FAQ’s About Marriage for Same-Sex Couples

I am so proud of Washington State since we passed Referendum 74, allowing same-sex couples to marry in our state.  I have had the honor and pleasure of officiating dozens of same-sex weddings since December 6, 2012 when this referendum passed.  I realize that those of you coming from in and out-of-state may have some questions around this subject, and I put together a list below of common questions and answers that I hope will help.

Questions and Answers: Marriage for Same-Sex Couples

1. Where do couples apply for marriage licenses?

Couples can obtain a marriage license from any county, usually at the county auditor.  They do not have to obtain their marriage license from the county where they reside or the county where they plan to have the marriage ceremony.  Follow this link to obtain information about county offices that issue marriage licenses:

2.  What if I am coming from out-of-state?  How do I apply for my marriage license?

You can apply for your marriage license by mail.  You will need to go to the King County Marriage License website and download the PDF Marriage License application.   You will then need to take the application to a licensed notary (banks usually staff a licensed notary) and have your signatures notarized after you complete the form.  You will need proper photo I.D. to have your signatures notarized.  Next, you will send the form with a cashier’s check or money order in the amount of $64 to:

King County Marriage Licensing
King County Administration Building
500 Fourth Ave., Suite 311
Seattle, WA 98104

If an application is mailed, the marriage license must be picked up at this location, it will not be mailed.  Office hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., except holidays.  (Please note, I am happy to pick up your marriage license for you at the courthouse with a 48-hour notice.)

3.   How long do I have to wait before I can use the marriage license?

Washington law requires all couples to wait three days after applying for their marriage license before having their marriage ceremony.  So if a couple receives their marriage license on December 6, they will have to wait until December 9 to get married.

4.   Is there a fee to apply for the marriage license?

Yes.  The fee varies by county.  In King County, the fee is currently $64.   Cash or checks are accepted.

5. Can same-sex couples marry in Washington if they live in another state?

Yes.  There is no residency requirement to marry in Washington.  However, out-of-state couples should be advised that their marriage may not be recognized in their home state if their state does not permit same-sex couples to marry.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions about marriage for same-sex couples in Washington State.  I would love to be your officiant!

Winter Wedding at the Salish Lodge

Last night wrapped up my 2012 wedding season, and the wedding was nothing short of remarkable.  I love small, intimate weddings that feel cozy and warm.  Michael and Dana’s winter wedding included only immediate family and was held in the Cliffside Room overlooking the falls at the Salish Lodge and Spa.

Winter wedding Salish Lodge, Elaine Way, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Nondenominational minister

This room is perfect for small gatherings and has tons of potential for decorating.  Elizabeth Hikida of Elizabeth Designs provided the flowers, which were lovely.

Winter wedding Salish Lodge, Elaine Way, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Nondenominational minister

My favorite detail?  The cake!  It was lovely with it’s bling and finishing touch of sprinkles that resembled fresh snow.

Winter wedding Salish Lodge, Elaine Way, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Nondenominational minister

Michael and Dana are on their way to Marrakesh, Morocco for their honeymoon.  Congratulations Michael and Dana….your journey has just begun!

Winter wedding Salish Lodge, Elaine Way, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Nondenominational minister

Getting Your Name Changed After Marriage

Now that you know how to get your marriage license application completed and get your marriage license at the courthouse (Getting Your Marriage License Made Easy), it’s time to talk about getting your name changed.  To get your name changed with the DMV, passport office, work insurance, etc. you must present a certified copy of your marriage license.  This process is even easier than getting your license.  I explain the steps in my consultations, but I also go over it again the day of your wedding.  A lot can happen between our consultation and your wedding day; months go by, paperwork gets misplaced, etc.  This is why I revisit this topic as we are signing your marriage license after the ceremony.

The first thing you need to know is that not all brides decide to change their last name. I would estimate that approximately 90% of my brides change their names to their husband’s last name. The choice to change your last name or keep it is entirely up to you and there is no law that says you have to change it. I had one bride tell me that she was the last one in her family with her father’s name and wanted to continue his legacy, and therefore decided to keep her maiden name.   You also have the option of hyphenating your last name with your husbands.  But again, you can keep your last name if you wish.

