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Wedding Clergy Business In The News St Louis Post Dispatch Article

WEDDING SERVICES OFFER SIMPLE "I DO'S"
More couples opt for quick, less costly nuptials, giving rise to growing niche for Wedding Officiants.

Author: GAIL APPLESON Of the Post-Dispatch Edition:

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MARRIAGE; OFFICIAL; WEDDING INDUSTRY; FAD; CLERGY


When pilot Larry Brown and his flight attendant wife decided to take early retirement a few years ago, they wanted to start a business they could run from their St. Charles home that wouldn't tie them down. So they started a wedding business. Not the planning, invitations, catering or flowers kind. But the marrying kind. "We were looking for an upbeat, positive situation," he said. Both got ordained. They also brought in a 25-year-old ordained associate. "If I have a couple that wants someone younger, that's an option," Brown said. They started marrying couples about a year ago and average about four or five weddingceremonies a month. Brown said he's flexible on fees, but they run about $250 per ceremony plus $150 for a rehearsal. The Browns are part of a growing niche of husband-wife teams, individuals and groups that sell their services as 24/7, nondenominational Wedding Officiants. While there are no statistics tracking the growth of these businesses, wedding industry experts say they have witnessed significant increases in the number of Wedding Officiants promoting their services over the Internet, in newspapers and other publications. "We have seen the number of Wedding Officiants almost quadruple since 2002," said Alan Berg, vice president of sales for the Knot regional wedding Web sites and magazines. "We had 63 in 2002 and now we have almost 250." The Knot is a leading wedding media and services company. Its Web site, www.theknot.com, is one of the most trafficked wedding destinations on line. The wedding ceremony section of the Greater St. Louis Yellow Pages hosts ads for such businesses as All-Couples Married, Always Open Wedding and Marriage Service, Anyplace Wedding Services, Anywhere Wedding Ceremonies and Can-A-Lope Wedding Officiants.
"A GROWING NICHE" Wedding Officiants are ! definitely a growing niche," said Kara Corridan, executive editor of Modern Bride in New York City. While Gallup polls measuring church and synagogue membership show no significant drop in the last five years, wedding industry experts say the officiant business is taking off because of interfaith couples and those who do not belong to a church or synagogue. Robin Clark of Maryland Heights, who recently married Shane Butler, is an example. "We're not members of a church," Clark said. "But I didn't want to go to a judge. I wanted a minister." Donyel Lorick of University City, who recently married Jermaine Thomas, also said the couple did not belong to a church but looked for a Wedding Officiant who was a trained minister. Both brides consulted the Yellow Pages and found the Rev. Darrell Faires of Anywhere Wedding Ceremonies. Robert "Rev. Bob" Barker of All-Couples Married, a Richmond Heights Wedding Officiants business, said many couples don't have time to belong to a congregation. "Among almost all of our couples both ! work," he said. "These days no one has ttime for anything.".
SECOND WEDDINGS John Armengol Jr., president of operations at Andre's Banquet Facilities, said the area's large Catholic population leads couples to find Wedding Officiants, particularly in the case of second weddings when a spouse-to-be is divorced. Some Wedding Officiants say business also is getting a boost from military personnel who want to get married quickly before being sent to Iraq. Price and flexibility can also be factors. In the St. Louis area, Wedding Officiants fees tend to range from about $50 to $350, with additional costs for rehearsals and travel. Most will perform wedding ceremonies just about anywhere -- from their own backyards to Busch Stadium. "You have an unlimited choice of locations wherever imagination leads for you to share this important moment," reads the Web site for All-Couples Married, made up of three semiretired Wedding Ministers. But the message continues: "Important Notice: The officiant will not jump from airplanes -- the bones don't work like they used to, besides it is sometimes hard to hear with a parachute flapping." Barker, who actually performed a ceremony at Busch Stadium, said Internet advertising and word-of-mouth keep the three Wedding Officiants booked, with each performing about 100-150 weddings a year.

"It is a growing business in every community," said the president of the National Association of Wedding Officiants. The organization was formed about five years ago as a way for officiants and clergy to post their services on the Internet. It has about 200 members listed on its Web site, nawoonline.com. Couples can review Wedding Clergy backgrounds on the Web site and comment about the services they receive. Christine Isaak, director of sales and marketing at the Falls Reception and Conference Center, a popular wedding venue in Columbia, Ill., said she is receiving calls from Wedding Officiants asking to be put on the center's referral list. And Andre's Banquet Facilities, a 25-year-old St. Louis-area business providing five different banquet facilities and a range of wedding services, is seeing a rise in requests for the use of its two staff Wedding Officiants, Armengol said. He said officiants have conducted 135 wedding ceremonies in the current fiscal year, compared with 85 the same period last year. The banquet facilities are in Oakville, Fenton, Festus, Richmond Heights and Sunset Hills. Wedding Clergy offer couples the means to fashion a customized ceremony, said Marlene Bricker, a Chesterfield independent Religious Science minister who has been performing weddings for more than five years. She offers four different ceremonies, including one using a clear glass heart that she fills with yellow glass symbolizing friendship and red glass symbolizing passion. She said the clearness of the heart symbolizes the clarity of balance between the two.

Jeffrey DeBlase, a Wedding Officiant in Sparta, MO., who a year ago began running the Can-A-Lope Web site, www.canalopeweddings.com, also stressed the ability of Wedding Officiants to serve couples who want something different. DeBlase, who said the Lord suggested the name Can-A-Lope to him while he was praying, has about 125 Wedding Officiants listed on his site. He recalled one ceremony in which the bride and groom insisted that their dog be the ring bearer at a backyard wedding. DeBlase was worried, but the couple assured him there would be no problems. But during the service, a canine guest got the ring bearer's attention. "The dog had the rings tied on a ribbon around his neck, and he just took off," DeBlase said. "Yeah, he was trained all right."

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