A retired pastor reached quite the milestone Saturday in Oxford Township.
Bob Service officiated his 1,000th wedding ceremony at the Oakwood Wedding Chapel on N. Baldwin Rd., just south of Oakwood Rd.
“There’s probably nobody else in Michigan that’s done 1,000 weddings,” he said. “Maybe in Las Vegas, but not in Michigan.”
In a very simple ceremony, Service united Kaitlin Ormerod and Lucas Conley in the bonds of holy matrimony.
It’s no estimate or mere guess that this was his 1,000th wedding. It’s all right there on paper.
“I have a record of every wedding I’ve done,” Service said. “It’s a state law. I have to keep a file of every wedding.”
It’s fitting that Service’s 1,000th wedding occurred in the same place as the first one he performed 51 years ago.
Prior to becoming the Oakwood Wedding Chapel, the 2750 N. Baldwin Rd. building was a place of worship known as Oakwood Community Church. Service served as the church’s pastor from 1966 until his retirement in 2009.
He performed his first wedding ceremony there on Sept. 2, 1967. The couple was Ivan Lawrence and Rita Ferrell.
In 2002, the church moved around the corner to 5791 Oakwood Rd., but Service continues to officiate about 10 to 15 ceremonies annually at its old location, now owned by Anne Marie Roop.
Outside the chapel, Service is willing to marry couples “pretty much any place.” He’s married folks at the beach and in other states.
“I go wherever they want me,” he said.
Service has been at the wedding game for so long, he’s now marrying generations of the same families.
“I married the parents and now, I’m doing weddings for their children,” he said. “I get quite a bit of that.”
Service believes strongly in the institution of marriage and is always willing to help a man and woman make this traditional covenant between them and God.
If a couple is willing to exchange vows, Service is willing to marry them. It doesn’t matter to him if they’re regular churchgoers. It doesn’t matter if they already live together. Service doesn’t reject or judge them. He just wants to help couples by bringing them together.
“I do it because I know that’s what Jesus would do,” he said. “If they’re going to live together, I want them to be married . . . The Bible says it’s wrong living together without being married. I’ll do the wedding so that they’re not living in what the church calls sin.”
Service has had some memorable moments during his 1,000 ceremonies.
“The big one was when the groom fainted and fell on the table during the unity candle lighting,” Service said.
He also recalled a wedding that occurred on Bliss Drive in Brandon Township, during which the couple exchanged vows while standing in the basket of a hot air balloon.
After they kissed, the couple took off along with other balloons containing the best man, maid of honor and the bride’s parents.
“They didn’t ask me if I wanted to go,” Service said.
Service has “no idea” how many of his 1,000 couples are still married, but he is curious about the fates of the few who never paid him for his services.
One couple gave him a check that “bounced” and they “never made good.” Another couple wrote him a check linked to an account that was closed.
“I just wonder how they’re doing after doing something like that,” he said. “If they’re (willing) to cheat the pastor, how is their marriage going? I wonder (if) they made it.”
When it comes to marriage, Service practices what he preaches as he’s been wed to same woman, Janella, since 1976.
To him, the secret to having a strong, happy, lasting marriage is “communication.”
“That’s the big thing,” Service said.
He firmly believes it’s important for couples to “talk through” the things they disagree on and “never go to bed angry.”
Service would love for some of the couples he’s married to contact him and share details about how their lives turned out after they said ‘I do.’ He encourages them to drop him a line via Oakwood Community Church. The address is 5791 Oakwood Rd., Ortonville, MI 48462. The phone number is (248) 628-6388. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I would like to hear from them,” Service said.