The form below is included in the marriage packet you will pick up at the courthouse.  It is very straightforward with the exception of a few things.  First take a look at the form and then read on below.

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You will fill this form out and send it in 10 days after your wedding day.  By the way, you have up to a year to send this form in, so there is no rush.  For example, you can take care of  this after you return from your honeymoon. 

It’s important to know that the courthouse gets especially busy in the summer months and they need to receive your marriage license before they can process your certified copy request.  It’s up to your officiant to forward the marriage license to the courthouse after the wedding.  I take care of this either the same day or the very next business day after the wedding.  If you are in a hurry to get your certified copy you can go to the courthouse with your completed marriage license and pick up your certified copy in person.  Only one of you has to go.

Filling out the certified copy request is fairly straight forward:

  1. Address:  Enter the address where you want your certified copies mailed.  It is acceptable to use your parent’s address if you are in the military and move around a lot or are in some other kind of transition.
  2. E-mail: Either of your e-mails is acceptable.
  3. License Application Number: This number is found on the back of your “pretty” copy called “Certificate of Marriage”.  As a courtesy, I usually write this information down for my couples because there is too much going on at the moment of signing the documents to try to remember where that little number is.
  4. Groom’s Name: Groom, write your full legal name.
  5. Bride’s Name:  THIS IS IMPORTANT-BRIDES, WRITE DOWN YOUR MAIDEN NAME OR THE NAME YOU USED WHEN YOU APPLIED FOR YOUR LICENSE.  In other words, don’t write down your new married name.
  6. Date of Marriage:  I usually fill this in for the couple as well.
  7. Number of Certified copies:  I recommend 3-5 copies.  They are only $3.00 per copy so you may as well stock up.
  8. Finally, you will send a check that equals the number of copies you are ordering (5 copies = $15.00) to the address at the bottom of the form.

You will receive your certified copies in approximately two weeks; longer if it’s the middle of summer as the marriage licensing office gets swamped with paperwork this time of year.

Once you receive your certified copies of your marriage license, it’s time get started changing your name!  I hope this information was helpful.   I welcome your questions or comments!

Getting Your Marriage License Made Easy

One of the very first things that I discuss with couples in my consultations is the marriage license.  You can’t get married without one unless you are having a commitment ceremony or a vow renewal.   Signing a marriage license on your wedding day with your officiant and two witnesses is what makes your marriage legal.  I spend a lot of time on this subject because it can seem complicated, but it is one of the most important components of getting married — besides hiring a licensed officiant — and needs to be addressed.

I am going to share with you just how easy the paperwork can be in two easy steps.  Let’s begin with the marriage license application.

Step 1:  Marriage License Application

Depending on which county you live in, both the bride and groom will need to go to the county courthouse in your area (Snohomish, King, Pierce) to fill out your marriage license application.  The reason both of you have to be there is because your signatures need to be notarized by the county clerk.  This will require providing proper identification (driver’s license, passport) to the clerk and then he/she will stamp the application notarized.  You can do this Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Note: The application fee is $67.00 cash/money order/cashier’s check/personal checks/credit cards are accepted.

If for some reason both of you cannot get the time off from work to go to the courthouse, you can go to your local bank and get your application notarized.  The benefit of having your signatures notarized by your bank is that only one of you will have to go to the courthouse to pick up your marriage license packet. (Note: Your bank may charge a small fee for notarizing your document.)  This method will require downloading the form shown below from one of the county courthouse websites and bringing it with you to the bank.    The example below is from the King County Courthouse and can be downloaded at this link: King County Courthouse.

King county marriage application, seattle wedding officiants, elaine way, seattle wedding, nondenominational minister

Step 2: Marriage License

After you fill out your marriage license application, have it notarized (either by the county clerk or your bank notary) and pay the county clerk the $67 at one of the county courthouses, you will be given your marriage license packet.   The marriage license packet includes these items:

  • Marriage License (legal document)
  • Marriage Certificate (what is sometimes referred to as the “pretty” copy and is not a legal document)
  • A form that you will need to fill out if you are changing your name (I will address this process in another post

Here is what your marriage license will look like:

King county marriage application, seattle wedding officiants, elaine way, seattle wedding, nondenominational minister

Now you are ready to get married!  On the day of your wedding the marriage license will be signed and then forwarded back to the county auditor that it came from and will be recorded.  My last bit of important advice:  DON’T FORGET TO BRING YOUR LICENSE TO YOUR WEDDING!

