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“I didn’t know what, if any fee, was appropriate. So I did it for free,” he said.
In his 15 years as a judge, McShane has officiated at more than 25 ceremonies in jails or prison. Every person has the right to be married, and the law doesn’t preclude somebody who is in prison, he said.
“I’ve seen some pretty moving moments at those ceremonies,” he said. “The things couples say are very loving, thoughtful and moving,” he said.
Marrying an inmate comes with particular challenges, and McShane praised respectfulness shown by sheriff deputies during the ceremony. The inmate stands behind protective glass, and is allowed to hold hands and exchange rings through a 6-inch opening. The ending kiss comes through a small, open circle in the glass used to speak through.
McShane, who made about $8,000 doing 70 weddings last year, once had to tell a couple they were too drunk to get married. Another time the groom passed out cold and the rest of the ceremony was done while he lay on the floor, his family and friend seated next to him.
Moreno said he will sometimes bring his three children to weddings. At holidays, the kids see his wife’s German-Scandinavian relatives and traditions. Going to a Hispanic ceremony, they are connected to his culture, he said.
It’s humbling to walk into an apartment living room, take off your jacket and put on the robe, he said.
“I look at the people and I see my mom and dad, aunts and uncles,” he said.
Moreno worked 60 to 70 hours a week in a packing plant to pay for college. It’s just not possible for kids to do the same anymore, he said.
“I tell my kids I get paid for doing ceremonies,” he said. “I tell them it’s for their college education.”
David Chanen • 612-673-4465