Couples can now get hitched for just $25 at Old Town’s City Hall, where a clerk will marry them during a short and sweet ceremony.
The city will offer civil wedding ceremonies, open to residents and non-residents, for the first time, it announced last week. It’s a public service the city wanted to offer before the COVID-19 pandemic but decided to wait until it was safer, City Clerk Laura Engstrom said.
The previous clerk worked as a notary to marry couples on her own time, but it was not a service available through the city, Engstrom said.
“The people who ask to get married here often don’t have a lot of money to do a big wedding,” she said. “Many planned to get married before COVID, then it hit and they couldn’t. Now they just want a simple ceremony and to be married, then to have a party.”
While municipal offices across the state offer marriage licenses, which must be applied for in person and are valid for 90 days in Maine, only some will marry a couple during a ceremony. Old Town has joined cities such as Bangor and Portland in offering the service to the public — and for a much more affordable price.
The city clerk’s office in Bangor offers marriage ceremonies by appointment for $200, according to the city’s website, though they are not available during election season. In Portland, ceremonies at the city clerk’s office cost $125 and are limited to six people, including the couple. In Portland’s State of Maine Room, which can be rented, ceremonies cost $300 and up to 50 people are allowed.
“The community seems happy,” Engstrom said. “The few phone calls I took were just inquiring about the process and what needs to be done. They did sound excited that it’s now an option here.”
Ceremonies are available by appointment in Orono for $25, but only to residents. Most other communities surrounding Old Town do not offer marriage ceremonies, though Engstrom is aware of clerks who perform the service separate from municipalities.
The service also provides Old Town a small source of income, which will go into the clerk’s account and likely cover the cost of binding old books containing birth and marriage certificates and other documents, she said.
The ceremonies will be available by appointment during the City Hall’s business hours, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The office allows couples to bring parents, children and other guests, but can only accommodate eight to 10 people, the clerk said. Two witnesses must be present for the marriage, but if a couple doesn’t bring guests, Engstrom will find someone in the building to step in.
One couple from Alton has already scheduled an appointment to be married in early June. Non-residents must obtain marriage licenses in their municipality before they can be married in Old Town.
Although Engstrom has not yet married a couple, she estimated the ceremony will take about 10 minutes. She or a deputy clerk performing the service will rely on a notary handbook, which has basic language without references to gender and religion, she said.
Couples also have the option of reading their own vows, after which a clerk would declare them married. They can choose to skip the ceremony, sign their paperwork and be done, she said.
“We’re trying to decide on a location,” she said, noting an outdoor ceremony is an option. “We could do it in my office, where there’s a big window and it’s really pretty. If there are more than eight people, we’ll probably go out into the lobby and find a spot.”