Many of the duties of a city mayor are not all that enjoyable — trying to scrounge up enough non-existent money for a good project, trying to keep neighbors happy with each other, worrying about things that are totally out of everyone’s control or trying to make up for the money that the state or federal government has started withholding from cities. There are many, many thankless things a mayor tries to accomplish.
But, there were a few things that were always fun.
It was during my first few weeks of being a mayor that Andrea, my administrative assistant, came into my office to ask me about performing weddings. In Ohio, members of the clergy, judges and mayors are all allowed to perform weddings. I told Andrea, “Sure. If anyone calls and wants to get married, I’ll be glad to do it.”
Little did I know how many people wanted to be married in the mayor’s office, and what a blessing that simple ceremony would become. After the first few weddings that we performed in my office, I was hooked.
People would actually come into the mayor’s office nervous and slightly scared, but when they left, they were smiling and happy. It was great fun for everyone. Andrea always helped with the paperwork. We made sure everything was complete and legal. Andrea and Brenda would often stop what they were doing, watch the wedding and join in the celebration with best wishes for the newlyweds.
I should have known it would be great fun. After all, Debbie and I were married by Mayor Nick Eveland in October 1987. Nick graciously came out to our friend’s house and performed the ceremony in front of their fireplace — exactly where, just eight months earlier, we had met for the first time. Nick did a great job for us. We all had fun and, obviously, it worked; 29-years later and we’re still going strong.
After every wedding, I would thank the couple for allowing us to be a part of their special day. Quite often, I would tell them that my prayer for them was that in 50 years, surrounded by children, grandchildren, family and friends, that they would be celebrating their Golden Anniversary. We always tried to make it fun.
As my term as mayor evolved, so did my participation in weddings. Several times, like Nick Eveland, I was asked to perform the ceremony at someone’s home, or a state park, or convention center or banquet hall. I always said, “Yes.”
The law is clear. As mayor, I could only perform weddings in Clinton County. Twice, I had couples ask me to perform their ceremonies outside of the county — once in Warren County and once in Montgomery County. When I told them I couldn’t legally officiate at their weddings, both of them decided to come to my office the day before their guests were scheduled to come to their ceremony to get married. The next day I would go to their “wedding party” in a neighboring county and we would put on a “wedding show.” Of course, very few people had any idea that they were officially married the day before.
A few months before my four-year term expired, a few couples contacted my office asking if I would be available to perform their wedding the following year. I wanted to help them, but my since my term as mayor was going be over in a few months, I was afraid I would have to say, “No.” But, Andrea had an idea.
She explained to me that a few years earlier, she had filed forms online and sent a check for $14.95 to the Universal Life Church and shortly afterward received a certificate proclaiming her to be a ULC minister. After sending a check for $10 and some more paperwork to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, she received a certificate proclaiming her to be eligible, as a minister with the Universal Life Church, to conduct weddings.
Although it sounds a little shady, it’s all perfectly legal. One of the tenets of the Universal Life Church is that anyone who wants to be minister, is a minister. If you need legal paperwork, the ULC will provide it.
Since I loved performing weddings, I contacted the ULC online and after shuffling some paperwork and sending a few buck here and there, I am now legally allowed to perform weddings anywhere in Ohio.
In the past few months, I have performed three weddings. It is still an absolute joy. I am truly humbled whenever a couple contacts me to help them, as they begin the great adventure we call ‘being married.’
I still pray that 50 years later, despite the tragedies that life might occasion on their lives, that they are still together, celebrating a lifetime filled with memories of joy and love.
After all, being married is supposed to be about just that … joy and love.
Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.