Thursday, July 18, 2013

I Do

There are a couple of pleasant duties that fall within my job description.  Uniting a couple in marriage is one such duty. 

As an official judicial duty, a judge may marry people in the courthouse, during office hours, at no charge to the couple (except, of course, for the marriage license).  I cannot put off regularly scheduled court cases to perform a wedding, but we can usually find a few minutes during the day to recite the vows. 

Wedding parties have arrived at the courthouse in suits and wedding dresses and in jeans and t-shirts.  They have come with friends and family and I have had to recruit a best man and maid of honor from the court staff to witness the wedding.  Some have been so young that I have had to sign an order to permit the County Recorder to issue a marriage license.  One groom was in handcuffs, as the jail had brought him to the courthouse to marry his fiancée.  On another occasion, I went to a jail to perform the ceremony for a man who had been sentenced to life in prison for murder.

On other occasions, I have been asked to perform weddings away from the courthouse and outside of regular business hours.  For these weddings, a judge is permitted to charge a fee for services. 

I have performed weddings at golf courses and restaurants; at parks and in living rooms and in back yards.  One of my memorable weddings was performed on an island in Lake Minnetonka!

There are no magic words or a required script to memorialize a marriage ceremony.  The form I have used is brief and to the point.  As I tell folks who ask, it will take about five and a half minutes, “if I talk real slow.”

Some couples will write their own vows, which is very nice.  Others will have an appropriate reading.  Music may be a part of the service, but often is not. 

I will tell the couples and their guests that marriage is regarded as a civil contract that imposes duties on each of them.  I ask them to promise that they will love and honor, comfort and cherish each other so long as they both shall live.

And I end the ceremony by pronouncing “by the power vested in me by the state of Minnesota, I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

That’s a pretty nice duty that judges are asked to perform!

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Next Week:  Do Some Justice