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Civil Service
Judge presides over couples’ special day

By NAN BIALEK
Photography by NICOLE UTECHT

February 2014

Judge Derek Mosley officiated at the wedding of Bryan and Jacquie LaChapelle.

During the week, Judge Derek Mosley is on the Milwaukee Municipal Court bench, and his docket is full: drug cases, retail theft, driving while intoxicated, violations of building and zoning codes, and disputed parking tickets. “I’m the guy you want to talk to if you want to know where not to eat, park or drive,” he says.

He also may be the guy you want to talk to about love and commitment, because during the past 13 years, Mosley has presided over more than 100 weddings. He hasn’t kept an exact count, but guesses that he averages about 25 to 40 per year.

His first wedding was for the brother of a friend: “I had just become a judge and it was at their house,” he recalls. “I was really nervous because I’d never done it. But I just fell in love with it after that.”

Many of his early weddings were bittersweet, because the ceremonies were for soldiers on their way to war zones. “People were being deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. They’re happy they’re being married, but the guy’s shipping out,” Mosley says.

The best man hands Mosley the rings.

Because the courtroom brings him into contact with a lot of police officers, Mosley says in the early days, “I was doing weddings for a lot of cops. They come in every day, and I wasn’t charging them. Word gets out fast when you don’t charge for weddings, and suddenly I was completely booked, so I had to alter that a little bit.”

He’s not above bartering, however. Mosley presided at the wedding of a man who works at a local meat market and was happy to be compensated with pork chops and chicken.

Mosley’s biggest wedding audience was a somewhat loud group of 10,000 at Summerfest. A couple had met at Summerfest during the set of a particular band, and the band was again booked for the music festival in 2011. The couple talked to the band about their dream to be married on stage, Mosley says, and the band agreed to stop their set for the ceremony.

“Of course, half the crowd was screaming, ‘Don’t do it,’ but it was fun,” Mosley says.

Mosley often marries couples in the courthouse, but he also enjoys doing weddings at some of the city’s “fantastic venues.” Tops on his list are Villa Terrace — “absolutely gorgeous” — the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Mitchell Park Conservatory Domes, except for the Arid Dome. The black robe he wears for the ceremony gets too warm in that desert setting.

Mosley and his wife were married on the stage of Vogel Hall at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, another of his favorite wedding spots. He performs weddings all over the state, and has also married couples in Iowa and Colorado.

Through the years Mosley has noticed a few trends emerge. “Friday weddings are huge now,” he notes, and couples who have been married for years are renewing their vows in front of family and friends. “It’s just a cross-section of people and it’s interesting,” he says. “The beautiful part about weddings is that different cultures do things very differently.”

Mosley has a word of caution for those who are about to married: Be sure to allow for the waiting period when you get your marriage license.

“Some people wait ’til the last minute so they can’t get the license in time. You have a whole church full of people, so we do the ceremony,” he says, but it’s actually just a show. The legal ceremony takes place in his chambers after the couple has the license in hand.

“The only advice I give is basically I tell everybody that marriage is a relationship where one is always right,” Mosley says, “and the other one is the husband.”




This story ran in the February 2014 issue of: