(Photo: Public Domain)
A church in Ohio decided to honor Saint Valentine's Day by providing "walk-in weddings" for unmarried couples.
Trinity United Methodist Church of Youngstown married off eight couples and oversaw one vow renewal between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Thursday.
The Rev. Jerry Krueger, pastor at Trinity UMC, told The Christian Post that this was the first year the church had done this for St. Valentine's Day, stemming from an idea Krueger had gotten from a friend from Lubbock, Texas.
"A friend in Lubbock a few years ago mentioned that the justices of the peace at the Lubbock courthouse were swamped with couples wanting to get married on Valentine's Day," said Krueger.
"The judges were so busy with Valentine's Day weddings that they had to stop performing weddings after a while since it impeded their judicial work load."
Krueger explained to CP that Trinity "is located immediately next door to the county courthouse in downtown Youngstown, Ohio, and has a large sanctuary, as well as a chapel that is open to the passerby during the day."
"The weddings were held in The Little Chapel of The Friendly Bells which seats about 80 persons and is beautifully appointed with stained glass, a pipe organ, and is an intimate worship space," said Krueger.
According to Krueger, Trinity got help with some volunteers from nearby Canfield United Methodist Church of Canfield, Ohio, a congregation pastored by his wife.
"The couples were required to have a valid marriage license, proof of identification and bring $50 cash which would benefit each church's food outreach ministries," said Krueger
While the two Methodist churches sent volunteers to oversee the walk-in weddings, some clergy in the area had their reservations about such practices.
Dr. Lewis W. Macklin II, lead pastor at Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church of Youngstown, told The Christian Post that while not specifically criticizing Trinity's walk-in wedding ceremonies, he did take issue with the general concept of "Las Vegas style weddings."
"I have never been one to endorse Las Vegas style weddings in general. It is my belief that the union of two persons require more than a drive by or walk in commitment," said Macklin II.
"I would not perform such services without assurance the couple has received appropriate pre-marital counseling. The church, unlike the world, should not casually embrace the institution of marriage."
Krueger of Trinity UMC told CP that he viewed Thursday's "walk-in wedding" event as being a way to reach out to the broader community.
"The key element is that we reached couples who would not have otherwise have had a church wedding due to budget constraints, were not connected with any church, or were perhaps uncomfortable being in a church, or never thought that they could have a church wedding," said Krueger.
"This was an outreach opportunity to let people know that there is a church located downtown; that church is not about membership but about relationship."
Krueger explained that Trinity United Methodist Church of Youngstown, Ohio, would likely be doing this again next St. Valentine's Day.