The reason many couples choose to elope is because they are on a budget. The bottom line matters. One of the very first weddings I performed was for a couple that had called several times. They had obviously been calling around trying to find anyone to marry them. She said "We've got gas in the van, but no money in our pockets." It was back when you could still get married at the courthouse and they couldn't afford that either. At that time, I had no money of my own to invest in my business so it was all about my time. My kids were still little so I was a full time stay at home mom. I was a part time wedding officiant with a free listing on a wedding website that doesn't even come up anymore in a Google search. I figured I wasn't losing anything by marrying them so I told them if they could get to my house, I'd marry them. It wasn't even my gas money.
Back when I started, I had no money of my own to invest so I could do things for free in order to just get the experience. Back when you could still get married at the Marion County Clerk, the marriage license process was also a lot longer. Couples were issued a long form license where they needed to fill out all the information by hand. Today, all that is done online. Some couples on a budget didn't read and write english well enough to fill that information out and I had to do it. That first couple didn't want to touch it. They were truly afraid of messing it up. That legal document scared them. They definitely weren't afraid of marriage, just the paperwork. I think it was dyslexia.
Wanting to get married on a budget is an interesting subject. I'm a full time wedding officiant now. I have my own money invested in my business. I pay for my website and for all the advertising to get my website on page one on Google. I still have a lot of time invested in the upkeep on my website and just answering phone calls and emails. I'm a mobile wedding officiant service so I don't pay for an office but I do have to pay for the gas to get me to a wedding. I spend a lot of time on my business. It's my full time job, so my personal income and family income is based on the weddings I perform and how much I earn from them. The woman who called me up and said "We've got gas in the van but no money in our pockets" has always stuck with me so I've always maintained a very low cost wedding for that purpose. I can help people on a budget. I can also marry a lot of people on a budget and that adds up too.
Just because I may offer budget prices doesn't mean that everyone who chooses the budget option is on a budget. There were plenty of couples who got married in my
house for $50 just because it was a nice option. They could come on a weekend or evening, at their convenience, and have a pleasant interaction and get married. Other couples would show up at my house and take over like they'd rented it like a venue for their purpose. Other couples considered me a reverend opening up my home to their family on the occasion of their wedding and took their own.... sweet....time. Obviously, that had to stop.
For some couples, learning that I'd marry them for $50, would try to see just how much they could get for that $50. They were fixated in only paying that price. If I was kind to one couple and reduced even that rate, other people would hear about it and try to see just how far down they could haggle. People call up and lie about their dying grandparents and blah blah blah.... And then, there is a dying grandparent and you end up performing a wedding in an empty conference room on the cancer wing of a hospital. They really didn't have the money but they scraped up the fee so I'd come there. No, I didn't take their money that day, but I just want to illustrate what I'm dealing with. People call with lines like "Reverend Victoria ma'am, we would be so blessed to have you marry us, I feel like God has let us to you..." And then their lies and stories get deeper and they show up hours late for an appointment with more stories they make up. No one should have to pay for kindness with actual money, it should go without saying, and that goes both ways.
Being a wedding officiant in Indianapolis has obviously become a business. Everyone needs to find someone to marry them. Most of the prices have really leveled out now. The market is saturated with people with a website wanting to make a buck performing weddings. There was a time, when they first stopped marrying couples at the courthouse, when businesses closest to the Marion County Clerk would charge $150 Monday through Thursday to perform a wedding and then the prices would double to $300 on Friday! At that time, my $50 Quickie in Fishers became really popular and couples respected my price in contrast to such outrageous rates.
The government is not making money performing weddings in the courthouse. No one knows why they stopped marrying couples at the courthouse, it but I could imagine the time it took to schedule and perform the weddings was costing more time and wages paid to their employees and use of office space then they were taking in. The magistrate in Hamilton County will marry you in the courthouse. You need to make an appointment and it costs $80. In comparison, I have options to marry you for the same or even less than that. I also have options that cost more and have always cost more for the services being rendered. It's not just the signing of a license and speaking a few words, it's time
to get to the appointment, gas for the appointment the risk taken driving into a sketchy neighborhood or out in the middle of nowhere where even Google Maps can't find you.
For years, I took payment on delivery. I believed in the goodness of people and the fact I'd get paid at the end. I have married so many great couples! Considering how many people I've married, problem payments don't even register statistically. But you know who you are, don't you? Push that envelope as far as it will go. I know that sounds mean, but it's true, and people who are familiar with the hustle know. I know I talk endlessly about how I'm a professional business and I'm performing just a legal service with my lowest priced $50 and $60 weddings. Love for the person you are marrying, respect for the institution of marriage or the sanctity of being an ordained minister have little to do with it, it's business. But you still have to stop and look at the big picture. I might be able to look and you and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are getting married for a green card and I should charge you MORE money, but I don't. Because I don't know for sure and I actually enjoy meeting you, marrying you and listening to your story.
I finally decided to start scheduling online requiring payment in full when you schedule your appointment a year ago. It wasn't until I finally made the decision that I realized just how stressful collecting payments had become. It is so much easier going to a wedding or an appointment and just doing the job and leaving. Once, a bride tried to haggle the price she was paying and I'd driven almost two hours to get to her rehearsal and again for her wedding the next day! Really? Going from nice, reverendly wedding officiant to business person in a moment leaves a bad taste in my mouth in comparison to the love a wedding is supposed to celebrate. You actually can't really lose by making a payment online. I use PayPal as my payment processor and they have dispute rights. They will fight for a customer that has been wronged. In the case of an emergency, or even a change of heart, I always give the money back immediately. The only cases where I don't is for couples who know they are making a non-refundable deposit on a big wedding or for couples who schedule and then reschedule and then reschedule and then want their money back when they decide not to get married. I think that's happened twice in 8 years.
There is one statement that's been made several times and it's this, "If you can't afford to get married, maybe you shouldn't." Maybe you have other things you should be worrying about instead of entering into the legal contract of marriage. It's highly unlikely you are waiting until you are married in order to consummate the marriage. I'm 99% sure you already live together. If common law marriage was still recognized, you'd qualify. If
you can't afford $60 for someone to sign your marriage license you might want to reconsider your priorities.
Look at it this way... if the courthouse used to charge $80 to perform a marriage on top of the cost of the license, I can do it for less. The license costs $18 for Indiana residents. I can meet you right by the Marion County Clerk and sign your license for $60. A certified copy of the marriage license is $2. In comparison, my budget wedding services are saving you money. For $80, I'll perform a romantic elopement on Monument Circle! For $120 I'll perform a romantic ceremony on Indy's Canal Walk, or as the sun sets over the White River or the plaza in front of the Indiana War Memorial. You can have a lovely wedding on a budget. You can have the romantic elopement you dream of and you can afford it.