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Last Minute Wedding? I can do it!

The couples I marry contact me with all different lead times for their wedding.  Sometimes I get the inquiry for my services months in advance — in fact I have already booked a wedding for 2013!  And other times I get a phone call from a couple who exclaims, “We want to get married as soon as possible”.  I will then ask, “how soon?”.  And they may answer tomorrow or next week or even next month.  That is what I often refer to as a “last minute wedding”.

A last minute wedding  can be any of the following:

  • You want a small, intimate wedding with just close friends
  • One or both of you have been called on military deployment
  • You eloped and now you want a real ceremony in front of friends and family
  • You want an understated but charming ‘second-time-around’ wedding
  • You need a perfectly planned, short-notice vow renewals ceremony
  • You pulled everything together at the last minute but you forgot to hire an officiant!

Whatever your situation, I can help!  Recently, I officiated a beautiful wedding for a small group of 20 at the Palisades Restaurant’s Magnolia room.  My couple called me a month in advance for what turned out to be a beautifully orchestrated day – with only a month’s planning.

last minute wedding, quick wedding, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Palisades restaurant, magnolia room, Seattle Wedding, Elaine

Last minute wedding, Magnolia Room Palisades Restaurant, Palisades restaurant, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Seattle Wedding, Elaine Way

This weekend I also had the pleasure of officiating a last minute wedding at Gasworks Park.  What an amazing day it was on top of the hill overlooking Lake Union.  The couple even brought their pooch, Bennett!

Last minute wedding, Gasworks park, park wedding, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Elaine Way, quick wedding

last minute wedding, Gasworks park, park wedding, Seattle Wedding, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Elaine Way

There are so many fun and beautiful locations to have your last minute wedding.  I am a native of Seattle and I have many favorites.  Here are just a few recommendations for your last minute wedding:

And don’t forget to check out all the hundreds of Seattle parks:  Each park has it’s own rules and regulations so you will want to make sure to read the fine print.

Call me today (206.406.7919) to help you get started planning your last minute wedding!

Food Truck For Your Wedding Caterer? You Bet!

I was strolling through the grocery store the other day when a magazine cover of Seattle Met (May issue) caught my eye.  The cover’s title said in big blocky letters:  FOOD TRUCKS.  Being the foodie that I am (I know we are all sick of that term but I don’t know what else to call myself), I immediately purchased the magazine.  I was intrigued with what seems to be a new trend in Seattle — moving wheels of goodness.  I went home and read the article with fascination….and here’s what I learned.

Seattle Food Truck, Catering, Seattle Wedding, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Elaine Way

Did you know that there are 143 full service food trucks scattered around our city?  Did you know that in July 2011 the city council adopted legislation that opened up public roadways to food trucks?  Did you know that food trucks serve everything from crepes to BBQ to grass-fed beef burgers piled high with arugula and cambozola slathered with bacon jam?  Me neither…

Seattle Food Trucks, Seattle Catering, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Seattle Wedding, Elaine Way

So what about a food truck for your wedding reception?  I would like to suggest to my audience (engaged couples and couples hoping to be engaged) that we take a moment to think outside of the box.  Picture an outdoor summer wedding at a beautiful Seattle Park, i.e. Coleman Park on the shores of Lake Washington.  It’s post-ceremony and your guests are ready to eat, drink and be “marry.”   In rolls Skillet Street Food to serve up a delicious meal of kale ceasar salad, grilled asparagus and braised Draper Valley chicken.  Really – you ask?  A food truck can prepare a scrumptious meal on the road?  Yes! Yes! Yes!

