Meet the judge at the altar, not in court

Judge Greg Galler
Guest Columnist

Did you know that many judges regularly perform weddings? Sometimes people think that only religious officials (like pastors, priests, or rabbis) can perform weddings.

Minnesota allows a fairly broad assortment of people to officiate at weddings, including court administrators and retired judges.

Officiating at weddings is one of the more enjoyable things that judges get to do.  It is also a good way for people to see that judges can be friendly, flexible, caring and even humorous individuals.

Unfortunately, most people only see judges in court when life has taken a bad turn. There are very few court cases that involve joyful times. For this reason many people view judges as only being stodgy, exacting and humorless.

Not only do many judges enjoy performing weddings, but there is a real need for judges to do so.

Some couples are of different religions, or simply don’t want a religious wedding. Other times they wish to be married in informal settings like backyards, parks or a VFW hall.

Some religious officials only perform ceremonies in churches and only for those of their faith. Weddings performed by judges tend to be more informal and relaxed, and typically less expensive.

As you might predict, Minnesota law regulates many aspects of weddings. The regulations take up eight pages of Minnesota’s statutes. Rules control how to apply for a wedding license, the ages of people who can get married, the number and age of witnesses, and the manner of taking vows.

While there are no special words or formula for wedding vows, each party must solemnly declare that they agree to take each other as husband and wife.

You probably know that the legal age to marry in Minnesota is 18. However, a person as young as 16 can get married with the consent of their parents (or legal guardians) and with the approval of a district court judge.

Many people are surprised to find out that Minnesota has a five-day waiting period to get married. If you apply for a wedding license, you will not be able to pick it up until five business days have passed. This apparently is designed to make sure that people don’t do anything rash.

Most courthouses keep a list of the judges and retired judges who are willing to perform weddings. Typically a fee is charged for this service.

I will be performing weddings and renewals of weddings vows at this year’s Washington County Fair for free.

Look for the signs and the beautifully decorated area (compliments of Bergmann’s Greenhouse) near the “Fairest Gardens” area. To be married, you must have a valid marriage license (don’t forget the five day waiting period). If you are already married, stop by for a renewal of your wedding vows.

Margot Rheinberger, a Washington County Fair Board Director, is organizing this new event at the fair. Visit the Washington County Fair’s website (or my website) to obtain more information.

I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones at our great county fair.

Judge Galler is chambered in Washington County. If you have a general question about the law or courts for Judge Galler, send your question to the editor of this newspaper. Learn more about Judge Galler, or listen to a podcast of his columns at