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Free weddings, vow renewals new feature of Washington County Fair

Tenth Judicial District Judge Greg Galler will officiate at free weddings and wedding vow renewals at the Washington County Fair, Aug. 1-5. Submitted photo

Couples seeking a unique wedding experience will have that opportunity during the Washington County Fair.

Free weddings and vow renewals will be offered for the first time at the Washington County Fair Wednesday through Sunday, Aug. 1-5.

Couples will sign up 30 minutes before their desired time slot for either a wedding or vow renewal at the fairgrounds in Lake Elmo.

The ceremonies, being officiated by 10th Judicial District Judge Greg Galler, will take place on a hill overlooking Washington County's Master Gardeners Fairest Garden. Bergmann's Greenhouse and Farm Market in Stillwater will be landscaping and decorating the area where the ceremonies will be held.

Ceremonies will last between three and five minutes.

"I liked it because it was different than what I was used to at county fairs," said Margot Rheinberger, the Washington County Fair Board director. "It is something unexpected."

The weddings and vow renewals have one catch: couples and guests have to purchase a Washington County Fair admission.

Galler suggested the idea of weddings and vow renewals to Rheinberger last year. He said he was trying to think of ways to draw people to the judge's booth that was set up at the fair when he thought of officiating weddings.

Galler said his idea for the fair was to help couples save money on weddings and vow renewals while providing great memories.

"I think people will like the uniqueness of being able to say where your wedding was at," he said. "It's the kind of thing you're really going to remember."

Galler will be officiating from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Aug. 1-3 and from 2-4 p.m. Aug. 4-5, but times will go longer if there is enough interest.

"I don't know what this thing will look like," Rheinberger said.

Rheinberger said she received phone calls from people who wanted to sign up early.

"I can't even pinpoint the groups that I've talked to," she said. "It runs the gamut. The spontaneity of that is going to be great."

Galler said his initial vision of who was going to have a wedding or do a vow renewal at the fair are those who are fans of the fair, maybe couples who met at the fair or even couples who were once 4-H exhibitors.

"I think it will be just folks who are fair people," he said.

One of the people who has already approached Rheinberger about doing a vow renewal is St. Paul resident Kelly Vlach. She is hoping to surprise her husband with a vow renewal at the fair.

"My husband doesn't know anything about it," she said.

Vlach was looking at the Washington County Fair website when she saw mention of the vow renewals and it was just by coincidence that she and her husband of 12 years had just been talking about renewing their vows.

"This seems kind of kitschy in a way," she said. "We don't have to make it formal and plan it."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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