Seattle Food Truck, catering, Seattle catering, Seattle wedding, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Elaine Way

If you are as intrigued as I was about this new trend of rolling nirvana, please check out Christopher Werner’s entire article in the current issue of Seattle Met: Food Truck City.   This article completely turned my head around about this style of catering that is perfect for an outdoor, indoor or anywhere Seattle wedding!

(Pictures courtesy of Young Lee Photography)

Book Your Officiant Early!

 Wedding ceremony, wedding certificate, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Seattle Wedding, Elaine Way

One of the things that baffles me when talking to brides this time of year is how many of them wait to hire their officiant.  The venue, DJ, caterer and even the menu has been chosen, but the last person on the list to get hired is often the officiant.  I don’t understand why this is.  You can’t get married without an officiant, right?  So why wouldn’t you seek out the person who is going to make your marriage legal early on?

Your officiant is the person who will welcome your guests to your celebration.  Your officiant is the person who is going to say the words you and your guests will remember on your special day.  Your officiant is the person who will keep you calm and your guests engaged during your ceremony.   Your officiant is the person who will take care of the paperwork and make sure your marriage is legal by getting everything recorded at the county auditor’s office.  You may not realize it, but without your officiant you aren’t getting married!

I want to stress to couples that one of the risks you take if you wait until the last minute to hire an officiant for your summer wedding is that many of us — including me — already have “blacked out weekends.”  The later in the summer and the more likely the weather is going to be nice (here in the Northwest anyway) the more likely the dates are going to booked early on.

Planning a wedding is a big deal.  You want everything to be perfect on your wedding day and that includes choosing the right team to support you and make everything special.  Put the officiant at the top of the list — right up there with the venue — and you will have the best chance at finding the perfect person to orchestrate your ceremony.  You are planning the most important day of your life — don’t wait until the last minute and risk hearing the words, “I’m sorry, I’m booked.”

"I'm sorry, I'm booked"

The Show Must Go On

I recently experienced the death of my mother and was inspired to write a little bit about how to “do life” when you are grieving.

Picture yourself in the middle of your wedding planning.  You have your heart set on that special person in your life — whether it’s your father, your mother or an uncle — walking you down the aisle.  Maybe you are expecting a distant relative to travel to your destination to share your joyous event.  Enter life.

We are all on our own journeys with expectations that this or that is going to happen at a particular time.  Life, however, doesn’t work that way.  Even with the best event coordinator money can buy, life has other plans for us.

We must be ready to go with the flow, be strong and bounce back – even when it sucks!

So if you lose a loved one that was supposed to walk you down the aisle or be sitting with your other guests supporting you on your very special day, here are some ideas to honor them in spirit:

1. Wear something that your loved-one wore on their wedding day (for example if the person is your mother), or pin a photo into your dress so they can be with you. You can also place a small photo of your loved on in your bouquet (in a tiny frame), or incorporate it into the ribbon.

2. You can leave a chair empty where the person would have sat at the ceremony and/or reception, out of a sign of respect. Or, a separate chair can be set up to represent theirs, with their photo on the chair.

3. Ask the officiant to say a few words about those who aren’t able to be present in body, but are in spirit. He or she has likely done this before, and can help you with the wording.

4. Write a letter or poem of what you would say to that person on that day. You can read it, have someone else read it, or keep it private.

5. Use flowers or candles in the church to symbolize the loved one(s). You might want to include this in the program, so the guests understand the relevance of the candles or flowers. You may designate someone specific to lay out the flower(s) at a particular time (like carry in a single long-stem rose when they enter the church and lay it up front), or you may light a candle for that person when you light your unity candle.

6. Have a nice photo frame set up at the reception with your loved one’s photo in it. You might also set up a digital photo frame which would rotate through different pictures. This would also work well if you are doing any type of photo “tribute” to the bride and groom, and their lives (from babies up). Include photos of them with their remembered loved ones in the photo rotation or slideshow.

7. Include a short poem, or thought on the program itself, along with who it is in memory of, and list the name(s).

8. Mention them in your wedding toast or speech- but keep it short & sweet, otherwise you’re liable to turn into a blubbering bride!

9. Some brides & grooms will forego buying traditional favors and will instead make a donation to a charity or cause of choice. You could do so for a loved-one, and have a card on the table that states you’ve made a donation to _________ organization, in memory of that person or people.

