It’s no secret the wedding industry—like so many others—has seen a shift since the pandemic. Despite it all, love continues to prevail. Jimmie Berguin, a Eugene-based officiant that has been doing business for four years, has been on both sides of the COVID spectrum. From emotional moments to perfect Pacific Northwest backdrops to sealing ceremonies with a shot of vodka, Berguin—a.k.a. Officiant Jimmie–takes us into his world of matrimony.
What made you want to become an officiant?
I got started because two of my best friends were looking to get married and they asked me to be their officiant. I never saw myself as the super religious type. Although I was raised Catholic, I'm more spiritual and think everyone's kind of right in some way about their own beliefs. So, when they asked me, it was kind of a surprise. Me and my partner Meg did some research and looked into things like ‘what are things that make a wedding kind of cringy’ or ‘how to write a good script.’ When I actually performed the ceremony, I had so much fun, even in the process leading up to the actual event. I just kind of put my feelers out on Instagram. I was like ‘Hey, if you're looking for somebody who is off the beaten path, and doesn't really look like your aunt or uncle, and you want to get married, I'm your guy!'
Like most industries, the wedding industry took a hit during the pandemic. Tell us how that affected your business.
So, it was funny because me and my partner were actually expecting our first child right around the start of the pandemic. We went into lockdown and then about 3-4 weeks later, our daughter was born. So I originally had blocked off the next two months. During that time, I saw all of my vendor friends and people in the industry talk about postponements and cancellations, trying to rework their calendars. I missed a whole bunch of the panic, frustration, and confusion business-wise. Once people realized the pandemic wasn’t really going away and the wedding they wanted wasn’t really going to happen the way they wanted to, I started to see a rise in bookings for people who were traveling to elope or getting frustrated with the original plan they had not coming to fruition—and then they chose me as an alternative.
It’s nice that your career allows you to travel all over the country, especially around the Pacific Northwest. What are some of your favorite places to marry couples in Portland?
I can go anywhere a couple wants to get married. I’ve been as far as Mount Rainier to Glacier National Park in Montana. In Portland, I get quite a few bookings for Blockhouse and The Evergreen and I love them both so much. Especially Blockhouse, because it gives you this feeling of being in a greenhouse or in someone’s very pretty backyard. Hoyt Arboretum is also very beautiful and the photos from the background are breathtaking.
Aside from the travel, another perk of the job is allowing couples to seal their ceremony with a shot. How did that become a thing?
My partner and I were looking into ways to make weddings more interesting and memorable for the couples. She suggested a toast or cheers with the couple. So I came up with the idea to seal the ceremony of the shot as like an act of celebration. I remember the first couple I did it with were really excited and loved it. So, I reached out to a vodka company in Portland called Wild Roots and told them, ‘Hey, I’m a wedding officiant based out of PNW, this is what I do, and I love you guys.’ They ended up sending me this really big box full of a bunch of mini bottles of vodka!
Have you ever gotten emotional while doing your job?
Actually, there was one time I did cry. I did a wedding for a couple at The Griffin House. The bride had a 9 or 10-year-old daughter. During the planning process, the couple mentioned that they would give her a necklace during the ceremony while I said something along the lines of, ‘Your mom and dad promise to love you as part of this new journey that three of you are about to go on.’ While I’m saying my piece, the daughter is very quiet, then she starts full on sobbing. She ran to give her mom and dad a hug and said ‘I love you both so much. I'm so happy to be your daughter.’ It was one of those things where it just hit me out of nowhere, and I just started crying too.
What’s one misconception people have about officiants?
I guess if I had to say, one misconception is people assuming they just have to go with the first officiant they find or one that they hear is like, really good or popular or anything like that. I found that in my time that it’s much more beneficial for the couples to go with somebody who they vibe with, or somebody who they actually mesh with. All of us officiants, just like anything in life, we all have our own different styles or way of doing things. It's such a special moment of their life; they should go with somebody that they feel like really like knows what they want. It's like love. When you know, you just know.