Memorable events cost more

Sussex County Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance that tacks a fee onto marriage ceremonies through the county’s Clerk of the Peace office. George Parish, the county’s eccentric Clerk of the Peace, who performs the ceremonies and reportedly denies all gratuity offers, said the new ordinance will charge for a popular service and save taxpayers’ money.

“It is ethically, morally and legally wrong for an elected official to accept tips or any other compensation,” Parish said Tuesday. “Those funds belong to the Sussex County treasury to save property owners’ money.”

The cost for a marriage license for non-Delaware residents will go up $20 to $50 through the ordinance, while the $30 charge for in-state residents and the $10 copy charge will remain the same.

Costs for the marriage ceremonies themselves, which were formerly free, were the focus of the new ordinance approved Tuesday. “Memorable marriage ceremonies” in the Clerk of the Peace office for Delaware residents will now cost $20 and the county will charge $25 for ceremonies performed outside of the office. Those ceremonies will cost non-Delaware residents $50. Renewal-of-vow ceremonies follow the same fee schedule. The fees will take effect on Sept. 1 and raise $11,000 to $13,000 annually, according to Sussex County Administrator Dave Baker. Parish’s ordinance was a popular one Tuesday, with no one offering any opposition.

“I campaigned on the fact that I would not accept tips,” said Parish, who has been in office since 2004. “This money belongs in the Sussex County treasury.”

Parish, who offers his popular “memorable marriage ceremony” 24 hours a day, seven days a week, roamed Sussex County’s administrative building on Tuesday, selling the ceremonies he has popularized through his unmatched energy in his four years in office. Single visitors were all “memorable marriage” candidates and married couples were all perfect for the vow-renewal service, despite their ages or how long they have been married.

Parish said he performed 474 ceremonies in 2006.