Fifteen years ago, Barb Wilker decided — pretty much on a whim — to become an ordained minister. "Not because I had some big religious calling, but because I couldn't believe you could do something like that online," the registered nurse in Urology at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus tells us. "I never had any real intention of using it." Little did she know.
In fact, she's used it often. Since completing her ordination requirements, Barb estimates she has performed 50 to 60 weddings. "It's all been word of mouth," she tells us. And while we're sure those ceremonies have all been special in their own right, we're guessing Barb's latest ceremony might just take the (wedding) cake.
It started with a hallway conversation between Barb and fellow registered nurse Amy Olofson. Amy shared that one of her family members was getting married. It turns out that wasn't news to Barb. "I told her I knew that because they'd asked me to perform the ceremony," Barb tells us. "Amy was pretty blown away. She had no idea I was an ordained minister."
Less than 24 hours later, Amy would use that newfound knowledge. She was enrolling patients in a research study as part of her study coordinator role with Mayo's Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. A line from one patient's chart stopped her in her tracks. "There was a note that said he and his long-time girlfriend really wanted to get married that day," Amy tells us.
Amy learned that the patient and his fiancée had a marriage license for their home state of Iowa and had intended to get married there before medical issues brought them to Rochester. But their license didn't transfer to Minnesota, and the couple "didn't know how to get one here," Amy says.
Although her job description didn't include wedding coordinator, Amy "called the courthouse to ask what they needed to do." Remembering the conversation from the day before, Amy also sent an email to Barb to ask if she wanted to marry someone that day. To Amy's surprise, Barb replied that as long as the couple "didn't mind that I have scrubs on," she could make it happen.
Amy's next move was to send the patient's fiancée to the Olmsted County courthouse in downtown Rochester for their Minnesota marriage license. Amy then let the other nurses on the floor know there was going to be a wedding. One nurse ordered cupcakes, and others decorated the outside of the patient's room "to make things a little more special" for the couple, Amy tells us.
Barb, we're told, wrote the ceremony over her lunch break. After work, she hopped on a shuttle to the Saint Marys campus of Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester for the ceremony. Meeting the patient and his future wife for the first time was something Barb will not soon forget. "He wasn't able to stand," she tells us. "He was in a chair, covered up with a blanket, and … I'm sorry, it still brings tears to my eyes … she was holding his hand."
When the ceremony began, more tears began to fall. "Barb started tearing up initially, which of course led me and the other nurses in the room to cry, too," Amy tells us. "It was a brief ceremony, but a really nice ceremony."
And one that, we're told, was aptly followed by a "toast of Sprite" to the happy couple, and a sigh of relief from Amy. "I was really nervous that I wouldn't be able to pull this off," she tells us. "The only other wedding I've ever planned is my own." And while it's the newlyweds who are typically showered with presents, Amy says at this wedding, she's the one who received a gift. "It felt good to see how happy and excited this made them."
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