Marilyn Soules has the happiest job on this planet, almost equivalent to that of being Terrace’s fairy god mother, waving her wand and marrying couples in love.
Soules is a marriage commissioner based out of Terrace and has married more than 210 couples in the past six years. And each ceremony has been magical, she says.
Last month, she officiated a ceremony out in the nature on Ferry Island – a place where you’ll often find Soules and her friends on their daily walks. Soules emerged from the ceremony beaming with a smile after pronouncing a couple husband and wife by the power vested on her by the province of British Columbia.
A die-hard romantic, she ventured into her role as a marriage commissioner after retiring from the Coast Mountain School District in 2015.
Soules, moved to Terrace when she was 15-years-old and met her husband, got married and raised a family in this city.
After retirement, she came across a job posting for a marriage commissioner in Terrace and took up the job as something to keep her occupied.
“I’ve always loved people and I’m a real sentimentalist. And I just thought, what a joyous thing to do. I’ve been to a number weddings in my lifetime and I’ve always found them to be happy events. And who wouldn’t want to spend some time with people who are enjoying one of the happiest days of their lives?”
Even though the profession found her unexpectedly, Soules says that she is glad that she took that step.
“It (the job) has given me so much joy… I think romance is such a wonderful part of life, it gives people a reason to live and something to get up every day for and be happy about.”
That feeling is reinforced when she bumps into people she has married in a small community like Terrace. She has also had the pleasure of marrying off all the children in some of the families in the community.
Some of the marriages she officiated did not sustain, but generally the percentage has been wonderful and that’s “always a good sign,” she says.
The role of a marriage commissioner also opened the door to a lot of adventures for Soules. The job took her to new places and often times even turned her into a daredevil.
Helicopter rides, climbing mountains, river boating, all became part of the job when it came to marrying people at their choice of venue.
The 70-year-old remembers one such adventure-filled ceremony which involved a steep climb up Exstew Falls.
“I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make the hike up…They had one young man in front of me and another right behind me, just in case,” she laughs.
Another ceremony involved a helicopter ride to Stewart after the marriage commissioner of that area backed out of a chopper ride.
Over the years Soules also witnessed spots around Terrace places creatively transform into ethereal set-ups for ceremonies
“You just can’t believe what people can create with just a little environment….and then their imagination takes over.”
She lists the myriad places around the area where people have chosen to have their ceremonies – Hidden Acres, Ferry Island, Princess Lake en route to Hazelton, a spot along Skeena River. “It’s magical,” says the petite Soules, her face lit up from describing the ceremonies.
She likes to observe and soak in all the fine details of these ceremonies – art, decor, lighting and of course the brides’ dresses.
She also feels lucky to witness and experience the beautiful blend of cultures and families during these events.
But above all, the most memorable and sacrosanct aspect of each of these ceremonies have been the pure emotions that radiate from the couple getting married, their families and friends, she says.
“You never know what circumstances are going on in people’s lives,” she says talking about an instance when she officiated a ceremony for a couple where one was terminally ill.
Soules’ profession is bound by anonymity and she never releases the names of the people involved.
But she does enjoy sharing the stories that take place at weddings with her family and close friends.
And some of these stories are lined with humour too, especially when the designated ring bearer – a bulldog –decides to liven up the ceremony by running away from the aisle.
“He (the dog) took off and people were chasing after him, trying to get the rings. You can’t really imagine all the funny things that will happen sometimes,” she says.
Her friends often nudge her to write a book about these events when they hear about it. And maybe one day she will, time permitting.
Being a marriage commissioner is a huge time commitment, says Soules. There’s a lot of planning that goes into each ceremony, right from getting the details finalized for the legal licences, to coordinating time slots so as not to clash with other ceremonies, to making sure the directions to getting to the place are correct.
On her busiest day, she officiates three weddings.
Most of her summers have been “crazy” with every single weekend booked, and that usually takes away time from family activities. While it doesn’t seem like Soules will lay her magic wand to rest anytime soon, she also wants to make more time to visit her children and grand children.
With COVID-19, her schedule is not as busy this year, but her calendar is already full for 2022.
“Most people are anticipating that COVID will be done by then and are planning weddings for next year,” says Soules.