The Complications of Performing Marriages
HADDAM – For a Justice of the Peace the first interview with a couple can resemble an audition.
“When they come to your house, you’re not interviewing them,” Eleanor Tomazewski a Middletown JP said to a captive audience. “You’re on audition; they’re interviewing you.”
Tomazewski, who is 78 shared some tidbits of her 20 years as a JP with about 30 of her fellows at the Annual Conference for the Justices of the Peace at the Haddam Firehouse Saturday. The moral of her tales was simple, have a “thick skin,” she said.
“I really pulled some real boners when I was first learning,” Tomazewski said to the laughing listeners.
JPs can perform weddings, take legal depositions and sometimes are notarize documents, said Saul Haffner of Westport.
There are approximately 6,000 JPs in Connecticut, Haffner estimated. All of them are appointed by their political parties. Each community has an equivalent number of JPs in each party, one-third are Republicans, one-third are Democrats and one-third are Independents.
There is no educational requirement to be a JP in Connecticut, Haffner said. “Oddly, in the state of Connecticut there are no requirements, except that you are a resident and are on the voting list.”
Tomazewski said she has encountered some interesting situations and married some people in unexpected settings, such as a pond with quite a few biting bugs.
“The mosquitoes were so thick everybody was getting eaten alive,” Tomazewski said. Her advise: before getting married beside a pond, spray for bugs.
Of the many lessons Tomazewski said she has learned, a big one is to always take a deposit before booking a date; and never, never give out a copy of a ceremony without first getting that non-refundable payment. Sometimes couples change their minds; if they have not paid something up front they may cut and run with a JPs hard work, which has happened to Tomazewski.
“Never again,” she insisted. “They give me a deposit, I’ll be glad to give you a copy of my ceremony.”
Sometimes writing a ceremony can get a little tricky.
When you marry a man and a woman you usually end the ceremony by pronouncing them man and wife, Haffner said. But civil unions between same sex couples are also legal in Connecticut and when a JP is performing one he can’t say ‘man and wife.’ Haffner has come up with his own declaration for the end of a civil union.
“I’m proud to declare you partners in life, partners for life,” Haffner said he says.
There will be a conference in Newtown Nov. 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and one in Union on Nov. 17 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For more information, including topics of discussion go to http://jpus.org/conferenceregister2007.htm.
See story in Middletown Press here.