We Are Gathered Together With Leis And Duct Tape . . .

WELL, I finally got to perform a wedding ceremony. On July 9, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., I officially tied the matrimonial knot for two consenting adults. It was a deeply moving ceremony, and the bride looked radiant in her temporary teeth. But I am getting ahead of my story.

You may recall that a while back I wrote a column stating that I was an official notary public in Florida, and I was eager to commit a wedding. That column generated quite a bit of mail, including some letters from irate notary publics who felt that I was making fun of notaryhood. For example, Samuel D. Michak, a notary from West Wyoming, Pa., wrote a letter in which he stated: "Defaming the Notary Public Office is not humorous to me." Mr. Michak further stated: "A Notary was called upon when Columbus discovered America."

I frankly had not been aware of this. I bet it was a dramatic moment in Notary history when Columbus waded ashore in the New World:

COLUMBUS: . . . and I therefore claim this land in the name of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain.

NOTARY PUBLIC: OK, so your name is Fernando Isabel?

COLUMBUS: No, I'm Columbus.

NOTARY PUBLIC (getting suspicious): I'm gonna have to see a photo ID.

Anyway, among the other letters generated by my notary column was one from Pat Callahan of Fort Lauderdale, asking if I'd perform a wedding for her and her fiance, Phil Taylor. Pat said she'd asked Phil how he felt about having me do the honors, and he'd said,

quote, "OK." Phil is a man of few words. Here is Pat's account of how he proposed to her:

"One day he was telling me what needed to get done, and he said we needed to register the boat, get a fishing license and get a marriage license. So I said, `Wait a minute, what was that again?' And he said, `Register the boat, get a fishing license and get a marriage license.' So I said, `Are you serious?' And he said, `Yeah, we've got to register the boat.' "

Mr. Romance.

So I told Pat I'd be happy to do the wedding. It was an informal back-yard ceremony, with everybody wearing shorts and Hawaiian shirts and leis, except for Pat and Phil's dog Maya, who just wore a lei. When I arrived, the women were preparing food and inflating balloons, and the men were attempting to put up a complex canopy in the back yard, one of those contraptions with about 273 aluminum poles and no instructions. We finally got the thing up by using the ultimate guy weapon: duct tape. (I hope that women never find out about duct tape, because once they do, men will no longer serve any useful purpose.)

The bride was showing great composure, considering that just a week earlier her dentist had extracted her four top front teeth, following an accident in which she tripped and hit the floor face-first.

"I told the dentist," she said, "that if the temporaries didn't look good, I was going to put a little explanatory note with his name on all the wedding photographs."

Also looking very nice was the happy couple's driveway, which had recently had 10 tons of pea rock dumped on it. Phil had spent hours raking the driveway to a beautiful white smoothness for the Big Day. The guests parked on the street.

"Phil won't let anybody park on his pea rock," noted Pat.

Music for the ceremony was provided by Jennifer Rudzinski, who played "Here Comes the Bride" on a tuba. (I realize that the song is not, technically, named "Here Comes the Bride." The actual name is "The William Tell Overture.") Jennifer also served as my backup notary; she told me that she once performed a wedding under water.

For Pat and Phil, I went with a simple ceremony. I pointed out that it was a solemn occasion, then turned to Phil. "I will now ask you, Phil," I said, "if you have a lengthy, heartfelt and sensitive statement about marriage that you wish to make at this time."

"No," said Phil. This was to be expected. Phil's original idea was that he'd just stay in the bedroom, and at the proper time he'd yell "OK!" out the window.

Pat also had nothing sensitive and heartfelt to say, so I gave them some advice on having a good relationship.

"Pat," I said, "suppose that you have taken up virtually all the bathroom storage space with your skin-care products. You need to think about Phil. Doesn't he need bathroom storage space, too?"

"No," said Pat.

My main advice to Phil was: "When you're looking to get Pat a nice, romantic gift, do not think in terms of tires."

After that I read the traditional wedding ceremony provided by the Florida state notary office. At one point it stated that Phil and Pat had "pledged their troth."

"What's a `troth'?" asked Pat.

I didn't know, but Pat and Phil pledged it anyway. Then I pronounced them husband and wife, and the tuba struck up "The Song They Always Play at the End of a Wedding," and everybody applauded except Maya the dog, who wagged her tail in joyful tribute to the happy couple. Also she probably sensed that there was going to be food.

Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. His column appears Monday on editorial pages of The Times.