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Saturday, November 28, 2009


Marriage a family business for Ohio sisters

Marriage a family business for Ohio sisters
11/28/2009 2:15 PM ET  
Anna Sudar

NEWARK, Ohio — Kelly Covert and her three sisters have been to more than 20 weddings this year.But they don't sit with the guests -- they lead the ceremony.

The four sisters from this central Ohio community -- Covert, 49; Lynn Wilson, 53; Jeanne Rian, 41; and Jennifer Felumlee, 40 -- marry dozens of couples in the state each year through their family business, Four Sisters Wedding Officiants.

Although they usually preside over the traditional white wedding, each sister has seen her share of unique ceremonies.

"We can do anything from a small wedding of three to five people in a backyard to a large wedding at The Dawes (Arboretum)," Rian said. "We can go anywhere in Ohio."

The women have conducted ceremonies in a barn, a tattoo parlor and a bowling alley. Covert has led the ceremony at a Halloween wedding and a Harley-Davidson wedding.

"I personally will never jump out of an airplane or do a scuba diving wedding, but other than that, I wouldn't turn anything down," she said.

Born and raised in Newark as the Gartner sisters, the four women always have been close.

"We are together almost every day, and there is never a day when we don't speak," Covert said.

Rian was the first of the sisters to get ordained to perform weddings five years ago.

"There's a lot of people who don't belong to a church and they don't want to join one just to get married," Rian said. "I thought there was a big need here for an alternative."

Her sisters got interested and decided to get ordained as well.

"We are not just sisters, we are best friends," Rian said. "We've always wanted to do something together, and this fits us well."

The sisters got ordained online through the Universal Life Church Monastery in Seattle. They took classes online and received their certification through the governor's office.

Their certifications also allow them to do christenings and funeral services, but weddings are their favorites, Covert said. They can conduct any kind of ceremony, religious or secular, and also do commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples

The sisters travel in pairs to every wedding they do. Although most of them take place in Licking County, they have traveled to Marietta, Akron and Elyria for ceremonies.

"We don't like to say no to anyone; there's always one of us who can do it," Covert said.

Some of the weddings the sisters preside over -- such as a Hawaiian-themed wedding or a country western wedding -- are carefully planned, but others are last-minute.

"We were on our way to Columbus one time when we got a call from a man in the military about to leave for basic training. He said 'We need someone to marry us,' I asked them when and he said 'Tomorrow,"' Covert said. "Sometimes, we have to drop everything."

But no matter what the time frame, the sisters try to customize each ceremony for every couple.

"We show them several different ceremonies, and we customize them until they get what they want," Covert said. "Some want prayers, some want readings, some want their own vows, there's are all kinds of possibilities, but for us, it's all about the couple."

The four sisters are working on getting a Web site to advertise their services, but right now most of their business comes from word of mouth, Rian said. Every year, they get more and more calls.

"Big weddings are expensive nowadays, and I think people are doing more intimate weddings because of the economy," she said.

The sisters are busiest during the summer and during holidays, especially Valentine's Day.

To prepare for a wedding, they practice what they'll say in front of each other, especially the vows.

"I was so nervous at first, I felt like I was the one getting married, but all the eyes are on the bride and groom," Rian said. "The more you do it, the easier it gets."

One of Rian's favorite parts of being a wedding officiant is watching the groom see the bride for the first time.

"You are (the groom's) right-hand support system for a few minutes when they are standing there alone, but once the couple stands up there together, it's wonderful."

Covert said she's enjoyed every wedding she's done.

"It's really a lot of fun, everyone smiling and happy and you leave feeling like it was great to bring two people together," she said. "It's a really good start to your day or your week."

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