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Not every bride dreams of a flower-studded, white-gowned, church wedding.
Karen Fell got married in her running shoes at the Bloomsday starting line. Carrie Olsen wore a black evening gown with a sequined bodice which complemented her groom’s stunning spiky mohawk. And Sheryl Redding wore a traditional gown and elbow-length evening gloves, but chose to be married on a deck overlooking the greens at the Spokane Country Club.
These brides have one thing in common: their choice of officiant. They were all married by the Rev. Ralph Fishburn of Ralph’s Regal Weddings.
Fishburn is a safety officer for Garco Construction by day, but on many evenings and weekends, he’s Reverend Ralph.
While Fishburn made his wedding debut as a ring bearer at age 5, his best friend, Dan Kelley, prompted his entree into the wedding business. They’d served as best man in each other’s weddings, but Kelley’s first marriage had ended. When he found a new love he called Fishburn and said, “I don’t want you to get mad, but I don’t want you to be my best man this time.”
Surprised, Fishburn didn’t know what to say. Then Kelley continued, “This time I want you to marry us.”
Stunned silence ensued. But Kelley was not to be deterred. “We’ve already checked online and know what you need to do.”
Fishburn grinned as he recalled that phone call. “I didn’t balk at all!”
On April Fools’ Day 2008, Fishburn was ordained online by the Universal Life Church Monastery. “It took five minutes to fill out a form, and it was free,” he said.
He officiated Kelley’s wedding at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture that August. After the ceremony, the couple’s wedding planner, Nancy Pierce, came up to Fishburn and said, “That was a lovely ceremony.” She encouraged him to go into the wedding business.
He talked it over with his wife, Karen Fishburn, and in 2009, they launched Ralph’s Regal Weddings. “I got ordained, too,” said Karen.
The couple found there’s quite a demand for wedding officiants. Karen said, “Marriage is still very popular.”
They’ve performed approximately 100 weddings, and even added an associate, Heather Kelm.
The Fishburns say that many couples are unable or don’t want to have traditional church weddings for a variety of reasons, and some couples prefer alternative ceremonies, like handfasting, or unusual venues.
They’ve performed weddings at ranches, on beaches, in mansions, on rooftops and even in their own living room. “We learn from every wedding,” said Fishburn.
One memorable spur-of-the-moment ceremony stands out. “The bride told the groom, if you find someone to marry us, I’ll marry you today,” Fishburn said. “So he called us.”
The Fishburns asked a neighbor to come over and witness the nuptials, and the impromptu wedding went off without a hitch.
Word of mouth has built up the business, but most couples find Ralph’s Regal Weddings through their website. That’s how Karen Fall and Michael Smith, of Kent, Wash., found them.
The avid runners said Bloomsday is their favorite race and they wanted to be married at the starting line. “We met them there at 8 a.m.,” Karen said. “It was 34 degrees!”
The couple tied the knot and then started their married life on the run.
In addition to performing the wedding ceremony, the Fishburns offer a variety of wedding packages from the no-frills Duke of Windsor package to the more elaborate Prince of Wales wedding. Couples can choose either civil or religious ceremonies.
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