When you call her number you hear the message “dum dum dee dee… If you want to get married you dialed the right number, we’ll make those arrangements for you…748.7809 or if you want a quickie call my cell at 910.650.7221”
Mallie Murray is a wedding celebrant in the Chester area and she’s been doing her special duties for more than five years. As Valentine’s approaches she takes some time to share reasons people choose to form a civil union and she shares some of her favorite memories of the more than 550 weddings she has performed in that time.
“Mainly, people choose a marriage celebrant because they don’t want to plan a wedding, they might want to marry quickly or they just want to do their own thing,” Murray said.
Murray explains that a civil union is one where a “man and woman, according to State law, want to marry but do not necessarily want to do a religious ceremony.” This can make for any number of interesting weddings. “I can do both — I have done religious and civil,” she shared. She will also do location weddings and travel to destinations unknown to perform a wedding.
More of the calling is for civil unions these days. “Some young people today want to do their own thing, they want their ceremony to be very them — want their wedding their way, after all it is the ME generation,” she smiled.
Murray got started as a celebrant after retiring from a job as a human resource representative for 31 years. “I’m a people person and I wanted to do something to have fun,” she said. “I saw a celebrant and I said “I can do that” and so I went after it.” She said she enjoys meeting new people and it’s a happy occasion so it’s exciting and fun. “It’s always so sweet and lovely — a blissful occasion,” she reflected.
There are only a few celebrants in Chesterfield County and they are hard to find since Chesterfield County stopped providing a list of them at the marriage license office in the summer of 2012.
It’s a lengthy process to become one from having a lawyer prepare a court petition for judges to review and going through an investigation process and background check.
“It’s quite an involved process,” Murray stated. “You must post a cash bond because you are performing a legal process and you must provide written references and go through the courts.”
Her first wedding was a backyard wedding in Enon. She tailors each one to the marriage participants and the setting, and what they want. Murray shared that some are in a hurry.
“Some come from the courthouse to my house,” she said. She has a flowered arch setup in her living room for drop-in weddings and quickies, as she refers to them.
“It’s all about what they want for their wedding. I can provide them with candles and extras or they can have a very short civil ceremony with no candles or extras,” she added. She will even loan them a wedding ring if they don’t have one. The standard civil ceremony fee is $50. That doesn’t include any extras or travel.
She offers to work with a couple and be as involved as they wish. She can do destinations or come on by her house for a couple involved in a hurry. Cindy Solomon-Ramos and her husband Michael were married at Murray’s house in the spring of 2010.
She shared, “We just didn’t want to plan a wedding and this was the most economical way.” She and her husband, Michael, had met in Nicaragua and needed to be married so he could live in America with her. “We ran in after work when we decided; I picked up a wedding dress in Chester and off we went to the marriage celebrant’s house.”
Solomon-Ramos liked that everything was taken care of for them. “It was a very last-minute decision,” she said. “Family and friends had planned a reception for us the next day and we wanted to keep it simple; there was no organizing, just go and celebrate.”
Murray said she’ll do any kind of destination wedding, except she will not jump out a plane. She said one of the most unusual weddings was a Pakistan bride who rode in on an elephant.
Murray said a great number of destinations are backyard weddings during the summer months. She’s travelled all over the state of Virginia and recently did a wedding in Fairfax, Va. She can do weddings at the Dominion Club or the Manakin Mansion — “just whatever they want,” she laughed.
One such wedding was a pool wedding. “The bride wore a white bikini and a short white veil and they were married in the pool,” she shared. Another unusual wedding was to the Raiders of the Lost Ark theme. The ring bearer had the rings tied to a whip.
She also performed a wedding at Pocahontas Park with a gothic bride dancing down the aisle to Crazy by Ozzie Osborne and her father dancing behind her. “In a civil union, you can have anything you want,” Murray said.
She will include any sorts of rituals in the ceremony, including the jumping of the broom, blending of the sands, unity candles, and popular now, is the Latino 13 coins.
“The bride’s family gives 13 silver coins to the groom and then he gives them to the bride in exchange for a trinket box to signify their union of resources and love,” she explained.
Her best Valentine’s story was of a young couple who were to marry at her home. The groom came with 24 red roses, a box of chocolates and a diamond ring. “She didn’t know that he had the ring,” Murray shared. “When it came time for the ring and she saw it she was so happy she fell to her knees.” For Valentine’s, Murray will throw in a red rose and a bottle of champagne to any couples marrying with her on Feb. 14.
Murray always shares the same advice with couples. She calls them her two Cs of marriage. “Comprise and communication are the keys,” Murray said. “Learn the wisdom to compromise and communicate about everything.”
Sage advice from a marriage celebrant, “Do things that say I love you from the 7-11 rose to a backrub, just remember to always look for the best and say I love you every day.”
Marriage celebrant Mallie Murray can be reached at 804-748-7809 or on her cell at 910-650-7221. She has a website at http://marryubymallie.com/ and a Facebook page.