Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Wed-Cam puts live weddings on Web

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

As the ceremony is broadcast over the Web, Kenton County Magistrate Stephen L. J. Hoffman marries Pamela Maertz, 45, of Norwood, and David Walsh, 41, of Loveland, in his Covington office.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        COVINGTON — As he gazed into the tiny camera, David Walsh tried to convince his mother in Orlando, Fla., that she was actually viewing his spur-of-the-moment wedding in Northern Kentucky.

        “I know I've pulled off some elaborate practical jokes before, but this isn't one of them,” the Loveland remodeler said.

        “This is not a setup. It's definitely the real thing,” the 41-year-old groom said, as he hugged his bride in blue jeans.

        Mr. Walsh and fiancee, Pam Maertz of Norwood, have each been married before, and this time opted for a simple ceremony before Justice of the Peace Stephen L.J. Hoffman.

  To access the “Wed-Cam,” go to Mr. Hoffman's Web site at www.stephenljhoffman.com and click on the Wed-Cam link.
  Contact Mr. Hoffman at (859) 292-8883 or email sljhoffman@fuse.net.
        But when Mr. Hoffman — known for performing a wedding just about anywhere and with most any gimmick — offered the couple a free cyberspace wedding, the two eagerly accepted.

        Through Mr. Hoffman's new ""Wed-Cam'' service, couples can put their wedding on live on the Internet. Friends and family who can't make the ceremony simply log onto Mr. Hoffman's Web site at a designated time, and link to his live Wed-Cam to see and hear their loved ones' nuptials.

        Since he started the Wed-Cam service in December, more than 20 couples have used it, said Mr. Hoffman. However, the 12-year justice of the peace will shut off his Wed-Cam if a couple requests privacy.

        Eric Shen of the Cincinnati-based System Support Associates helped Mr. Hoffman design his Web site and set up his live Webcam. Except for Mr. Hoffman, Mr. Shen said he isn't aware of anyone in the Tristate who's providing such a service.

        However, many chapels in Las Vegas, promoted as “the wedding capital of the world,” now advertise Internet weddings on the vegas.com Web site.

        “For some people, it's been like a godsend,” Mr. Hoffman said. “If friends or family can't be at a wedding because they're sick, they have to work or they live too far away, this lets them see and hear the wedding.”

        So far, the Web site has been contacted from all over the country, as well as Brazil and England, Mr. Hoffman said.

        “I had one two weeks ago where a Marine who'd been stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, got married,” Mr. Hoffman said. “His post commander and about half the post logged on and watched it.”

        Although some couples with family in far-off places have asked for the service ahead of time, the Wed-Cam is so new that most couples only learn of it when they visit Mr. Hoffman's office with their marriage license in hand.

        That's how John Peralta, 33, and his fiancee, Nicole Hutchinson, 27, learned of it.

        When the Covington couple visited Mr. Hoffman's office Friday with four family members, the groom's sister called her husband and urged him to log on to Mr. Hoffman's site from his office in Columbus.

        Just before his own ceremony Friday, Mr. Walsh used the Wed-Cam to introduce his mother to her new daughter-in-law.

        The divorced Loveland man met his intended six months ago, when he ran out of gas in the parking lot of the Mason Home Depot store. Ms. Maertz, a 45-year-old store employee, brought him some fuel.

        After a few lunches and dinners and a little dancing, Mr. Walsh decided that his rescuer was Ms. Right.

        “We were going to wait until March, but we just couldn't,” Mr. Walsh said Friday, as he spoke to his mom via Mr. Hoffman's Wed-Cam.

        “Oh, by the way, this is Pam,” he said with a grin. “She's the one I'm marrying.”

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