About weddings

Can you marry us if we don't live in Madison?

Probably, yes.

If you don’t live near Madison, WI, we can have our wedding planning and premarital counseling meetings via Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangouts.

If you are planning to wed beyond an hour’s drive of Madison, I’ll ask you to cover my mileage costs for the rehearsal and wedding.  If the distance is three hours or more beyond Madison, I’ll ask you to cover travel, lodging, and meal expenses.

Are you a minister?

I am a lay minister, which means that I am not ordained.  Rather, I am authorized by First Unitarian Society to serve as a celebrant for rites of passage ceremonies such as weddings, memorials, and child dedications.  Read more about ordination and religious requirements for officiants here.

Though I call myself a minister, I do not have a religious agenda for your wedding.  I want your wedding ceremony to reflect the values that you and your partner will carry into your marriage.

Are your weddings religious?

Most of the couples I work with want weddings that feed their spirit, honor the traditions they grew up with, and celebrate the traditions they will foster in life together.  The role that religion and religious trappings play — or don’t play — in their wedding ceremony is up to each couple.

I want every couple I work with to have a wedding that feels authentic to them and their guests. If religion is not a significant part of a couple’s relationship and won’t be a big part of a couple’s marriage and family, I don’t recommend that they have a religious wedding. I do want them to make space in their lives to talk about what is important to them, and I want their wedding to reflect the values they will take with them into their marriage.

Can you officiate our wedding at our church?

That’s up to your church.   Call your church office or pastor to find out if a Unitarian Universalist lay minister is welcome to serve as a wedding celebrant there.

Can you co-officiate with my [insert name here]?

Absolutely. I want your wedding ceremony to be wonderful in every way.

Some couples want to honor their families’ faith tradition by designing a ceremony that includes a co-officiant. I have co-officiated with a Muslim imam, a Brahman priest, a Roman Catholic priest, and a Jewish rabbi, to name a few.

I have also co-officiated alongside dads, moms, siblings, and best friends. All I ask is that we be introduced to each other early in our planning, especially if your co-officiant is inexperienced in crafting ceremonies or conducting rehearsals and weddings. You’ll want us to work together.

Read here about different approaches to officiation.

Are you a wedding planner?

No.  A wedding planner’s job is to help you plan for and manage the events surrounding your wedding ceremony, such as working with your venue, caterer, florists, photographers, caterers, bands, DJs, etc.  The Knot’s website has a pretty good description of what wedding planners do, here.

My job as an escort officiant is to help you prepare for a strong, vital marriage, and to work with you to craft a wedding ceremony that celebrates your shared values, hopes, and promises for your future together.  I’m responsible for conducting your wedding rehearsal and your wedding ceremony.

Do we really need a marriage license?

If you want your marriage to be recognized as “legal,” then, yes, you need a marriage license.

You don’t need a marriage license or even a wedding to consider yourself married.  And you can have a wedding without a marriage license.

But there are many state and federal rights afforded to legally married couples that are not enjoyed by those whose marriages are not recognized by the government.  According to Madison Financial Counseling, marital status is a factor in hundreds of federal statutes that affect a family’s financial well-being, from Social Security and taxation to laws about benefits arising from employment and military service, and there are over 1,100 federal rights and at least 300 state protections that aren’t available to Wisconsin families headed by unmarried partners.

What are your legal credentials?

The legal responsibilities of a wedding officiant vary by state.

In Wisconsin, I am legally qualified to officiate weddings as authorized by my Unitarian Universalist congregation at First Unitarian Society. Some states want wedding officiants to show proof of ordination or a letter from an authority stating that they are qualified to perform weddings. I have the papers necessary to serve as an officiant in most states.

In those states whose whose laws require an officiant to register with the state or purchase a license, it’s easy enough to secure those credentials prior to the wedding.  I have legally officiated out-of-state weddings from New York to Hawaii.

What are your legal responsibilities?

The legal responsibilities of an officiant vary by state.

In Wisconsin, my legal duty is to witness your exchange of vows and affirm, with my signature on your marriage license, that I have done so.  (It is the couple’s legal responsibility to apply for a Wisconsin marriage license and bring it to the wedding.)  It is also my job to get your marriage license signed by two other witnesses, and to mail it to the Register of Deeds in the county where the marriage was performed.

About pre-marital counseling

Can you officiate our wedding without premarital counseling?

Your marriage is more important to me than your wedding is.  I will not officiate your wedding unless you first complete premarital counseling, either with me or another reputable counselor such as those trained by an organization such as PREPARE, PREP, RELATE, or the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education.

Can we get pre-marital counseling without officiant services?

Absolutely.  If you have another officiant for your wedding, I will be delighted to work with you prepare for your marriage.

How do we get premarital counseling if we don't live close enough for meetings?

If you don’t live near Madison, WI, we can have our premarital counseling meetings via Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangouts.

Does your pre-marital counseling have a religious agenda?

My approach to pre-marital counseling is to work with couples to prepare them for the successful marriage they want to have — however they define “successful.” The moral principles of my UU faith do inform my work, but my theological beliefs have no bearing on premarital counseling.

Do you offer marriage counseling?

While the PREPARE/ENRICH tool and other resources that I use with couples in pre-marital counseling are helpful for married couples who are looking for a “checkup” in terms of their areas of couple satisfaction / dissatisfaction, I am not a licensed therapist nor marriage counselor.

I approach my work as that of marriage educator.  I’m here to help you strengthen your relationship skills.  If our meetings uncover concerns or issues that call for expertise beyond my training, I will refer you a licensed therapist/counselor.

Are you a therapist?

I am not a licensed therapist.  I am a certified PREPARE/ENRICH facilitator, and my job is that of marriage educator.  I’m here to help you strengthen your relationship skills.  If our meetings uncover concerns or issues that call for expertise beyond my training, I will refer you a licensed therapist/counselor.

Do you accept health insurance?

No.  I am a marriage educator, not a therapist.  What I do with couples does not involve diagnosis or treatment, so it does not qualify as a health-related service.

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