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