| Special to the Canton Repository
Valentine’s Day: Love, marriage, weddings and a judge.
Many have their own ideas, remembrances and celebrations concerning the first three romantic concepts. It is not typical, however, to associate those concepts with a court.
During a decade of judicial service, I have found enjoyment in performing naturalization ceremonies and weddings in addition to the normal courtroom responsibilities. As a judge in the Canton Municipal Court, I have had the privilege of conducting over 260 weddings. It is to the municipal court judge that Ohio law grants the open and voluntary obligation to conduct wedding ceremonies. Legal authority is in fact, vested in me to declare individuals married.
I always mention the importance of commitment and compromise during times of conflict and calm. And I often catch myself grabbing my own wedding ring during the ceremony. Stephanie Snow Werren and I have been together for 27 years.
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There really is no typical courthouse wedding. It may be just the couple or a large contingent of family and friends. While a downturn happened with COVID and bridal parties were limited, it is now open and who is present is at the wish of the individuals to be wed.
I have had couples come in wearing T-shirts and shorts. Then I have had some where the bride was wearing a really exquisite dress. I have had the family look at me and ask, “Can you tie his tie for him?” and I did. And someone inevitably will say they picked out the bridegroom’s suit.
These weddings are many times short on fanfare and ceremony. Yet, they achieve the same end, a legally recognized union. Often, there are a number of small children in attendance. And, occasionally, I see a parent at the back of the room laughing, crying, taking pictures, or occasionally looking on with cautious optimism.
Some couples are planning a destination wedding but want to have the official ceremony here first. That has happened a number of times.
This year, to help meet demand and add a note of fun and romance, I will be performing weddings all day Valentine’s Day. We will elevate the courthouse experience by providing a backdrop for photo opportunities and light refreshments after the ceremony.
My assistant Rhonda Brady and bailiff Morgan McIntosh will assist to enhance the spirit of the day. Both are familiar with the process as I wed Morgan to Canton police officer Evan McIntosh, and I performed a wedding for Rhonda’s daughter Hannah.
The words of the ceremony remain the same, but, the meaning and impact is up to the newlyweds.
I begin by saying, “For you, out of the routine of ordinary life, the extraordinary has happened. You met each other, fell in love and are finalizing it with your wedding. A good marriage must be created. It is never being too old to hold hands. It’s remembering to say ‘I love you’ every day and it is not just marrying the right person. It’s being the right partner.
“Remember to treat yourselves and each other with respect and remind yourselves often of what brought you together. Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves.
“Stand together yet not too near together for the pillars of the temple stand apart and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
It is a brief ceremony, about five minutes. At the end, I say, “I hold in my hand two rings to be given and received as bonds of never-ending love and devoted friendship, circles of life and circles of love.”
I sign the marriage license, offer congratulations, provide a copy of the vows, take photos with or for the newlyweds, and wish them all the best of luck.
Curt Werren is a judge in Canton Municipal Court.