Just a few minutes ago on Google+ I read a Post that began “Which is better a traditional wedding or Justice of the Peace?” Unfortunately, that Post continues to promote several myths and stereotypes that are outdated (if they were ever true!). This Post will attempt to explain why some perceptions may be no longer accurate. By “traditional” I assume that the writer means a wedding in a church, synagogue, mosque, et cetera; in other words a religion-based ceremony.
First, however, I must state my very strong personal belief: If you and your fiance are religious people and are considering whether to have your wedding in your place of worship, then I urge you to consult with your clergy person. Having a Justice of the Peace as your wedding officiant is not for everyone. I support every person’s right to their own beliefs and would never encourage anyone to choose me over their own religious leader.
Now, the myths: 1. You can have more guests at a traditional wedding. Sorry; no. It has been my honor to officiate at weddings with more than 200 guests. “JP wedding” does not equal “limited guest list”.
2. You can’t have photos, videos, and stories at a JP wedding. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your guests can take pictures, your professional photographer(s) can take stills and video, and there’ll be lots of great stories to tell. In fact, each engaged couple is encouraged to tell their love story (how they met, fell in love, and about the proposal) as part of their wedding ceremony. Professional photographers know how to be invisible, what specific shots you’re going to love, and where to be when.
3. “You and your soulmate are able to dress up and are treated like true [royalty]“. Of course! You must be able to wear what you want to your own wedding. If you are not treated with dignity and respect, you’ve got the wrong officiant! Your wedding day is exactly that: Your wedding day. Whether you want to wear a pair of jeans or a dazzling wedding gown, a tuxedo or shorts, it is your choice.
4. Traditional weddings are very expensive. Well, it depends. Any wedding, traditional or DIY, can be as expensive as you would like it to be. You can usually use your place of worship for a nominal fee, wear clothes you already own, exchange simple rings, have a potluck reception (or food cooked by family), and you’ll spend less than $1,000. On the other hand, you can rent a fancy place, have a orchestra for the ceremony, buy all new clothes that you’ll never wear again, purchase rings for enough money to feed a small nation for a day, have a $250 per person sit-down dinner for 400 guests, and have top of the line entertainment for your reception.
5. “Planning a traditional wedding can be very stressful.” Sure, if you try to do everything yourself, any wedding will be stressful. That’s why you hire a professional officiant, a professional photographer, a professional DJ, …. A professional wedding planner may save you from all stress, and save you money, too. You get what you pay for.
6. Other people (well-meaning friends and family) will try to take over. Another reason to use professionals. We won’t let anyone highjack your planning. My contract says “In the event of a third-party payer, the Couple is solely responsible for making decisions and communicating with the Officiant.” In other words, you are in charge. Other people can offer advice, but your decision is final.
7. “The average cost associated with a JOP ceremony is approximately $XXX.” Justice of the Peace fees vary widely, depending on the services offered, the degree of customization, and years of experience. You can find a JP for $50. The JP may show up, may be sober, and may give you a canned, one-size-fits-all ceremony. Probably not where you want to save a few dollars.
8. “You are only allowed to have 2 witnesses and 2 guests at these ceremonies.” Sorry; simply not true. Connecticut does not require witnesses; I never limit the number of guests, nor does my fee increase if you add 100 extra guests. You receive the same amount of attention and homework whether you are eloping or have 350 guests.
No matter whether you choose a “traditional’ wedding or me as your officiant, I wish you a joy-filled day!