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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Nov. 24, 2014

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In Living

Jane Wiedlin - aka Reverend Sister Go-Go - performs a commitment ceremony.

Non-traditional wedding officiants provide personalized ceremonies


Couples who prefer a non-traditional officiant to assist in the tying of their knot don't have to look very far to find one. In fact, anyone in their lives who is willing to assume the role can do so. Although many people get "certified" via the Internet, the law does not require it.

Derek Mosley is the Chief Judge of the Municipal Court and he has performed more than 100 weddings in the almost 10 years he has served in his position. According to Mosley, a person does not need any official certificate to marry and a couple doesn't even need an officiant at all. (Quaker weddings, for example, usually do not have officiants).

"The parties themselves – husband and wife – are authorized to be officiating persons," says Mosley. "By mutual declarations that they take each other as husband and wife, in accordance with the customs, rules and regulations of any religious sect to which either of the parties may belong."

It costs $250 to hire Mosley to conduct a wedding ceremony, and he is available for all types of weddings, from large to intimate affairs. Mosley says he enjoys witnessing how different cultures and races handle marriage. He also appreciates the celebratory nature of nuptial exchange.

"I enjoy performing weddings because it's a much needed break from many of the depressing things we see every day as judges. I enjoy being a part of the happiest day of many people's lives," he says. "Nothing gives me more joy than running into someone who either attended or were a part of a wedding I performed and hear them talk about how memorable the ceremony was to them. That's the ultimate compliment."

Jane Wiedlin, the former guitar player for The Go-Go's, officiates weddings under the name "Reverend Sister Go-Go." Wiedlin, who lived in Manitowoc, West Allis, Waukesha and up until two years ago, Madison, currently lives in California. She will fly anywhere in the world to perform a wedding.

Wiedlin started performing weddings during the brief time same-sex marriage was legal in California. When the law was repealed, she continued to perform weddings for both gay and straight couples.

"It's a good fit for me. I'm a romantic at heart. I enjoy public speaking. And I love a good party," she says.

Wiedlin, who became an officiant via the Internet-based Universal Life Church, writes a personalized ceremony for each couple based on telephone conversations.

She has three packages available: a gold service for $1,500; a platinum service for $2,500 which includes her attendance at the rehearsal dinner and a double-platinum service that includes her attendance at the rehearsal and a four-song jam session at the reception with the wedding band, for $4,000. (Prices do not include Wiedlin's airfare and lodging).

"It's different and fun," says Wiedlin.

When Anna Spankowski's brother was getting married in 2005, he asked her, as a joke, to marry him and his fiancee.

"Our dad was a pastor and I used to play wedding with my brother and marry him off to what ever little girl would oblige. He thought it would be cool if I did it for real this time. I just hopped online and was ordained by the Universal Life Church," she says.

Spankowski has done 11 weddings so far and has four more scheduled for this year. She does mostly non-denominational weddings and commitment ceremonies. With the couple's input and assistance, Spankowski writes each ceremony from scratch.

"What's nice about weddings these days is that anything goes. Most people like to stay fairly traditional, but there are all sorts of things you can do to make the ceremony your own. There are sand ceremonies, hand fasting, family vows for couples with children, all kinds of different traditional practices from around the world that can be incorporated into it," says Spankowski.

"You can also make up your own things. I like to joke that if a couple wanted to have a Star Trek Klingon wedding I'd learn Klingon."

Spankowski charges $275-$300 per wedding, depending on how far she is traveling. (Contact her at a.spankowski@att.net for more information about her wedding services.)

Debbie Baran, a 58-year-old retired employee of the Children's Outing Association, enjoys officiating weddings and she performs them for friends and family for free, except for $105 for the marriage license and her travel expenses.

Baran performs the ceremony based on what the couple provides, but infuses it with her own brand of humor.

"I like doing it. People are happy and there is lots of good energy. Who wouldn't want to be part of that? Of course, I have never had a bride or groom-zilla," she says.

Milwaukee's Paul Finger has provided some extraordinarily unique - and personalized – ceremonies which included pop tarts, blindfolds, flaming hoops and, once, a coffin that the bride and groom stepped into that was then set on fire.

"I have fun with it," he says.

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