As a minister for weddings in the Los Angeles area, I’ve seen so much frustration and sorrow when a couple hopes, at the last possible moment, to get married. Too often I have had to deny such sincere requests for a marriage ceremony because one of the hopeful spouses does not have the required frame of mind or mental capacity to enter into marriage. It is my legal duty to make that call.
I have a piece of advice for everyone living together: If you have found your soul mate, marry that person.
If you feel that level of affection for someone else but you never take steps to create a legal bond through a marriage ceremony with each other then you may find yourselves in a situation that requires a rushed, clumsy or sterile bedside wedding before one of you unexpectedly departs. Even worse, you or your would-be husband or wife may be in such a condition that your marriage is prohibited.
Benefits of Getting Married
A surviving spouse enjoys many benefits after their loved one passes that are not available to a survivor who is not married to the deceased. If your loved one dies before you get married you may not even be able to get a copy of their death certificate. Surviving social security benefits, veteran benefits, pension benefits and IRA distributions will most certainly not be available. Title to real estate, financial accounts, dividends and even personal property may be foreclosed. Even life insurance benefits may be unavailable if the deceased partner has surviving relatives who take priority under the rules of distribution.
It is a sad reality that upon the death of your unmarried life partner you may not have any standing to decide or even influence your loved one’s funeral or disposition. Unless specific arrangements granting you such authority are prepared and executed, while you and your would-be spouse are alive and have the required state of mind, your input may not be allowed even though you are clearly better situated to represent your loved one’s wishes.
A Minister for Wedding Examples
I was once a minister for a wedding for an elderly couple who had already lived with each other for 53 years. The bride and groom were both in wheelchairs and their private civil ceremony included only the bride and groom and me and took place in their trailer home. The bride kept asking “This is a confidential wedding isn’t it?” and I was compelled to ask: “Why get married now?” The groom looked a little sheepish and said, “We have grown children, and we don’t want them to find out that we were never married during probate.”
I also was the wedding officiant for a couple in their 60’s who had been with each other for many years. The groom was morbidly afraid of flying to a family matter that required that he take his first plane flight from Los Angeles to somewhere in the Midwest. So scared was he of a plane crash that he and his life-partner asked me to issue their wedding licence and officiate a private wedding on their back porch before she drove him to the airport.
Both of those couples were fortunate that they did not wait much longer to get married. But I am sure both of them would have preferred a wedding that was a bit more romantic and less simply functional. A bedside wedding, and even a death bed wedding, can be surprisingly touching and romantic. But just as often it is an unnecessarily stressful and uncertain endeavor at a time when a couple and their families should be able to focus on other deeper matters.
More than once I was asked to do a hospital bedside wedding and arrived to find out that it was too late. Twice the partner put off the marriage ceremony thinking that they had time but found out that things rapidly took a turn for the worse.
Get Married in Los Angeles
So get married as soon as you can. None of us has a plan to die, but we can have a great life with our partner and make it legal.
Part 3 of 3