District Judge Hanley keeps busy with weddings in Greenfield courtroom
There was no cake, wedding dress, flower girl or ring bearer.
The couple walked in, asked the secretary if they were in the right place, and — following an exchange of rings, a kiss and a few words from District Judge James Hanley Jr. — they were legally bound to each other.
Hanley's office, tucked under an ethnic grocery store off Murray Avenue in Greenfield, presided over 77 marriages last year — more than any other judge in Allegheny County in 2013.
There are many reasons couples opt for a district judge rather than a traditional ceremony, wedding experts and judges said. Some plan to have a reception but are getting married out of expediency; some couples are on their second or third marriages and don't want to make a big to-do. Others use money they would have spent on a wedding as a down payment on a house. Some have destination weddings planned but marry in Pennsylvania to avoid dealing with foreign laws.
Other times, a prospective bride and groom get hitched because of pregnancy or for medical insurance coverage or other legal reasons.
Several couples who agreed to talk about their magistrate weddings declined to be identified, citing “legal reasons” or saying they hadn't yet told their families.
“I don't know why people seem to come to me. I don't know whether it's our location geographically or our placement in the phone book,” said Hanley, a judge for two decades whose usual day includes mediating landlord-tenant disputes and enforcing traffic citations.
“But I like it,” he said of the weddings. “It's nice to have people who actually want to be here.”
Allegheny County issues about 6,000 marriage licenses a year, according to the Department of Court Records, although religious officials officiate most weddings.
“The ceremony is basic. It's kind of simple, but it's one of the best things we do,” said Crafton District Judge Dennis Joyce. “It's better than putting people in jail, that's for sure.”
Kyle Brown, executive director of the Bridal Association of America in Bakersfield, Calif., estimates that roughly 30 percent of couples have small, intimate weddings because of economic reasons. The average cost of an American wedding is $26,000, according to The Wedding Report, a Tucson-based wedding research company.
“It's not that they don't love each other or they weren't going to get married eventually, but that's the reason they're getting married now instead of later,” Brown said. “A lot of times they don't want the world to know they got married for insurance reasons.”
Penn Hills District Judge Leonard Hromyak, who officiated at 62 ceremonies in 2013, said he usually can tell when a couple marries for economic reasons or when “love is in the air.”
“The enthusiasm is better when there's a certain twinkle in their eyes,” said Hromyak, who officiated at nearly 750 marriages since 1999.
Judges recalled stories about couples they have married throughout the years. There was the man who walked out on his bride-to-be but returned a few minutes before taking the plunge. There was a prospective groom left stranded in the waiting room, and a woman who called Hromyak two days after her wedding to ask about annulments.
At a ceremony this month, Hanley asked the couple if they planned to go out afterward. The couple looked at each other and smiled.
“No,” the bride said. “We're just going back to work.”
Adam Brandolph is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-391-0927 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pa. gaming industry’s growth amplifies siren call for addicts
- Little Free Libraries catching on in Pittsburgh region
- Newsmaker: John F. Alcorn
- Woman operating scooter struck by freight train dies in Coraopolis
- Lowly job likely awaits former Pittsburgh police chief after prison
- Motorist arrested for killing Colorado police cadet, injuring training officer
- Mixed-income apartments in flourishing East Liberty applauded
- Feds want to seize cash, property from suspects in drug bust
- Analyst says Pa. senate race leans toward Toomey — because Democrats ‘loathe’ Sestak
- Expert: Penn Hills loan could worsen stability
- Last-minute tweaks under way for Pittsburgh bike share