10. Find out the person’s favorite reading or poem and work it into the ceremony. Or, if they had a favorite song, include this at the reception. Dedicate the dance to them.

Grieving a loved one is tough.  It’s exhausting and real.  Remember that your wedding day is meant to be full of joy and love.  Take some time for grieving — it’s important.  But give your guests what they came for:   A big smile and lots of hugs and kisses.  That’s what your loved one would have wanted for you.

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Customs, Rituals & Traditions: Let Them Eat Cake!

The Wedding Cake

History:  In ancient Rome, marriages were sealed when the groom smashed a barley cake over the bride’s head. (Luckily, tiaras were not fashionable then.) In medieval England, newlyweds smooched over a pile of buns, supposedly ensuring a prosperous future. Unmarried guests sometimes took home a little piece of cake to tuck under their pillow.

By the mid sixteenth century, though, sugar was becoming plentiful in England. The more refined the sugar, the whiter it was. Pure white icing soon became a wedding cake staple. Not only did the color allude to the bride’s virginity, but the whiteness was “a status symbol, a display of the family’s wealth.” Later, tiered cakes, with their cement-like supports of decorative dried icing, also advertised affluence. Formal wedding cakes became bigger and more elaborate through the Victorian age. In 1947, when Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) wed Prince Philip, the cake weighed 500 pounds.  (Carol Wilson, Gastronomica article “Wedding Cake: A Slice of History”.)

Fast forward to 2012 and the sky is the limit as far as what you choose for your wedding cake.  Available in almost any size or shape, color or flavor, wedding cakes can be made as simple or elaborate as you wish.  We are all familiar with Mike’s Amazing Cakes.  Mike will take your vision and create a work of art.  I hope Mike provides cutting instructions for his cakes!

Wedding cake from Mike's Amazing Cakes

While you may not want something fanciful and otherworldly like Mike’s cake above, you most certainly will want something to express a bit of yourself through your wedding cake.   For example, there are the wedding colors to take into consideration.  Will it be practical and attractive to incorporate the lime green, raspberry and taupe colors you have chosen for your wedding theme into your wedding cake design?  Probably.  Think about all the flowers that are available in the summer.  A simple layering of flowers in your wedding colors on the cake could easily bring the wedding cake into the color scheme without appearing out-of-place.  Or maybe you don’t care about incorporating the wedding colors and want to decorate the cake with bling?  Or perhaps colors and bling are not what matter at all and it ends up being a unique design with a cake topper reflecting your new family – including the family dog.  Check out the three examples below:

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And what about the cake, icing and filling flavors?  Depending upon your baker, you will have many choices: white cake, chocolate cake, carrot cake to name just a few.  For icing how about buttercream, cream cheese or fondant?  The filling can be as simple as more buttercream or as seasonal and delicious as fresh raspberry mousse.  Pick flavors that you love but also flavors that your guests will enjoy and remember.

Last, but certainly not least: Cupcakes instead of wedding cake?  Yes!  Cupcakes have most definitely proven that they can take the place of a traditional wedding cake.  If you do choose cupcakes for your wedding, you are faced with the same decisions: design, color, flavor.  One of my favorite ideas is to choose your cupcake and frosting flavor and then create a unique edible decal.  You can read more about this idea in my blog post: “Introducing Ticings: Edible Toppers for your Wedding Cake, Cupcakes or Cookies”.   Here’s an example of a cupcake with an edible decal:

Wedding cupcakes instead of wedding cake

Whatever you choose for your wedding cake, be sure to have fun.  This is a time to be inspired and there are so many wonderful bakeries that are more than willing to meet your expectations.

What kind of cake/cupcakes are you having for your wedding?


Who Should Officiate Your Wedding: Family Member or Professional Officiant?

One of my colleagues recently asked me this question:

“Many of my couples ask me how can a wedding officiant who has only met them once make their wedding personal vs. having a family member do the ceremony who has known them their whole lives? What would you say are the pros and cons?”

Choose an officiant wisely!

Choose your officiant wisely!

