There are a lot of wedding officiants in Indianapolis who have capitalized on the fact you can't get married at the courthouse. They started wedding officiant businesses to make money. I have a very successful wedding officiant business but that's because I was in the right place at the right time when they stopped marrying couples in the courthouse. I was a wedding officiant building my business before that. I have a tendency to be long winded so I'm trying to write more direct blog posts answering certain questions and telling my stories - here is the short version as why I became a wedding officiant:
I actually became an ordained minister back in 2002, before I had kids and when we were still living in Delaware. I was working for an online internet bank in customer service. It was a slow Saturday morning and I was checking my old AOL email account. I received an email that said, "You too can become an ordained minister! You can marry people, you can bury people, baptize people, do naming ceremonies...." It didn't say that exactly, but that's how I read it. It was a funny sales pitch and me and my co-workers were laughing about it for a while. I thought being a wedding officiant would be a great job. So I printed out the application, filled it out and took it home, wrote a check and mailed it in. A few weeks later, I was an ordained minister! I think it's a funny part of the story that I actually had to mail the application and write a check. Now, you can do it online, immediately, and for free.
It wasn't just a joke when I became ordained. I've spent my whole life on the pursuit of religious happiness, experiencing many faiths and backgrounds. The point of actually offering such an easy ordination isn't just so you can marry couples. It has to do with the freedom of religion. Organizations like the Universal Life Church will ordain you so you can practice any religion you want under their church umbrella. They are a legitimate religious organization. They just don't require you to get a masters of divinity and attend their seminary. I LOVE that! I'm a big believer in being self taught and finding ways to educate yourself the best way for you. At the time, getting ordained was kind of like part of my journey into faith, a silly piece of paper gave me something to show for it. It seemed like a pretty good investment for $19.99.
I did the research about how to legally marry couples in Delaware, where we were living at the time. Then, work got busy and I was no longer bored, so I didn't think much about it. Fast forward six years. We were living in Indiana and I had a kindergartner and a toddler. Our credit cards were maxed out and I needed a job. But, my husband worked all the time so I had to be creative. I had no job to go back to in Indiana and since my husband works so much, putting my kids in daycare was not an option for us. I remembered I was ordained and found out I could marry couples in Indiana. I took out a free ad and created a free website and my career as a wedding officiant began! My neighbor would watch our kids in the beginning, as I got busier, the boys would hang out in my husbands office, when I was really busy, we hired a babysitter on Saturday's. Marry Me In Indy! is really a homegrown, family business.
I have a really good reason for wanting to be able to marry couples. I had an awful experience with our parish priest when we getting married. I attended an Episcopal church with my family my entire childhood. I was extremely active in the church throughout my teenage years and my early 20's. I was always going to get married in this church. Going to church was a very big part of my life. Nothing else really crossed my mind other then a simple, romantic, courthouse elopement. I met my husband when he was in the US on a J-1 Student Visa. We were working in the same hotel. He was a cook and I was a pastry cook. I always say his visa expired and we didn't. So, I moved to Germany with him. We got married, he got a green card and we moved back to the US. In almost every other country in the world, you MUST be married by a government official. They have a complete separation of church and state. It is normal to get married in the courthouse on a Friday and then have a church wedding on Saturday if you are religious. If you are not religious, you might wait a year to have a wedding ceremony or just have a party for friends and family instead.
Traditionally, in Germany, you get married in the courthouse, have a huge, drunken party for the village and then, the next morning, have a formal church wedding and small reception just for family and very close friends. It seemed obvious to us that we'd get legally married in Germany and then have a traditional church wedding and reception back in Delaware, where I grew up. My mom was busy reserving our venue, reserving the date at the church, everything that needs to be done as far enough ahead of time as possible when having a church wedding and formal reception. We decided on a Sunday during the Christmas holidays. It was perfect. The church was decorated for Christmas, my husband's family was off during the holidays and was able to book a vacation to the US for the wedding.
When we returned to the US we went to talk with the priest. He then declared that we were already married and he would not allow us to have another wedding. Yes, if we were actually married in Germany, the church would not acknowledge our marriage due to the separation of church and state, however, in the US, they do. We could have a marriage blessing. He literally made this up, drawing from fact and creating his own fiction. He insisted on proof-reading the invitations to make sure it said "blessing" on it. He wouldn't let my father walk me down the aisle and he would not allow me to wear white and he actually said "because you are no longer a virgin!" I don't look good in white so I'd already purchased an off-white, tea-length dress, but STILL!! We wanted to exchange our vows in German and English and the priest insisted on proof-reading the translation to make sure we weren't somehow pulling one over on him in another language..... Apparently his college German was good enough for this. He still made us do premarital counseling, although we were already "married." There was no actual reason for any of this. Other Episcopalians get married in other countries and have their church weddings later in the US with no problem. My mother hosted a female Episcopal priest while she was in town for a conference and she said her brother did the same thing and she married them in the church when they moved back to the US. This particular priest was just extremely power hungry so he was flexing any power he could muster up.
So, why didn't I just find another place to get married? Why didn't I just stand up to him? It was really too late. We just went with it, and it really wasn't that big of a deal. Looking at the whole situation, the priest was, and is an honest to goodness megalomaniac. He has a history of tearing churches and congregations apart instead of unifying them. The Episcopal Church is generally very liberal. They ordain women and the LGBTQ community. They had a woman bishop. I literally remember my father opening a bottle of sparkling wine the day the first female bishop was ordained to celebrate not only the new bishop, but the fact she was a woman. This particular priest moved on to become a bishop who retaliated against the church when they began ordaining gay bishops. He led a crusade to separate from the church over the issue of gay bishops. Finally, the church had to remind him that they own the church building, the property and pay his salary so that wasn't going to work. The church finally did separate themselves from him and he went on to work for the much more conservative worldwide Anglican Church. He left a lot of division and hurting in his wake.
The day of my wedding, the priest actually had the nerve to say to me during the receiving line "too bad we couldn't have done this the right way and all gone to Germany for the wedding." He was probably upset he didn't get a free vacation in Germany, as if! He got absolutely shit-faced drunk at the reception, like falling over drunk and was extremely belligerent. I didn't go back to that church after the wedding. Maybe a year later, friends got married in the church and had their reception in the church hall. He didn't officiate their wedding, another priest did, but he did show up and walk through and get a free drink. As he walked by me he had the nerve to say "Well Victoria, we haven't seen you in church in quite a while, not since your marriage blessing, too bad we couldn't do it the right way, like this..."
So, based on all of this, pregnant? Wanna wear white? Come on over! Let's get married! Gay? Transgender? Not sure? Come on over, let's get married!!! Got married in an other country? Want another wedding? Come on over. In between churches? Interfaith? Atheist? No problem! Marry Me In Indy! Marrying anyone, any way they want to be married!!
One of my very first large, formal weddings was a couple that had reached the point of desperate. They weren't getting married in a church, so they had options. The groom's childhood pastor was going to marry them but when they were going through counseling, the bride decided it just wasn't going to work for her. There was no way this man was going to marry them. I was very happy to provide that option for them. I've married hundreds of gay couples and plenty of pregnant women, some were dressed in white and absolutely glowing! I regularly marry couples that are already married and others that need to get married for their visa. Green card weddings, K-1 visa's. No judgement. Wanna pray? Let's pray? Don't wanna pray? No worries!
Adventures of a wedding officiant! Stories about my experiences as a wedding officiant in Indy.