If you’re looking to get married in the courthouse, don’t expect an employee at the clerk’s office to officiate.
That service is getting harder and harder to find in counties across central Indiana.
The Johnson County clerk’s office still issues marriage licenses, but the staff no longer will perform the marriage ceremonies. That changed last fall, when Clerk Susie Misiniec decided to drop the service because her staff has a limited amount of time during the day.
Johnson County is one of six counties in central Indiana, including Marion County, that stopped offering that service in the past six years. Now, only Boone and Hamilton counties perform wedding ceremonies at the clerk’s office.
The key issue is staffing, county officials said.
The clerk’s office handles many tasks, including marriage licenses, divorce paperwork, voter registration, election duties and keeping records for all court cases and search warrants in the county. Clerks do not have to provide marriage services under state law, and it is up to each county to determine whether to perform ceremonies.
In order to have time to prepare for next year’s election and do all their other duties, the Johnson County clerk’s office decided to cut officiating from their services since it is not mandatory, Misiniec said.
Performing wedding ceremonies was one of the more enjoyable duties of the office, Misiniec said. She hated to end the service, but with only five employees to get tasks done — and fewer when people are on vacations — it was too taxing to fit in ceremonies, she said. Employees in the clerk’s office could officiate a maximum of three weddings per day, which could take from 15 to 45 minutes each.
With the presidential election in 2016, the clerk’s office will be busier, preparing to serve a large turnout, Misiniec said. She said she wanted residents to be used to the change now, instead of waiting until next year.
“I really feel it’s going to be pretty overwhelming,” she said.
Now, if someone is looking for someone to perform a marriage ceremony, employees share a list of religious and community leaders who can officiate, Misiniec said.
Marion and Hendricks counties stopped performing marriage ceremonies within the past three years due to their small staff size.
Like Johnson County, the Marion County clerk stopped performing ceremonies Jan. 1 to prepare for next year’s presidential election, deputy director Russell Hollis said.
Hendricks County stopped the service in 2009 or 2010, and when Clerk Debbie Hoskins took office in 2012, she continued that decision. With a smaller staff to complete daily jobs, there are not enough employees to officiate weddings, she said.
Shelby County’s clerk decided to end the service in 2011 because she didn’t feel right officiating someone’s wedding. Other county officials, like judges in the courthouse, can and should perform marriage ceremonies instead of the clerk, Shelby County Clerk Vicki Franklin said.
“Just because I’m the clerk, that doesn’t qualify me to marry people,” Franklin said.
City employees, including mayors and clerk-treasurers, are legally able to perform marriage ceremonies, but Franklin and Greenwood officials choose not to offer that service.
In the 15 years that Franklin Clerk-Treasurer Janet Alexander has been in office, she has performed four ceremonies. Two marriages ended in divorce, and in another, the husband left his wife the night they were married, Alexander said. After that, she decided she no longer needed to officiate weddings.
Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness and Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers both said they are out of the office too often to have the time to perform marriages. Neither mayor offers to marry any resident, but Myers has officiated two: one for a city employee, and his niece’s wedding last month. McGuinness has never performed a wedding ceremony.
Johnson County’s clerk of the courts decided to no longer perform wedding ceremonies. Other central Indiana counties already have ended that service.
Here’s a look at eight central Indiana counties’ clerk offices:
Boone County: Still performs marriage ceremonies
Hamilton County: Still performs marriage ceremonies
Hancock County: Stopped performing them Jan. 1, 2014
Hendricks County: Stopped performing them in 2009 or 2010
Johnson County: Stopped performing them in August or September
Marion County: Stopped performing them Jan. 1
Morgan County: Stopped performing them within the past year
Shelby County: Stopped performing them in 2011