The first time the Rev. Dane Jordan officiated a wedding, back in the 1990s, he was nervous and a little bit cautious. “It was gut-wrenching,” he says. “I typed everything out, which is not my style. ‘Married life is to be mutually beneficial … .’ It was canned. You could have printed it off the Internet.”
A 1991 Wingate College graduate, Jordan has honed his technique since that first gig, and now serving as an officiant is one of the most rewarding aspects of his job.
Jordan, the University’s minister to students and senior director of the Center for Vocations, Internships and Career Services, is also the go-to guy for many young Bulldog couples looking to tie the knot. Since returning to campus in 2002, he’s officiated 25 weddings in which at least one participant was a Wingate alum or employee. A little over half of those featured two WU alumni.
Jordan will officiate a wedding only if he knows at least one of the participants. Prior to the service, the couple meets with him a few times for premarital counseling. It’s a chance for him to get to know them even better, and the result is a very personal, customized service.
“I’m going to talk to you about division of responsibilities,” he says. “I’m going to talk to you about whether you want kids. I’m going to talk to you about those things. But what I really want to know are stories and things that I can use in the ceremony to make it personal. ‘So how did you meet?’
“In the first one, we talk about ceremony. ‘What do you want to do? What do you want it to look like?’ And I’m not picky about that. If Aunt Mildred wants to sing, fine. If Aunt Mildred can’t sing and you still want to let her, fine.”
He then offers guidance. “I’m not trying to talk them out of getting married,” says Jordan, who has been married to his wife, Amy, for 22 years. “I’m trying to help them know how to deal with one another. People generally don’t change a whole lot. If you’re marrying somebody thinking you’re going to fix them or whatever, you need to just learn how to deal with their itch.”
After graduating from Wingate in 1991 with a B.A. in religious studies, Jordan worked three years as a Wingate admissions counselor before entering the Duke University Divinity School. He earned his master’s in theological studies, religion and sociology in 1996 and then became the youth minister at First Baptist Church in Burlington.
Since rejoining his alma mater in 2002, Jordan says he’s become a “recovering Baptist.” He ministers to students from a variety of religious backgrounds at Wingate, and his wedding ceremonies span a range of Christian denominations.
“I’m a little bit flexible in the Christian spectrum,” he says. “If someone asked me to take God out of it, I’m like, ‘No. I don’t do that.’ But if there are things you want me to downplay, I will.”
For instance, one couple wasn’t sold on a line about what God wanted for their marriage. “At one point I had in the line, ‘God has intended marriage to be blah, blah, blah,’ and they wanted me to take that part out. And I did,” Jordan says. “There’s always a sense of Christian undertones in it, but I’m not proselytizing or anything like that.”
Another time, Jordan had to tell a couple that he wouldn’t include the “obey” part of the line “love, honor and obey.” He says: “I’m not going to do that. If you really want that, find somebody else to do it.”
Jordan’s services are modern in more visual ways as well. Over half of the ceremonies he’s officiated have been outdoors, and to lessen the likelihood that wind gusts will disrupt the ceremony, he now officiates using an iPad.
Most of the Bulldog weddings he’s presided over have taken place in the Carolinas, but he’s also had former students fly him to Florida, and he flew to Pennsylvania to handle the ceremony of a Wingate employee.
One of the highlights of officiating weddings featuring former Wingate students, Jordan says, is meeting the families. “Most of the time I talk about how important the family as a whole is going to be to one another,” he says. “But it also gives me an opportunity to meet the parents of kids who I know are outstanding and to say to them, ‘Your kid is amazing.’”
Jordan averages close to two weddings a year, and he’s done as many as four in a calendar year. He has two lined up already this year.
He’s looking forward to them. “I am mediocre at a lot of things,” he says, “but I’m really good at weddings.”
Learn more about Student Ministries at Wingate University.
February 14, 2018