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DelawareOnline.com

 

June 2, 2008

 

By Shaun Bishop

 

 

NCCo gets ready to plug in 'WedCam'

 

 

The next couple to say "I do" before the New Castle County clerk of the peace could be doing it online.

 

The row office responsible for civil wedding ceremonies is wired up and ready to begin offering a new service this week -- live Internet broadcasts of the nuptials.

 

But these techno-weddings won't end up on YouTube.com. The bride and groom will be given a password -- included in the $30 fee -- so only family and friends can view the happy occasion on a dedicated Web page. For an extra $20, the couple can purchase a DVD of the event.

 

Clerk of the Peace Ken Boulden, who has married nearly 8,500 couples during his three terms in office, predicts his new "WedCam" will be a big hit with folks who want to share their big day with loved ones who can't be there.

 

"We marry far more than just people from New Castle County, Delaware," he said. "We marry people from other counties, other states and other countries. I often hear the bride or groom say, 'I wish my dad would have been here.' Or they ask me, 'Can I just turn my cell phone on so my uncle from Canada can listen?' "

 

The service also could add some cha-ching to the cash-poor county, which has been struggling with a budget deficit the past several years.

 

If his prediction pays off, Boulden estimates the WedCam could boost coffers by a few thousand dollars each year.

 

"I know from dealing with many brides and grooms that this is going to be a huge success," he said. "And just as importantly, it's going to generate some additional revenue at a time when we desperately need it."

 

Boulden, who is seeking a fourth term in November, has come up with several money-making ideas -- including marriage license gift certificates and special name-change kits -- that have helped push his office's revenue from less than $50,000 a year to more than $160,000.

 

When the staff researched the latest idea, they realized a WedCam would be unique. They couldn't find any government offices in the region that offered Web weddings, though it is done at a few chapels in Las Vegas.

 

"Now, I do not have any plans on renting an Elvis costume," Boulden joked. "I'll still wear my black robe."

 

If Boulden is wondering how his WedCam will fare, he could just ask the San Mateo County (Calif.) Clerk's Office.

 

They began offering Web weddings in 1999 as a pilot program on Valentine's Day.

 

"It became so successful that by Valentine's Day 2001 it was being offered as a daily option," Deputy Clerk Theresa Rabe said.

 

Ten percent to 20 percent of the couples who come through the office now ask for video vows, she said.

 

San Mateo County has a similar setup to New Castle County: Virtual guests get a password sent to them in an e-mail invitation.

 

What's amazing, Rabe said, is just how far the service reaches. Guests have logged in from all over the world -- the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Botswana, Morocco, Ireland.

 

"We have hit everywhere," Rabe said. "It's very exciting."

 

She loves to tell the story about a man who got married in 2002 at age 55. It was his first trip to the altar, and his 80-year-old mother could not come to California for the wedding.

 

"But her only son was getting married for the first time," Rabe said. "She didn't have a computer, so she went next door to the neighbor's house and was able to watch the ceremony. We received the nicest letter from her thanking us for making that available."

 

The San Mateo office has never charged extra for the video service, but they plan to implement a $50 fee in September. The money raised will go toward getting a better Internet connection and upgrading their equipment, which hasn't been changed since they started in 1999, Rabe said.

 

Boulden has already invested about $7,500 in a new camera and equipment -- including two optional, beach-themed backgrounds couples can choose from.

 

Nobody has signed up for the service yet, but that's because nobody knows about it. Boulden said when couples make an appointment to get married, they will be told about the video option starting this week.

 

"I think it's a great idea," he said. "Hey, I know what videographers charge."

 

Contact Angie Basiouny at 324-2796 or abasiouny@delawareonline.com.