Marrying man: Former Charlottesville mayor Dave Norris swaps the politics for the personal

"It's a tremendous honor" to be part of a couple's wedding day, said Dave Norris, former Charlottesville mayor and freelance wedding officiant. Photo: Kate Thompson “It’s a tremendous honor” to be part of a couple’s wedding day, said Dave Norris, former Charlottesville mayor and freelance wedding officiant. Photo: Kate Thompson

“I do.”

Those words have a special meaning for Dave Norris because when he hears them, his workday is coming to an end. Which is a very good thing, but not for the reason you’d guess: The former mayor of Charlottesville is a freelance wedding officiant, specially chosen to be the person who has the privilege of joining a couple in marriage.

During his term in office from 2008-20012, Norris said he performed 15-20 ceremonies, and when he left, he considered what aspects of his job he truly enjoyed. Performing weddings was one of the best, so he decided to start a part-time business doing just that, launching his website www.letdavemarryyou.com. He now gets a couple of requests per week.

The responsibility of marrying people off actually came as a bit of a surprise to Mayor Norris, who initially had no idea that weddings were part of his job description.

“I started with a couple of friends who thought it would be cool to have the mayor as their officiant, and I was happy to oblige. Then word got out,” he said.

Norris now performs relatively simple ceremonies for primarily nonreligious services (although he notes he’s happy to weave in religious elements as requested).

He said his requirements make him unique.

“I don’t provide or expect premarital counseling, so if the couple is looking for something more secular, I offer that.” He said sometimes people who come from different religious or cultural backgrounds choose him because he is a neutral third party. That neutrality doesn’t mean he takes his job lightly.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be part of that moment, and I get really connected to them. I don’t just show up and ask if he takes her and she takes him and get them to sign the paperwork.”

Norris said his time in public office helped prepare him for his new gig, because he had to know how to think on his feet (“You just gotta be flexible; you never know what is going to happen!”), lead events, and work with people.

The vast majority of weddings he performs are for couples from out of town who’ve chosen Charlottesville as the ideal place to exchange vows. Norris said it’s not surprising when you consider “the variety of venues, the wedding professionals, the natural beauty of the area.” Slipping back into mayoral speak for a moment, he added, “And it’s great for our economy.”

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