Town clerk performs Londonderry's first civil marriage ceremony in 'at least' 20 years

Union Leader Correspondent
June 02. 2014 8:49PM
Newlyweds William Walker and Brigitte Ellis pose for a snapshot with Londonderry Town Clerk Sherry Farrell after exchanging vows on Town Common Sunday morning. Town officials are working to extend the option of town clerk-officiated marriage ceremonies for couples across the region. (COURTESY)

LONDONDERRY — On Sunday morning, Town Clerk Sherry Farrell performed what is believed to have been the town’s first civil marriage ceremony in recent history.

Held under the trees on Londonderry Town Common, Farrell joined Brigitte Ellis and William Walker in matrimony.

Farrell said that according to town records, a civil marriage ceremony hasn’t been performed in Londonderry in “at least 20 years, probably longer.”

She met the couple several weeks ago, when they came to Town Hall to get their marriage license and, much to her delight, Farrell realized Ellis was one of her former students from her days as a career education teacher at Londonderry High School.

“We hadn’t seen each other in many years,” said Farrell, who informed that blushing bride-to-be that getting married by the town clerk was now an option to consider.

“It was an honor to be part of something so lovely and beautiful,” she added.

Noting that requests for a civil marriage services had been expressed by some of her constituents in recent months, Farrell, who obtained her Justice of the Peace license shortly after being elected this past spring, recently approached Town Manager Kevin Smith and the Londonderry Town Council to explore options for encouraging more couples to marry locally.

“Our residents have been asking for it, so it makes sense for us to offer it,” Farrell said.

Since Sunday’s ceremony, she said another couple had already called to inquire about getting married this Friday.

For a $50 fee, couples can get married at the location of their choice around town, including at their home, or they can get married at Town Hall if they wish. Farrell said her schedule is pretty flexible and will allow her to accommodate most reasonable requests.

Kirby Wade, executive assistant for Town Manager Kevin Smith, said a town ordinance taking an official stance on town employee-performed marriages and permanently set the fee at $50, was being reviewed by the Londonderry Town Council this week and is expected to pass at the June 16 meeting.

Town officials said offering civil marriage services makes sense for everyone, as it’s not only an appealing option for couples, but a means of earning a revenue for the town: something neighboring communities have already figured out.

Nashua City Clerk Paul Bergeron said his office performs about 120 civil marriage ceremonies each year.

The city began offering civil marriage services in 2008 at the request of Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, Bergeron said.

In Nashua, all civil marriages are conducted at City Hall during regular business hours. Couples pay a $25 fee.

“We try to accommodate everyone,” Bergeron said.

In Bedford, very few couples opt to get married at Town Hall, according to Town Clerk Lori Radke.

Radke says she typically marries “about four couples each year.”

The town of Bedford doesn’t charge a fee for such services, but marriages are only performed in the town chambers.

“If someone comes in and they’re desperate, we’re licensed and we’re more than happy to help them out,” Radke says. “But more often, I’ll try and refer them to one of the Justices of the Peace here in town.”

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