the perfect wedding venue for their perfect wedding subject of course to the limitation of their budget. But you don’t need to go all fancy in order to have an unforgettable wedding in a magical setting. I have officiated inside a home or apartment or a barn, backyards, city parks and provincial parks, legislative ground, acreages, golf courses, historical buildings, parks, community halls, river cruises, trains, coffee shops, restaurants, hotel ballrooms, churches (yes, some churches have allowed a civil ceremony to take place). The most original ceremony I performed was outside the city in a small plane. There were 15 people in this plane. As we reached the top height, the ceremony started. Right after the couple signed the legal document, they jumped out of the plane. There were beautiful parachutes floating in the sky with the sign just married. I was asked to jump too but I decided not to. I was a flight attendant in the past but that job did not require jumping out of the plane. This is a new rule of mine “ I will officiate in any venue of your choice with the caveat that I will not be required to jump out of a plane!”

author joanne reed this is your quest do you want to talk about marriage
Everyone has got in mind an image of the perfect wedding venue

Is the Canadian weather kind to newlyweds?

The weather in Alberta province changes very quickly. In one day, you can have sun, wind, clouds, rain, snow and even hail. Therefore, couples are very prepared for unusual weather on their wedding day. If the couple wishes to have an outdoor location which I call Location 1, then I automatically ask where is Location 2 (in case of rain, snow or hail). Everyone seems to dread a rainy wedding but one of the most beautiful ceremonies that I officiated was in the biggest downpour ever. And it was the most beautiful wedding ever. It was in a couple’s parents’ backyard, under a large, white, wedding tent. This was an evening ceremony where small candles were lit on very beautifully decorated tables with the rain pouring all around us. While I officiated the ceremony, you could hear the rain in the background. It was so magical. Brides always fear rain on their wedding which no one can control, I say it is good luck.

author joanne reed this is your quest do you want to talk about marriage
Wedding weather, you can’t predict it, but you can prepare

What do you think are the key ingredients for a successful marriage?

For me the Key ingredients are, mutual respect, good daily communication, don’t be patronizing and resist the urge to order your spouse around, appreciate what you have in common but also appreciate the differences, move through different chapters of lives together, think of your marriage as a garden that needs to be tended to daily and be prepared for different seasons, some days are rainy and some are sunny.

author joanne reed this is your quest do you want to talk about marriage
Key ingredients for a successful marriage

Is love the most important thing in marriage?

There is a long section in your book about love that was an eye-opener to me. Of course, I was aware of different Love but not to the extent you so beautifully wrote. The different categories and examples of historical events to back them up were very interesting and educational. I really think that young couples who are getting married should read your book, it is like an introductory course to relationships for single or married couple. You said in your book that people spend so much time and energy trying to find love and so little time in learning how to maintain it. This is so true. Getting married is the beginning of a wonderful adventure that will last a lifetime, so once the wedding and honeymoon are behind you there is still lots to look forward to and that is your life together each and every day whether it is a sunny or rainy day outside. Another reason why young people should read your book is because it really teaches you to know yourself before you commit to share your life with another person. When people get married, there is a tendency to lose your own identity under the label of wife and mother, but you should not forget your own identity even when you become a wife and a mother; and I thought that your book illustrated this point quite well.

In closing I would like to thank Todzia for sharing some of the precious memories she has collected over the years as a marriage commissioner.

My take on this is best summarized by a famous quote by Charles Franklin:

“No one gets out of this life alive. So, leave a footprint of your choice. You are writing your epitaph. You are writing it now! Life is a process, not a goal. Live it now, or you will miss it! We have time to spend and no time to waste.”

Charles Franklin

And this, my dear friend, is your Quest.


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4 Comments »

  1. Thank you for providing us with a glimpse into the job of an officiant. It was interesting to see how diverse the experience can be.

    I agree that it’s very important to learn to maintain love and not lose your identity.

    • Thank you for stopping by and for taking the time to comment. People don’t like talking about death but life and death goes together. Note to myself: Remember to leave instructions to my daughters to make sure that when the time comes they arrange a ceremony/party to celebrate my life and not focus so much on the death part.

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