One of my goals is to share the experience and knowledge I’ve gained after leading close to 2000 beach weddings and vow renewals along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, so I want to provide you the added benefit of planning help without any additional cost to my officiating fee.
I realize that your wedding plans may be centered around a vacation or may just be low-cost alternative to a family controlled wedding event at home or you’re finally breathing above water from a divorce or you’ve just arrived at that age when foo foo dazzle do do is just that.
I understand. I am a big advocate of do-it-yourself, and always available to you to answer any planning questions that come up as you’re counting down to your big day!
If you don’t find your answer on this page, please contact me and let me know what you are thinking and wanting and I’ll be happy to help. You can also use the “Search Keywords” form below by typing in a topic and getting results from all pages here at this website.
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15 F.A.Q. in Detail…
- Officiating Fees?
- Ceremony Vows & Order?
- Vow Renewals?
- Marriage License?
- Premarital Counseling?
- Sunset Times?
- Best Start Time?
- Where at Beach?
- Sand Ceremony?
- Blended Family Ideas?
- Video Helps & Beach Tours
- Communion Service?
- Finding an Officiant?
30 F.A.Q. in Overview…
Q: If you are unavailable can you give a recommendation on another minister?
A: Yes, I do know a few clergyman who may be available to officiate and I will gladly give you a recommendation if I am not able to help. I can only refer you to church ordained Christian ministers, and not an “online officiant” because of legal risks concerning the use of internet officiants.
Q: Do you require a deposit ?
A: No. I do not require any deposits, but I simply ask that if you need to cancel you will email me that you have had a change in plans, so I can have a change of plans, too. It’s no problem on my end.
Q: Do you return the marriage license?
A: Yes, unless you prefer to do it yourself. Usually the clerk at the courthouse will say, Hand the license to the minister. The filing of your marriage license is a customary courtesy for the minister to take care of after the ceremony, unless you need to keep it with you for traveling purposes or simply prefer to return yourself, then I’ll sign it when I arrive for the ceremony.
The marriage license gives me the legal authority to officiate your marriage. In legal terms that is called “solemnizing” the marriage. As I understand it, the marriage is legal from the point of that ceremony, although there may be more legally technical stuff on that, which was never covered in seminary. My point is, once I officiate your wedding ceremony it is legally a marriage. Here are some things to know about the handling of the marriage license from this point…
- The marriage license is required by law to be returned to the courthouse where it was purchased. That means that if you call later and say you made a mistake and shouldn’t have gotten married, I can not tear the marriage license up and pretend that the wedding never happened. If you buy a license and do not get married, the courthouse will mail you a letter asking for the license.
- When the marriage license is signed and thereby solemnized by myself (or any minister for that matter) and returned to the courthouse, they log that into their computers and issue you a “Certificate of Marriage.” It is this certificate that is your legal proof of marriage for any purposes needed like name change, insurance, drivers license, etc.. Most courthouses will mail that you, but some will print it out immediately if you return to them in person.
- If you need to keep the marriage license to return yourself, I will gladly sign it for you after the ceremony. I know military needs to keep the signed license to show a CO and some times employees need to show their HR. Some courthouses in Alabama and Florida will immediately print out the Certificate of Marriage for you if you return the license in person, but you need to ask when you get the license.
- If I keep the marriage license to return it, I will tell you that if you have not received your “Certificate of Marriage” within 2 weeks, to call the courthouse. Sometimes they get behind during busy wedding months. Calling in 2 weeks also gives you a head start getting a lost license replaced.
- If you are getting married in Mississippi you will receive the certificate with the marriage license and I will need to sign that and leave that with you. As I understand it, Mississippi residents need additional certificates for social security changes and will need to order additional certificates from the courthouse at an $11 charge, but ask about that when you go get the license.
- If the marriage license gets lost in the mail, which it has on 3 occasions when I personally mailed it back and on 1 occasion when a couple kept the license from their beach wedding and mailed to the courthouse upon returning home, do not panic. The courthouse will reissue the license. (4 lost marriage licenses out of 1500+ is pretty good odds, though all 4 involved the same courthouse.) The courthouse will mail you a reissued marriage license with instructions for bride and groom to re-sign, then to mail to me to re-sign, then I will return it the courthouse. If it is with one of our two local area courthouses I will personally return it and pay the $15 re-issuance fee for you, the the courthouse will mail you the Certificate of Marriage with the original wedding date.
Q: What do you provide for the wedding officiating fees?
A: First and foremost, I provide the peace of mind and assurance that I will be there and provide the officiating service, as an ordained vocational pastor, which will make your wedding ceremony legal, dignified, and relaxed. The officiating fee is for my time, and there is certainly no extra fees from me for adding anything like a sand ceremony or whatever you may may want to include. I will even be happy to take a few photos with your camera while I’m there, no cost.
When you book me to officiate your wedding, the fee secures your wedding time in my schedule and gives me reason to not book any other appointments in my calendar. That of course means I sign your marriage license, which makes it legal, plus it includes no additional costs for any planning assistance, answers for your planning questions, vendor help, premarital counseling, relationship help resources, and pastoral availability after the wedding.
