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Free weddings and vow renewals at Washington County Fair

The Washington County Fair will be offering free weddings and vow renewals Aug. 1-5. Tenth Judicial District Judge Greg Galler will be officiating.

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

The fair will be offering for the first time free weddings and vow renewals at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Lake Elmo, Aug. 1-5.

Couples will sign up 30 minutes before their desired time slot for either a wedding or vow renewal.

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 immediate 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 though - couples and guests have to purchase a Washington County Fair admission.

The idea of the weddings and vow renewals began last year by Galler who suggested it to Rheinberger.

Galler 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 weddings.

The idea kind of sat stagnant for a few years until he suggested it again last year to Rheinberger.

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 has already been receiving phone calls from interested people who want 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.

"It's a festive summer event that the whole family is going to be outside with good food and fun."

Vlach said she is excited about making memories at this year's Washington County Fair and making her vow renewal one she will always remember.

"It's fun to think, here we are 12 years later and we know the meaning of those words more than when we were 23," she said. "I don't even know what to expect, but I know it's going to be short and sweet and a fun memory - I think it will be special."

Free weddings and vow renewals will be offered during the Washington County Fair, Aug. 1-3, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and Aug. 4-5 from 2 -4 p.m. Couples are asked to sign up 30 minutes before their desired time.

For those requesting a wedding, there is a required five-business-day waiting period to receive marriage licenses.

More information on the Washington County Fair weddings and vow renewals can be found at Click on the attractions tab and then on the "Weddings/Renewals of Wedding Vows at the Fair" link.

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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