Saturday, February 15, 2003

Marrying Man: 'Tell 'em I'm back'


Former Kenton Co. magistrate has wedding bells ringing again

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - It was like old times Friday for Steve Hoffman, aka "The Marrying Man," old times being two months ago.

[photo] Molly Dill of Covington, in wedding dress, arrives for her Valentine¹s Day marriage to Kent Campbell, also of Covington, at Stephen Hoffman¹s wedding chapel.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
It was about 11 a.m. Valentine's Day, and outside Hoffman's Court Street wedding chapel, couples were lined up.

"What better day to get married than Valentine's Day," Hoffman, draped in a black judge's robe, said with a smile as he hustled one wedding party out of his small office-turned-chapel and another one in. "It's my busiest day of the year. I'll do 35, 40 weddings today, be here until 9:30 tonight.

"Tell 'em I'm back," Hoffman said as a woman wearing a white wedding gown rushed by him into the chapel.

A former Kenton County magistrate and justice of the peace, Hoffman earned his reputation as The Marrying Man during 13 years in the full-time business of performing weddings. He would hold a service just about anywhere couples wanted to be wed, from the middle of the Roebling Suspension Bridge to a Covington convenience store to the U.S.S. Nightmare haunted house, a service where the entire wedding party - Hoffman included - was decked out as ghouls.

He did weddings broadcast over the Internet, in churches, in rented halls and in his tidy Covington office.

"It's a lot of fun for me, and it's a special day for the people involved," Hoffman explained. "So I try to honor their requests to make it a day they'll never forget."

But last November when he lost his re-election bid, Hoffman also lost his powers to legally perform weddings in Kentucky. The Marrying Man was marrying no more.

Hoffman wasn't about to give up the gig. So he signed on over the Internet as a minister with something called The United Universal Life Church. According to its Web site, the cyber operation is a nondenominational organization where those logging on can "become an ordained minister in just three minutes."

Hoffman signed up - though he still is a member of the Roman Catholic Church - simply so he could continue to perform weddings.

"It wasn't an easy decision," Hoffman said. "I'm a Catholic, so I really had to think this over. But I finally decided that I would do it so I could continue doing what I love while providing a service to people who want me to perform their wedding."

People like Lee Searcy, 24, of Verona, and Jessica Couch, 23, of Highland Heights. They had planned to wait until October, but Searcy, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, is shipping out in a few weeks as part of the military call-up for the looming invasion of Iraq.

Searcy will be stationed at a Marine aviation station in Beaufort, S.C., and figures to be on active duty for about a year.

"We decided to go ahead and do it now," Searcy said. "We're still going to have our big (wedding) service in October. But by getting married now, she can get on my government benefits and come down to South Carolina with me. And we figured what a better day than Valentine's Day?"

Hoffman is performing weddings out of his old magistrate's office across from the Kenton County Courthouse.

He now calls it Steve Hoffman's Wedding Chapel, and he's looking to open a similar operation in downtown Cincinnati.

"This is what I love doing," he said. "I'm just glad I get to keep doing it."

E-mail Patrick Crowley at pcrowley@enquirer.com.




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