We haven’t gotten into arch, chairs, or other decoration services because they require permits and are generally more suitable for large formal beach weddings situated on private property.
Q: We have been to the courthouse and have a state certificate of marriage, but we want a religious wedding ceremony, will you do that?
A: Yes. I frequently will officiate for couples in this situation and most times parents or family are unaware of the courthouse wedding.
Q: Do you offer any type of photography?
A: Yes, I am always happy to take photos with your camera or smartphone at no additional cost or bring one of my children with me, who can take photos on their professional camera for a small fee. Please visit the Photography page for details.
Q: When do we pay you?
A: Most couples pay me after I arrive and when they also hand me the marriage license. Immediately after the ceremony is fine, too. I’m OK with cash, check, or if you need to use a credit card I have a PayPal link at my Online Payment page. If you prefer to write a check please make it payable to “Steve Durkac.”
Q: Do you require a tip, too?
A: No. I realize that other officiants ask or hint about giving a tip in addition to the fee, but I do not.
Q: How do I start planning for a beach wedding?
A: If you surf around my website you’ll find some helpful information about planning your wedding, especially by visiting the location pages under the “1) Check Availability” menu and by scrolling down this FAQ page. Deciding on the location is probably the starting point, because at the beach lodging can be determined by its availability and seasonal price increases. So once you decide that you’ll be able to work out the other details, like securing lodging, marriage license information, etc.
Q: Do you require premarital counseling?
A: I do not require premarital counseling before I’ll officiate a wedding, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in it. Please visit my Premarital Counseling page to learn more about your options.
Q: Do you officiate formal church or hall weddings?
A: Yes, and I simply book them through the process of booking me for a beach wedding.
Q: Do you wear a coat and tie?
A: For formal weddings at a church or hall, but not at the beach or outdoor ceremony. I have officiating hundreds of formal weddings in various settings, with simply a solid color beach-style shirt, so if you want me to wear my coat and tie, please ask that upfront before you book me.
Q: Do you set-up any kind of wedding arch?
A: I do not provide any kind of wedding arch, but you are welcome to bring your own or rent one. I just don’t provide it myself because of the extra time required to set-up and fight with the beach winds. Plus, if I did, I could not be be flexible in location, because you would have to come to my established beach spot for the wedding. The wind is usually strong at the beach and it can become a pain, unless you have a way to securely tie it down.
Q: What do you wear for a beach wedding?
A: I usually wear a solid color beach shirt and khaki pants or sometimes I wear a pattern style beach shirt and dark slacks. Some days I have multiple weddings and I try to wear something neutral to not clash with whatever color schemes you’re using. If you have a special color request, just ask me. I do not wear a coat and tie on the beach, and rarely anywhere else.
Q: What about size of my wedding guest or wedding party?
A: Wedding party size or number of guests, from just the couple to 100 plus guests, are fine with me and have no bearing on my honorariums…unless you want me to wear a tie.
Q: What about Vow Renewals?
A: My vow renewal ceremony is identical to my wedding ceremony, worded slightly different, but the same effort, time, and words. I will gladly officiate a vow renewal as long as there is no conflicts with my personal biblical convictions regarding God’s work of creation as defining marriage as one-man and one-women. I do not need to see your previous Certificate of Marriage. I will provide you with a Keepsake Vow Renewal Certificate. Couples who have used me for their Vow Renewal service have remarked that it certainly was more than expected and perfect for their celebration. Please visit the testimonial page for more information.
Q: Will you officiate same-sex ceremonies?
A: No. Marriage, as I believe, is defined by Scripture, given to humanity as the living representation of the image of our Creator, a model of the heavenly union between Christ and believers, providing the character sanctifying relational dynamics of commitment with one different from the other, and the ideal of perpetuating the human family through the ability to procreate and parent through that context of the complete image of God defined as mother and father, husband and wife, male and female.
As the pastor of CrossHope Chapel Church I am in willful agreement with the Doctrines of our Church and am willing bound by our Statement on Marriage and Sexuality and therefore I do refrain from officiating same-sex unions, vow renewals, commitment ceremonies, wedding services, or gay marriage celebrations.
I believe all people, regardless of sexual orientation, have civil rights, and are equally children of the human family. I do not condone prejudice, accusations, or abuse against homosexuals, and I advocate respect and non-discrimination on behalf of such, through relationship experiences of gay family and friends and in general. I also believe in equal respect and non-discrimination in regard to opposing advocacy and the religious liberty First Amendment civil rights and constitutional protection of Evangelical Christian convictions.
Q: What if it rains the day of my beach wedding?
A: Normally rain comes to the beach in flashes and short periods of time. However, there are times when we get long periods of rains, and on those days, if we can’t get a break in the rain, most hotels and condo’s allow plan B’s to move it inside, but you would have to check with your location.
