East Hampton Town Justice Court is one of the busiest town courts in the state. Justices Steven Tekulsky and Lisa Rana alternate weeks on the bench, with each week having three calendared days: Monday sessions for civil matters and parking tickets, Wednesdays for vehicle and traffic violations, and Thursdays for criminal matters. They each preside over trials, and perform arraignments on various criminal charges, up to and including murder.
It can be an unpleasant job. But there is one function that both judges look forward to: presiding over weddings.
Last year, between the two of them, they presided over about 120 weddings, according to Katelyn Davis, the court clerk who schedules weddings at the courthouse. She should know: Tekulsky presided over the ceremony in Bridgehampton this past June during which the former Katelyn Anderson tied the knot with Michael Davis.
The fee paid to the presiding judge is $100, cash. Tekulsky explained recently that tips are not allowed, nor is the cost of transportation, unless the ceremony is being conducted outside of the town.
While weddings are performed at the courthouse, many couples prefer other locations. The Montauk Lighthouse is a popular site. Beaches in general are popular, as are restaurants and clubs such as Surf Lodge and Gurney’s Resort in Montauk, and East Hampton Point on Three Mile Harbor.
Water-themed locations are a staple of East Hampton weddings. “I have had a few couples tie the knot on boats in Three Mile Harbor, and on local bays,” Rana said.
She was asked if there was a particularly memorable wedding she had presided over. “One wedding I particularly remember was a same-sex couple who married shortly after they were legally able to do so in New York state, in 2011. They were an elderly couple. One person I believe was in his late 80s, the other in his 90s, and they had been together for over 60 years. They had so much love for one another, and it was an honor to marry them. That was, incidentally, the first same-sex marriage I officiated.”
Both justices have performed a wedding ceremony in which one member of the couple, or more, were former defendants. “It’s a small town,” Rana added.
There have been celebrity sightings over the years at the weddings both have presided over, but mostly as witnesses or friends of the couple tying the knot.
To be married by an East Hampton Town justice, one must first get a marriage license from the town clerk’s office. Town Clerk Carole Brennan explained that couples need to bring either a passport or driver’s license, and certified copies of their birth certificates. If either of them is divorced, he or she needs to bring a certified copy of the divorce certificate. The fee for a license is $40. There is a 24-hour waiting period before the couple can bond in holy matrimony. They must act on the license within 60 days.
Once the license is issued, it is just a short walk over to the courthouse, and the clerk’s window, license in hand. Davis explained that, unless the couple specifies one judge or the other, the wedding will be performed by whichever justice is scheduled to be on the bench on the date the couple requests.
Both justices perform weddings in Spanish, as well as English.
“I am glad I am able to perform weddings in Spanish,” Tekulsky said. “Marriage is a big commitment and, at the least, the bride and groom should understand what they are agreeing to.”
“Weddings are definitely a happy time for couples, and it is a nice counter-balance to some of the harder issues we deal with in our local courts,” Rana said.