Most of my weddings are very small and I meet the couple for the first time when I'm signing their marriage license and/or performing a ceremony. I try to make the interaction as friendly as possible and I have questions I always ask couples while I'm filling out the license so it's not an awkward few minutes of silence. Usually "how long have you been together?" "How many kids to you have?" "Do people know you are here getting married?" I usually continue the banter with interesting answers other people have given.
Sometimes couples were high school sweethearts and they found each other again 20 years later and are finally getting married. Sometimes they've been together for years but now have a reason they need to get married like, insurance or they've decided to join a church that requires them to be married. It's 2018. You don't need to get married to live together and raise children. Sometimes couples have known each other a matter of weeks.
I've married a lot of couples and I can usually get a pretty good feel for them. There have been couples who just knew they were meant to be together and decided not to wait, they knew they were going to get married at some point and today is as good as any. One couple knew on their first day. They picked up their marriage license the next day but then waited 30 days and got married on their one month anniversary, just to be sure. I could tell, just by looking at them, it was right. Another couple got engaged in the car in Starbucks on their first date. I married them in a lovely, formal affair in a downtown hotel six weeks later. Then, there are the interesting answers... How about... We met last week on Craigslist. Yes, that happens.
I often meet the couples right by the clerk's office for the small, quick Civil Ceremonies so they can take the license back inside and file it right away. It's meant to be super convenient and pick up where the clerk's office leaves off, as you can no longer get married in the City County Building in Indianapolis. With the civil ceremony you can return the license right away and have it filed and complete the legal process of getting married. I also like to tell couples that they have 30 days from the time the license is signed to return it to the clerk's office. This is helpful if they aren't getting married next to the courthouse. They may be going on a honeymoon or have other things to do before returning the license. By law, the license needs to be returned within 30 days after it's signed. This can be an all around good thing. You have time to take it but. BUT, you also have time to think about it.
For several years, I performed a "$50 Quickie" wedding in my home. That was right after most of the courthouses stopped performing marriages. I was the lowest published price and I was busy. Couples would have no problem traveling to Fishers to get married and saving, often $100, in the process. Most couples would go right back downtown and file their license and others would wait. More than once I've received a call asking "if we don't return the license are we married?" Technically, you are married when we sign the papers. But if you never file the papers with the clerk they have no record of the marriage so legally, you are not married. There is often a sigh of relief on the other side of the line when I say that. They have realized that they made a mistake and move on easily.
Several years ago I married a couple in their home. The bride called me several weeks later saying she needed an annulment. I asked her if she had filed the papers. If she did, she needed a divorce, I couldn't help her with that. I think she was right next to her husband when she said she had filed the papers. He called a few minutes later saying they needed counseling. They needed to work it out. I don't do annulments and I don't provide counseling so there wasn't much I could do. It turned out she had lied when she said she filed the paperwork. She never did. They were not legally married. She had trusted her instincts.
There was another bide who had not known her groom long. She had lots of questions about the process and we had spoken several times. When I finally met her the day of the wedding I felt like I already knew her. They had a problem getting to the clerk's office on time the day before so they didn't have their marriage license yet. It wasn't a problem. We performed the wedding for family and friends and I planned to meet them at the clerk's office on Monday to sign the papers. Sunday night, she called me as she was filling out the online application. She was going through all the documentations and ID they needed. He was from another country. His divorce decree from his last marriage had been issues a few days earlier and was hand delivered to him along with his birth certificate. As she compared the birth certificate to his passport, she realize they had different birth dates. They are both legal documents. She didn't say it but I'm sure she was wondering... If his passport was correct, what were these two other documents? Could she trust them? Later that night, I received a text saying she wouldn't be a the clerk's office the next morning. I was relieved, I didn't have to get downtown that early. I was also hoping she was driving off into the night, never to return, having dodged a bullet. To quote a current popular phrase, I was shook.
To quote a current popular phrase, I was shook.
Most people think of marriage as a happy, joyful thing to be celebrated. It's not always. A couple may be entering into a marriage I don't agree with but it's not my life. It's theirs. It's their decision to make. I may ask questions, no one has to answer them. I'm just being friendly. If you are being evasive, that's your prerogative. I'm not bothered by it. I don't even question it. It is what it is. I do hope you question it.
Victoria Meyer, founder of Marry Me In Indy! LLC has been a wedding officiant in Indiana for over 9 years and married over 3000 couples. She shares her experiences and is happy to be your "Wedding Officiant Insider"