Local woman became a wedding officiant to fill a gap

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Shelly Birkelo
Monday, August 12, 2013

JANESVILLE—Couples hurrying to marry before military deployments gave Lori Stottler an idea.

She was just settling into her new job as Rock County Clerk in 2008 and was watching her office staff steer couples toward Rock County Court Commissioner Steve Meyer, who was flooded with requests for marriage ceremonies.

Many of the couples weren't members of a local church or didn't have the time or desire to go through marital counseling or other church requirements, she said.

At the same time, Stottler had a friend planning a wedding, and the friend had learned a person could get ordained online, which piqued Stottler's interest.

"Anybody who knows me well knows I have kicked around pastoring and social work as a career option. I did three years of lay ministries and a lot of self-study Caring for People God's Way type of certification," she said.

So Stottler in June 2009 became an ordained minister through Universal Life Church and immediately married several military couples. She's among more than a dozen area wedding officiants who are not pastors. She usually charges between $100 and $200 per ceremony, according to her website simplywedwisconsin.com.

“It's merely something I fell into to fill a gap. I'm not doing this to make a quick buck or to take away business (from others),” Stottler said.

During the first two years of her ordainment, Stottler 45, Janesville, conducted 40 military weddings. In the past four years, she's officiated at 130 weddings, vow renewals or recommitment ceremonies.

"It just feels so good to be part of that energy of love and happy celebration," she said.

Stottler has conducted ceremonies in backyards, on boats, in parks, at botanical gardens and in restaurants in Rock, Walworth, Jefferson, Green and Dane counties.

Wedding party participants have included a barefoot flower girl, a dog ring bearer, couples arriving and leaving in a horse-drawn buggies and couples arriving by train.

As a wedding officiant, Stottler said she helps couples make their wedding days special.

"I can make recommendations, but I'm not a wedding planner. I do this because it's really something I find completely fulfilling. This is not a business where I'm hoping to get 1,000 phone calls. I'm here to fill a gap for people who can't get a court commissioner, pastor or other wedding officiant. My phone would not be ringing and the emails wouldn't keep coming through if there wasn't a need," she said.

Stottler and her staff at the county clerk's office issue marriage licenses but cannot recommend her as an officiant.

“That would be using my office for profit,” she said.

“We always point people to the court commissioner first then to their home pastor second,” she said.

Vicki Karr, Janesville, hired Stottler to perform her July 27 wedding. She and her fiance had trouble finding someone to marry them. Both were divorced and not a members of any church. They learned of Stottler through another longtime wedding officiant, who wasn't available.

Karr was impressed that Stottler was ordained to help U.S. service men and women marry before they went to serve their country.

“I have a brother I'm close to who served in Iraq twice,” Karr said.

Karr also admires Stottler's marriage of 24 years.

“She was wonderful, open, helpful and polite,” said Karr.

Chelsea (Roehl) Giese of Minnesota hired Stottler to perform her wedding ceremony in July after learning about her through word of mouth and friends.

“I contacted her one day, met with her and there was a really good chemistry between us. She was very open, helpful and catered to us individually,” Giese said.

Giese said she and her husband, Max, are spiritual people but don't attend church.

“We wanted to have that as part of our ceremony, didn't know how to do that, but she did a nice job of making it feel that way, which was something special to us.”

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