Let me begin by saying that having a family member officiate your wedding ceremony is a lovely idea.  Weddings are all about bringing family members and friends together to enjoy a personal moment in a couple’s life.  So it would make sense to invite a family member to tie it all together. Having a family member speak about the couple is something that cannot be duplicated by an officiant.  Many of the guests will know this speaker personally and will naturally look forward to hearing him/her share the couple’s story.  Those are some of the pros.

Here are some of the cons:

  1. What if the family member gets cold feet?  Public speaking isn’t for everyone.  If a family member doesn’t have experience with speaking in front of 150-200 people, chances are they are going to be extremely nervous and might freak out at the last minute.  Make sure your family member is really comfortable with public speaking.
  2. What if the family member has a conflict with the couple’s beliefs?  The couple could want a nondenominational ceremony and the family member could have strong religious beliefs and want to incorporate something to that affect.  Make sure your family member is in agreement with performing a wedding ceremony that complements your religious beliefs.
  3. What if the family member has a conflict that day and can’t make it?  While this day is one of the most important days in a couple’s life, not everyone feels the same way – unfortunately, this includes family members.  This person could be travelling from across the country and decide at the last minute that they cannot afford the trip.  Confirm with your family member at least 4 weeks and then again in 2 weeks that they are still on board.
  4. What if the family member just flakes out?  (I don’t mean to sound pessimistic but I have received many calls from brides frantic because their family member changed their mind at the last minute.)  Families…what can I say?  It happens.
  5. Last but not least, what about the paperwork?  Does your family member understand how to fill out the marriage license, including obtaining witnesses?  Do they know little details such as the fact that the courthouse requests that the marriage certificate be filled out in black ink?  Make sure to go over the wedding packet prior to the ceremony.  Call the courthouse with questions if necessary.

Now let’s take a look at the more commonly used option:  hiring a professionally trained, licensed and ordained minister.  I cannot speak for other officiants, but here are some of the pros of working with me:

  1. The first thing you are going to get when you hire me is a prompt reply to your inquiry.  I pride myself on responding to inquiries usually within one hour.  By the time I have received your contact information that you have filled out via my website, I already have 11 pieces of information about you.  This allows me to begin building an outline of what it is you and your fiancé are searching for in an officiant.
  2. Next I will confirm my availability via e-mail and advise you about how to proceed – a quick phone chat is usually the next step where we set up a free one-hour consultation.
  3.  At the consultation the very first thing I will ask you about is “your story”: how and where you met; how long you have been together; the proposal, etc.  Next we will talk about your vision for your ceremony.  Do you want a non-denominational ceremony; do you want me to read something from the bible; do you want a short ceremony or a long ceremony?    I will then go over all the paperwork involved before, during and after the ceremony: the marriage application; whether you are taking your husband’s last name and the process of obtaining a certified copy so that you can legally change your name; filling out the actual paperwork at the ceremony (witness requirements), etc.
  4. The other element to my consultations is that I not only cover the ceremony portion of the wedding, but I also have a wealth of information about local vendors.  Therefore, if you have any missing links for your wedding, i.e. photographer, caterer, etc. I can refer you to someone I know and trust.
  5. Lastly, I will make myself available before, during and after the ceremony by phone, e-mail, or Skype.  When you hire me you get someone who is committed from beginning to end.  There really is no end to our relationship actually.  I am still in contact with many of my couples as they have their first anniversary or celebrate the birth of their first child.
Wedding packet

Making it Legal!

I can’t really think of any cons.  I guarantee that I will be there and while I do have a caveat in my contract that clearly states that if I get hurt and can’t make it, I have six back-up officiants that I work with all year long.  By the way, I have officiated hundreds of weddings and I have never missed one!

In summary, you do not want to – and shouldn’t have to stress out about your officiant.  Whether it’s a family member or a professional like me, you want to feel comfortable that you have chosen someone you can count on.  You want someone who is knowledgeable about the ceremony process before, during and after the ceremony.  So take the time to make the decision of whether you want Uncle Joe or a licensed and ordained minister who has officiated hundreds of weddings and has all the answers you need to enjoy a seamless ceremony experience!

Please feel free to share your officiant experience in the comment section below!