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Reprinted from the Pittsburgh City Paper, April 18-25, 2001
Pittsburgh City Paper (CP): What is a “Meaningful Marriage”?
Rev. Larry Goyda (LG): Well, what I try to do is celebrate the commitment between two people who love one another with a marriage ceremony that is meaningful to them. What’s important to me is that the people know one another, accept one another and are willing to make a commitment to one another. So I try to celebrate that more than my own personal religious beliefs or spiritual values.
CP: How did you get started performing marriages?
LG: As a minister. Some friends of mine wanted to get married, and they didn’t have anybody who would do their ceremony for them, so I did theirs, and then people liked what I did. That was in 1971. In ’88 I moved to Pittsburgh, and in ’94 I started doing weddings in earnest.
CP: What kind of minister are you?
LG: I’m a non-denominational minister. I perform wedding services for people of any religious background. I just met with some people this morning, she’s Protestant and he’s Muslim, so we’re going to be incorporating some Muslim elements into it. Oftentimes when I do a ceremony between someone Jewish and someone Christian, we’ll incorporate something from the Jewish tradition, which more often than not is the breaking of the glass. I like that ceremony. I wish more people would do it.
CP: What do people call you?
LG: Larry. I am an ordained minister and I have a title in front of my name, “Rev.,” but I don’t feel that I’m any more Rev. than anyone else. We’re created all the same in God’s image.
CP: Would you say there’s a typical couple that seeks you out?
LG: No. I get people from all backgrounds. If there was a typical couple at all, they would probably be Catholics.
CP: No kidding.
LG: Pittsburgh is a very Catholic place. And a lot of people do not believe in annulments, or cannot afford them, or just don’t want to put in the time.
CP: Is there something that you always tell a couple first thing when they approach you about getting married?
LG: I sort of just try to stay open to the couple to see what’s going on between them. Oftentimes people call me after they’ve been to other ministers who’re more mainstream, and they’ve been beaten up so much. I try to help people get married, not make it hard for them. Because most people, they’re going to get married no matter what I say or do, or what anybody else says or does. So I try to just accept that fact and help them have a nice event.
CP: Have you ever said no to marrying anybody?
LG: I came very close once. I have a children’s service that I include if there are children from a previous relationship, or from their own. After they take their vows to one another, they take vows to the child. And one time this woman was just adamant about not wanting the child included because she felt that the spotlight was being taken away from her. I didn’t want to do her service. I don’t think it worked out anyway, but that was the closest I ever came to saying, “I’m sorry, I just can’t do this.”
CP: Could you describe a particularly memorable wedding?
LG: My most memorable weddings are the ones where the couple are really there for one another, and are really into the moment, and into the ceremony. That energy draws everyone else into the ceremony – me, their attendants, the audience. Those are the most memorable for me, because it creates an atmosphere that no one person can create, when the two of them create that special moment together.
By L.L. Kirchner, Reprinted from Whirl Magazine, January 2004
I first met Larry Goyda in Frick Park while walking my dog. We got to talking as our pets played together, and he told me he had a couple of weddings later that day, where he, the Rev. Goyda, would officiate.
Injury Leads To Opportunity
Since being ordained in 1971, Goyda has performed almost a thousand wedding ceremonies, though he’s only done it full-time for the last three years. Prior to that, his massage therapy work provided his main source of income. But he much preferred the weddings. “Being around young love is incredibly rejuvenating,” says Goyda.
When he sustained a back injury three years ago, he turned to full-time officiating. And with 90 to 95 weddings a year, Goyda is doing better as an officiant than he did as a massage therapist. Goyda thinks it just goes to show that when you commit to the thing you love, life rewards you in ways you never thought possible.
That philosophy also explains his feelings about the wedding ceremony itself. Goyda says that he tries to “celebrate the commitment between two people.”
Many of those couples are making their second trip down the aisle. According to Goyda, “Everybody wants to get married once and for all and have that be their only relationship for the rest of their life. But it doesn’t always work out that way. I applaud people for getting up and trying again.”
Not Your Average Pastor
Because he can perform ceremonies outside a church, people turn to him when they’re looking for a nontraditional service. While most of his standard ceremonies incorporate religious elements, his vows are only a suggestion. He works closely with each couple to ensure the ceremony reflects their own beliefs and lifestyle.
“What people’s beliefs are is between them and their god. The way people live their lives is more important than what people profess to believe,” says Goyda.
Goyda incorporates different elements that have been popular with couples over the years. A favorite inclusion is an Apache wedding blessing that reads in part, Now you’ll feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Most significantly, Goyda leaves out the ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’ line. He asks, “Why give ’em a chance? If anybody has any objections to this wedding, what the hell are they doing there to begin with?”
”I believe in commitment. That’s what makes a marriage work – people’s commitment to one another. If that doesn’t work, you might need to move on, but you shouldn’t give up on trying again.”
Goyda himself has been married before and had to move on. The failure was very difficult for him, contrasted against weekly celebrations of love. But true to his style, he remains optimistic: “I hope to be married again.”
Goyda gets a lot out of his work. “I know I provide something for people that they can’t get anywhere else. I treat people with respect. I honor their commitment.”
And if the wedding party still seems uptight, he suggests massage therapy.