There are 2 good locations with public gazebos that are ideal for holding the ceremony under to avoid the rain. One is just west of the corner of Hwy 59 and Beach Blvd. and the other is across the Orange Beach Perdido bridge at the Florida Point Park.
Q: What about hurricanes?
A: Normally the hotels and condo’s will cancel reservations and evacuate all guests. The good news is that we get a few days warning on hurricanes, so watch the weather reports. In the past I have had weddings rescheduled and moved ahead in time to beat the hurricane.Usually when a hurricane is heading toward South Alabama, my family and I evacuate early with my wife’s company. We would just need to communicate if one is in the Gulf and your wedding day is nearing.
Q: What if I need to cancel?
A: No problem. All I ask is that I you call or email me. I won’t ask why or stay awake all night wondering how I am going to feed our pet y vow renewal
Q: Can I return the marriage license afterwards?
A: Military couples need to take a copy of the signed marriage license back the base, so they usually return by mail. There is no law against the couple returning it back to the courthouse and if you wish to, just tell me. Then, in about two weeks, you will receive the official Certificate of Marriage in the mail from the county clerk. Some counties require a separate order to be placed in order to receive your Certificate of Marriage. The Certificate of Marriage is what you will need to change your name on documents.
Q: What area of the beach are we allowed to use for our wedding?
A: All public areas of the beach are available to be used for performing a wedding. If you are staying at a beach side condo or hotel, you are allowed to use those private areas of the beach. Visit the Gulf Shores, Alabama page to learn more. In 2012, the state started requiring wedding permits for some areas of the state parks.
Q: What if we want to have our own vows ?
A: I have standard modified traditional vows or will welcome the use of your own personalized vows. That is your personal choice.
Q: What is is your ceremony like?
A: Please visit my Ceremony Overview page to get an idea of the flow of my traditional ceremony. I will add other features at the request of couples, such as special music, poems, scripture readings, unity candles, sand ceremony, stone throwing, some unique ethnic features, children inclusions, prayer of blended families, and various other things.
Q: Do you require pre-marital counseling ?
A: No. My pre-marital counseling services are optional and offered separate according to relationship challenges. If you are interested, I offer you both a Love Language assessment test at no cost which will help you understand how to best love your mate after the wedding. Just ask me about it.
Q: Are internet ordained officiants legal?
A: The answer is “yes” and “no.” One legal source for church matters stated that “Online acquired ordination is illegal in 11 states.” According to an Alabama Probate Court official, I was told that ordination online is legal by the letter of law, but not by the spirit of law, and was at best “dubious” and subject to judicial ruling. In other words, should a couple or their family find themselves in court over inheritance or mortgage issues as had happened in various states, an online ordained minister can make the marriage invalid, as had also happened. The United States Supreme Court has said in a January 11, 2012 ruling that the title of minister “does not automatically ensure coverage” and in the Cramer vs Commonwealth decision against an online ordained minister’s claim of legal credentials, that a minister is one who has met a set of criteria of standards, achieved necessary education to that recognition, and is in regular meaningful worship participation with that church congregation. So is it fine to have an online ordained minister officiate your wedding ceremony? Probably, if you don’t end up in court over it.
Kaplin Stewart Law Firm: https://www.kaplaw.com/CM/PDF/MC-Calternativeservice.pdf
Q: Can we meet you in advance , even if we are not interested in pre-marital coaching?
A: Yes. If you are near or in Mobile, Alabama. Just know that the beach is about an hour and half drive for me. So it is the equivalent of a half days’ work for me. We certainly can talk over the phone as often as you may have questions.
Q: What about attending the wedding rehearsal?
A: Please visit my Rehearsal? page to learn about no-cost help. Scheduling is the biggest challenge for me when it comes to wedding rehearsals. Often times I have a wedding scheduled, an event schedule, or family plans. If I can’t make your wedding rehearsal, I will gladly be available by phone to answer any questions or to point out the issues that would involve me at the rehearsal. During the ceremony I will coach the couple along in the ceremony, but here are some issues to think about:
- Bride’s entrance. If someone is walking the bride down, I just need to know if they want or are willing for me to say “Who gives this bride away.” And if someone is walking down the bride, they need to know to stop about 6 to 10 feet before more, in order to give the groom enough walking space to actually go and get his bride.
- Vows. If there is no preference, the majority of couples go with traditional vows with the bride and groom merely answer “I do.” But you can write your own or have the “Dr. Seuss Vows.”
- Vows. Also, you both will need to decide how you want to stand during the vows. You can remain standing facing the minister, turn to face each other, or slight turn toward each other but yet still toward the minister. Also, will you hold hands during the vows?
- Exit. After the minister pronounces you husband and wife and introduces you both as such, you will just need to know where or if you are going to exit or have friends and family come up to greet you in the front or or in the back.
Q: What are the Alabama laws for license, etc?
A: You must purchase your marriage license at any Alabama county courthouse, in order to be married in Alabama. The license is good for 30 days, only. To learn more, please visit my Marriage License Information page or click on this link: www.usmarriagelaws.com