Reverend Taylor, The Marriage Man

By: Andrew McCrea,
Host, "American Countryside" radio broadcasts.

There was no doubt about it... Reverend Taylor had to be a real kook.

That's what I thought when I rolled into Gatlinburg Tennessee, a beautiful little town at the western entrance of the Smoky Mountains National Park.  Rev. Ed Taylor came here in the late 1970's to set up a tourist ministry.  It was a logical location to reach lots of people since Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited national park in the nation. 

Soon after his arrival in Gatlinburg, Rev. Taylor learned that hundreds of couples were coming to Gatlinburg to get married.  Are churches did not want to marry people who were just passing through town, so couples simply went to the local justice of the peace to perform the ceremony.  those wedding ceremonies often made a mockery of the institution of marriage, with the ceremonies taking place in feed and seed stores. 

Taylor decided that something had to be done to restore the dignity and sanctity  to these services.  These couples needed to have a good beginning to their lives together.  Although a pastor does much more than marry people, Taylor saw there was a great need for an ordained minister to help these couples have a respectable and Godly marriage service. So, he began to perform marriage ceremonies, providing an alternative to couples who once had no choice but to go to the local justice of the peace. 

Rev. Taylor never imagined the industry he would help create.  The "marriage business" is now the third largest industry in Sevier County.  Gatlinburg ranks second only to Las Vegas in the number of marriage ceremonies performed each year.  Many wedding chapels have opened in town, but Rev. Taylor established the very first one. By the beginning of the year 2001, Rev. Taylor had married 85,000 couples in his lifetime. He is now celebrating his 25th year in marriage ministry.  He is believed to have married more couples than any other person in the world. 

During his tenure as pastor in Gatlinburg, Rev. Taylor has even married some celebrities.  Well-known singers lie Billy Rae Cyrus, Patti Lovelace, and Jeff Cease of the Black Crowes  have had Rev. Taylor perform their marriage ceremonies and sports stars such as Dan Marino and entertainers such as Tanya Tucker have been guests at his services.  Over the years, this small chapel has grown so that it can host more than one ceremony  at a time.  The great number of marriages  has not diminished the importance or dignity of the services, but added chapels do allow Rev. Taylor to marry more couples. 

Rev. Taylor says the word "marriage" is derived from the word "one." God says that two shall become one in marriage.  It was many years later that the word "wedding" came into usage.  "Wedding" comes from the word "celebration."  He saw a lot of people getting "wed" without getting "married." So his goal was to start newly married couples son the right track. 

"Couples who worship together and pray together are couples who are likely to stay together," he says.  His counseling and marriage services guide couples in making this happen.  The goal is to help couples lay the groundwork for a marriage that will last a lifetime, and that is a very worthy goal in light of the high percentage of marriages today that end in divorce.

Nothing seems to please Taylor more than when couples return several years later to thank him for the time he took to get their marriage off to the right start.  Although it is difficult to stay in touch with every couple who is married in the chapel, Taylor hears of few that ever decide to split. Taylor guides these couples in developing a solid foundation for their marriages, and that commitment makes a lasting difference.

Initially, I had figured that any man who performed weddings at this pace had to be a kook.  I was mistaken.  Rev. Taylor taught me an important lesson.  He shared with me a favorite quote from Norman Vincent Peale: "Find the need and fill it, find the hurt and heal it, find the problem and solve it."  That quote was and still is Rev. Taylor's inspiration as he performs each ceremony. 

What a powerful statement.  In a place where hundreds of people are married every day, Rev. Taylor is not in this for the money or to set a record.  He is determined to counsel every couple he meets to help make sure their marriage lasts for a lifetime.  Rev. Taylor is filing needs, healing hurts, and solving problems.  How well do we accomplish that task in our lives?  It's a task to which everyone should say, "I DO."