Leslie Rick, an ordained minister and owner of Camas’ Mystic Gardens floral and gift shop, is excited to provide what she calls “a service for a service” in honor of Veterans Day.
Rick will perform free wedding and vow-renewal ceremonies for military veterans on Sunday, Nov. 10. The mass wedding ceremony will take place at 11 a.m., and the mass vow-renewal will begin at 3 p.m. The ceremonies includes same-sex marriages. The venue will provide witnesses for the mass wedding ceremony.
“I wanted to do something special (for veterans). They do so much for us,” Rick said. “They put their lives on the line. I wanted to give something back to them.”
Rick will offer the ceremonies at her Mystic Gardens wedding venue, located at 1924 E. Third Ave., Camas, free of charge for people with valid military identification. If no military identification is presented, the ceremonies will cost $50.
For veterans hoping to take advantage of the free wedding ceremony offer, a wedding license must be obtained by Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Clark County Clerk’s office in Vancouver. For those veterans hoping to join in the mass vow-renewal ceremony, registration at Mystic Gardens is required by Friday, Nov. 8.
“Military (members), they’re scraping by too,” Rick said. “And they’re the ones that should be making more than most of us.”
Rick, who grew up in Camas, said that her “family has been (in the) military forever.”
“My dad and both of my uncles were in the (Navy) Seabees. My cousins were in the Army and Air Force. My brother-in-law was in the Navy. And so on, so forth down the line,” she said.
“My dad was already out of it by (the time I was born). My mom got drafted when she was pregnant with me. She just ignored it, and then the next letter wasn’t quite so nice. But when she showed up, she was about ready to have me, and they dismissed her.”
Rick believes that “Veterans Day is when you give thanks to those who have served and are serving.”
“I have a lot of respect for our military (members),” she said. “They give their lives every day for us, no matter if they’re in an office or out in the field. They do it because they want to serve their country, but they don’t get the recognition that they should because of what they do. The government doesn’t give them the recognition. I may not trust or believe our government, but our military? I’m behind them 100 percent.”
Rick, who has officiated weddings in Washington, Oregon and Montana for 37 years, started to think about a larger ceremony for veterans after renewing the vows of a couple last year.
“The Veterans Affairs (office) refused to do their wedding renewal for some odd reason, and (the wife) was devastated. They were going to get their flowers from me, then go over to the chapel and renew their vows. I said, ‘I’ll do it for you.’ I performed their (ceremony), and afterward, when they went to pay me, I said, ‘No charge. Thank you for your service, sir.’ And they both broke down in tears.”
Rick has been performing non-denominational wedding ceremonies at Mystic Gardens since January 2018. Couples can get married on an outdoor patio or via a “drive-through” window for $50.
“We get teased about being ‘Little Vegas.’ We’re getting more and more (customers),” she said. “Not everybody wants a big wedding. Last week a couple wanted ‘I do, I do’ and a kiss, and that was it. As (the groom) put it, they had already been living together in sin for three years and it didn’t matter anymore. Some of them, it could be their third or fourth marriage, and they’re done with it.”
To register for the mass vow-renewal ceremony by Nov. 8, call 360-210-4694, text 360-989-6386 or message on the Mystic Gardens Facebook page facebook.com/MysticGardens.SWWA/. Wedding participants also should register by Nov. 8, but must have obtained a marriage license from the county by Nov. 7 to take part in the Nov. 10 ceremony.