Proposal, Vows, Marriage: Justice Of The Peace Offers The Whole Package

By: Debra Lawless

Jill Meyer officiates at the wedding of Tom and Gina Edwards at Ocean Edge in Brewster. COURTESY PHOTO

In the charming 1987 rom-com movie “Roxanne,” a tongue-tied young firefighter is unable express his romantic feelings for a beautiful woman. Step in Steve Martin, who ghostwrites love letters of such eloquence that the woman falls in love with the firefighter.

Jill Meyer of Chatham, who founded the wedding service company “Write Weddings,” has performed that same magic. A Washington, D.C. man contacted her and explained that he and his partner had been together for seven years and it was time to tie the knot. “He wanted to profess his love with the best marriage proposal possible and wanted it professionally written. His intention was to memorize it and get down on his knee in the middle of the city on the way to their favorite restaurant,” Meyer said in an email interview last week.

Meyer’s words did the trick. The couple married.

Meyer stepped into the wedding business when she and her husband James owned the Captain’s House Inn on Old Harbor Road in Chatham. There, they offered an “elopement package” that included flowers for the bride and groom, a wedding cake, a bottle of champagne and more. The package became so popular that in 2014 Meyer herself became a justice of the peace and officiated at her first wedding.

“I didn’t realize how quickly my business would snowball,” she says. “I created my own website and between that and referrals from the town and local venues, I wound up averaging about 100 weddings a year.”

She began by following a basic wedding script, but soon tired of it. Wanting to personalize the ceremonies, she designed a questionnaire for couples to fill out. She asks how and when the couple met and what special memories they share.

“Now each wedding I write is totally unique and really reflects the couple’s relationship,” she says. “I like to think guests feel drawn in by their story and maybe even learn something about their relationship they didn’t know.”

Then she had an idea that went even farther. Why not assist couples with writing their personal vows for an additional fee? Out the window went the standard but impersonal “repeat after me” cookie-cutter language.

“I have always had a passion for writing, so expanding upon that passion and ability were a natural progression,” she says. For “Write Weddings” Meyer created a website, and gradually clients filtered in. She now writes weddings for couples around the world — from Chatham to Dubai. For personal vows she charges $150, with an additional $50 for rush services. She has also written best man and maid of honor speeches.

After Meyer and her husband sold the Captain’s House Inn last December, she had more time to devote to her wedding business. But when the pandemic hit and lockdowns began in March, her entire spring business went out the window and she prepared for a slow summer. Surprisingly, however, business picked up and she found herself booked solid all summer and fall, officiating at “COVID-safe” weddings, many of which were “thrown together at the last minute with couples just ‘wanting to get married.’”

“Many couples realized that their 200-person wedding was not going to happen any time soon, but they didn’t want to wait to get married,” she says. “So I saw a ton of elopements and ‘micro-weddings,’ a term which is now trending, because small weddings are the ‘new normal.’”

Initially disappointed couples came to adore their micro-weddings, Meyer says. “They loved that the day was about them and their love for each other rather than an extravagant affair that could have been a down payment on a house.” And with a toned-down wedding, couples focused more on their vows. “It was refreshing to see couples embrace that.”

Meyer predicts that the trend for smaller weddings will continue after the pandemic.

During the past few months, she has officiated at too many weddings to count. They include “tons” of elopements on the beach, at the Captain’s House Inn, in small backyards and even a few intimate affairs at formal venues.

She married a couple from Texas on a long Chatham dock that served as an aisle. The groom wore a cowboy hat and the ring bearers were a brother and cousin with Down Syndrome, which is what initially brought the bride and groom together.

She officiated at a wedding at the Marconi lookout station in Wellfleet. She had officiated at the bride’s mother’s wedding several years ago, and taken pregnancy photos for the bride.

Another couple stood out because the groom was the doctor who had operated on the bride’s brain tumor and saved her life.

A North Beach wedding began at the fish pier on a boat. Meyer and the photographer had to be carried off the boat so they didn’t get soaked. Someone had miscalculated the tides, and the boat got stuck on North Beach. The groom called an emergency boat tow to get them back to land.

One couple forgot their rings. Another couple kissed for so long after Meyer pronounced them husband and wife that a guest shouted, “get a room!”

Meyer also offers to take wedding photos as a low-cost alternative to a professional photographer. She is licensed to officiate anywhere in Massachusetts and charges a travel fee for off-Cape weddings. For more information visit www.writeweddings.com.