A few facts about Tamara Jones: In 2007 she became the youngest Marriage Commissioner in Albertan history. She has performed over 1,600 weddings since the summer of 2007. She had her dream wedding at the age of 31. She believes that weddings should be fun (since they ARE a celebration after all). Her heart still melts whenever she sees a proud father walking his daughter down the aisle. She once married a couple in front of the KISS tour bus, with witnesses in full costume. And most importantly, she loves what she does.
With a short planning period, for their wedding, Tamara and her husband didn’t end up booking their Marriage Commissioner (MC) until six months before their big day, “which left us with slim pickings,” Tamara said, “as you should try to book at least nine months before your wedding day.”
The MC they hired was quite wonderful when they met initially, but on rehearsal was quite strict and they didn’t really hit it off. Although the ceremony ended up being lovely, Tamara calls this experience her AHA! Moment. “I thought, hey…this is something I could really do. So I applied with Alberta Vital Statistics (you must be appointed through the Minister) and two years later, I had the opportunity to interview. I was so nervous and I remember them saying that I had met all of the criteria, but that I was so young. In that moment I was so proud, yet scared. Thankfully they didn’t turn me down and here I am over 1,000 weddings later.”
K: What are some things a couple should look for when hiring/interviewing a marriage commissioner?
T: This is really important – so important that I post interview questions on my website. Main thing though is that you feel comfortable with the person and know that they will do a GREAT job. Go with your gut instinct. Make sure she/he understands your Marriage ceremony vision and is comfortable with making it happen. If yellow flags come up when you are speaking to them – it probably isn’t a good fit.
K: How many times do you usually meet with a couple before the wedding?
T: Usually it’s only one meeting, but I always communicate to my couples that they are welcome to contact me before the Ceremony as well as afterwards (regarding paperwork, name change, etc). I strive to provide a high level of customer service (my old WestJet days …going above and beyond really stuck with me).
K: What is the usual price range for a marriage commissioner?
T: I know it varies and I have heard of some charging $475 (not including rehearsal). My fee is $350 plus $175 for rehearsal. I feel quite comfortable with my price point, as I spend a lot of time with couples including the initial interview, emails, phone calls, Skype if it’s needed to finalize Ceremony, travel time to and from the Marriage Ceremony, performing the Marriage Ceremony and don’t forget the paperwork. For a Destination Ceremony (legal paperwork before or after the wedding day) my fee is $240.
K: Do you allow customized ceremonies where couples write their own vows, or add their own traditions?
T: Absolutely and I encourage couples to do so, but only if they are up to it, as it is their day – they may wish to keep their Ceremony very traditional – as long as the couple is happy.
K: Do you have any advice for people who are writing their own vows?
T: Write from the heart – try and keep them clear and concise – remember you have to say them out loud and in front of family members. If couples are too shy to say their vows aloud, I encourage them to perhaps write a love letter to one another and have them delivered the morning of the wedding. I also offer to review the vows beforehand to ensure they are balanced (if the couple will be saying reading them at the Ceremony).
K: Where is the most interesting place you have married a couple?
T: Well there have been quite a few! I really should write them down, but the ones that come to mind are a ceremony along a river where the only way to get there was via Quad. Another interesting one was when the Processional came in on 3 combines (a large grain harvesting machine) – very very cool. I have married a couple in a gay night club, and one on a live feed from a private box at a Calgary Flames game – the Marriage Ceremony was during the intermissions on the jumbo screen. I have even married a couple in front of the KISS tour bus at the Saddledome with the witnesses dressed up in KISS memorabilia.
K: Now we’ve heard why you became an MC (your AHA! moment), tell us why you enjoy it so much? T: At the end of the day I love what I do and it is an honour to be the youngest MC in Albertan history. It is wonderful to get to know the families that I marry – when they invite me back to marry other people within the family and when couples refer me to others, it really is quite humbling. And let me tell you…every-time a Bride comes down the aisle with her Dad….my heart melts (I am still a girl!) and when you see me turn around for a moment or place my portfolio in front of my face for a brief moment…I am trying to get myself composed (get it together T!) as Dad’s are so proud of their daughters and reminds me of my Dad and how proud he was of me when he walked me down the aisle…gets me everytime.