Fire Can’t Dampen Couple’s Ardor for Ringing in the New Year

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman January 2, 2013 09:27

Historic Columbia House in fire’s aftermath

So what if the church burned down the night before your wedding?  Would you find the nearest bar and go through with it anyway?

Had Westminster Abbey gone up in flames on the eve of William and Kate’s much-ballyhooed multi-million-pound-royal nuptials in 2011, do you suppose the prince’s backup plan was to look for the nearest pub with enough plastic glasses and cheap champagne for a raucous toast from the regulars?

And, oh yeah, you think the royal  couple would have told the Archbishop of Canterbury to take a hike and instead hired a Universal Life Church minister whose services can be had for a six pack?

But that’s what Ron and Lisa DeLacy did after a suspected arsonist, since arrested, torched the Columbia House within 12 hours of their planned New Year’s Eve wedding.

Well, it wasn’t really a wedding: It was a “ring ceremony,” a public celebration of their quiet Dec. 4 marriage at Sacramento’s City Hall.

And the Columbia House isn’t really a church. It’s a restaurant that has recently gone by a couple of aliases – the Black Bart and the Jenny Lind – before reverting to its historic name.

But the ring ceremony really was moved to the nearest bar, the Jack Douglass Saloon. And the newlyweds really did hire a guy – that would be me – who performs weddings for beer.

I was ordained with a couple of hundred fellow undergrads in a 1968 Universal Life Church ceremony at the Stanford student union. When it was over, the Rev. Kirby J. Hensley passed out free minister cards and said all we had to do was fill out our names in the blank above his printed signature.

Since then I’ve officiated at the weddings of maybe 20 couples, none of which, as you might imagine, took themselves (or at least their weddings) very seriously. The ceremonies have been short, fun and, so I’m told, legal.

But none has been as quite as much fun as Ron and Lisa’s.

When they got around to exchanging rings, their young marriage had already survived Dec. 21’s End of the World, a protracted fiscal cliff free fall, and the incineration of their chapel of choice. Not only that, but their relationship has also survived the birth and ongoing infancy of their 16-month old daughter, Lily, and a 21-year age difference  between bride, 47, and groom, 68.

I don’t pretend to know the keys to thriving in such a relationship, but I’m convinced a great sense of humor is a key ingredient. Love and a shared, somewhat quirky talent and taste in music no doubt help.

Consider this: Ron and Lisa began their ring ceremony by singing “Somethin’ Stupid,” Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s chart-topping, heart-throbbing 1967 duet.  The nearly 80 guests packed into the Douglass loved it – and that was before the cheap champagne was uncorked.

Next came the ring vows and, finally, the lines I had waited all night long to say: “The bride and groom may now give each other the finger.” “We’ve already done that,” laughed Ron. “Many times,” added Lisa.

And thus was revealed another secret to marital success.

Newlyrungs Lisa and Ron with Bateman, courtesy photo

I pronounced the couple “rung up.” Cactus Bob and Prairie Flower played a John Lennon love song, the bride and groom kissed, champagne was uncorked, toasts were made, cake was cut, snacks were shared and, of course, rumors about the Columbia House fire were traded, embellished, bunked, debunked and traded again.

Then Ron grabbed a guitar and, with a bunch of veteran musicians, played a New Year’s Eve Party that had also been moved over from the Columbia House.

Yeah, William and Kate’s wedding cost millions, was watched by hundreds of millions, and was rich in pomp, pageantry and puffery. But not once did the royal couple give each other the finger and didn’t have nearly the fun we had at the Douglass on New Year’s Eve.

Now I don’t know what the Archbishop of Canterbury got for his wedding – but my six pack was a better deal.

Chris Bateman, 66, is a longtime journalist based in Sonora, California, where over the past 40 years he has covered everything under the Sierra Nevada sun. Contact him at  Better yet, comment below.


Copyright 2013, Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman January 2, 2013 09:27
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  1. al mandell January 2, 22:53

    beautiful and fun story, chris bateman. what a fun way to earn a six-pack. best of luck Lisa and Ron — may you both be blessed with continued happiness and fun

  2. Kathe January 3, 07:37

    I love Columbia

  3. Jim Solis Kunis January 3, 10:57

    Ron and Lisa prevailed ! In Columbia,you cant break the connection,its a Power thing ! They went to the next Stronghold.See you at the next Columbia Banjo and Fiddle Contest Ron and Lisa !

  4. Catherine Driver January 7, 10:54

    Awesome & classic Bateman! Thanks for the fun story Chris and it’s good to see you’re “blogging.” I look forward to following your stories. Congratulations to Ron & Lisa! Happy New Year!

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