Couples take their commitment to court

Posted: Sunday, July 06, 2003

We are gathered together before these witnesses to join this man and this woman in matrimony, which is an honorable estate, and not in any way to be entered lightly or unadvisedly, but rather, reverently, discreetly and soberly.

Like their formal church cousins, courthouse weddings offer couples the opportunity to avow publicly their love to one another and their promise to remain together in good times and bad, as long as they both shall live.

Courthouse weddings, however, also offer a much more streamlined approach to the same objectives. They're quicker, generally less formal and far less costly than the traditional trip to the altar.

A couple must complete a marriage license application obtained from the court clerk, wait three days and pay a $35 license fee. No blood test is required.

Both the bride and groom must be 18, or have the written consent of their parents. A court order is required if either party is 14 or 15. In Alaska, a person under 14 may not marry for any reason.

James Knodel and Yolandia Rodland, you stand before me in happy anticipation of your marriage which I am about to witness, but before doing so, it is my duty to remind you of the seriousness of the step you are about to take.

As much as each of you shall belong entirely to the other, so much shall your marriage be a success; for I remind you both that the life of love is a life of sacrifice and compromise, sealed with fidelity, kindness, and understanding of the one to the other.

Jim Knodel and Yolandia Rodland recently sealed their partnership to one another at the Kenai Courthouse on Trading Bay Road, taking advantage of fine Alaska weather in June, not unlike couples choosing the first month of summer throughout the rest of the country.

"We've both been previously married," said Rodland now Yolandia Knodel.

"Now, we decided to get married here and elope to the Kenai Princess."

And although the bride wore a formal wedding gown, the simple service was performed in a courtroom by Matt Powell a law school graduate and member of the bar association in Oregon one of two law clerks who serve as marriage commissioners in Kenai. The other is Lisa Thomas, also a law school graduate and member of the Washington state bar.

The ceremony may also be performed by a minister, priest, rabbi, commissioned officer of the Salvation Army, the principal officer or elder of recognized churches or congregations that traditionally do not have regular ministers, priests or rabbis, or a judicial officer of the state such as a judge or some court clerks.

No greater blessing or happiness can come to you than to have this love, which you now publicly avow, grow ever more profound, true and generous, to the very end of your lives together.

As your love for each other becomes more meaningful with the passage of time, the full blessings of the marital estate will be reaped in abundance. May the moment then, when you pronounce the following vows, always shine in your memories, adding splendor to your every triumph and sustaining you in any difficult hours which may lie ahead.

Although a courtroom might appear rigid and staid compared to a church or wedding chapel, a wedding there can be softened with the addition of fresh flowers and witnesses dressed in colorful attire, often suits and gowns that might more expectedly be seen in a church.

Yolandia picked some wild lupine flowers for her bridal bouquet and visited a local store to add some fresh roses. She made matching corsages for her witnesses, Margaret Brewster, Jim's mother, and Pameilia Thomas, a friend.

Will you James, have this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to live together in the state of matrimony; will you love her and honor her in sickness and in health, forsaking all others as long as you both shall live?

Will you Yolandia, have this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to live together in the state of matrimony; will you love him and honor him in sickness and in health, forsaking all others as long as you both shall live?

Ceremonies can be scheduled at the Kenai courthouse by appointment on Thursdays and Fridays between 3 and 4 p.m. Weddings are scheduled in 20-minute intervals. The cost is $25 and two witnesses are required.

Even the $25 fee can be saved if the couple does not choose to have the wedding performed by an officer of the court.

The person selected to perform the wedding ceremony, however, must be at least 18 years old, according to Tootie Keeney in the clerk's office.

I, Jim, take thee, Yolandia, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live.

I, Yolandia, take thee, Jim, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live.

Reasons for having a wedding performed in a courthouse vary. Some couples are from different religious backgrounds and choose the civil ceremony rather than showing preference to one religion over the other.

Some have no religious preferences, but wish to seal their love officially with a marriage ceremony.

Others opt for the courthouse to save money or time, and, as in the case of Jim and Yolandia, they've been previously married and just wanted to have a simple ceremony this time.

Now that James and Yolandia have exchanged marriage vows before me and those present, and have given and pledged fidelity each to the other, under the authority vested in me by the state of Alaska, I now pronounce you husband and wife.

You may kiss the bride.

And, not unlike many more formal church weddings, those words ending this ceremony, brought tears of joy from the eyes of one of the witnesses, and with those words, Mr. and Mrs. Knodel began their new life's journey together.



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