Making it official: Destin officiates gear up for wedding season

Savannah Chastain | The Log
Rob and Jacquelyn Wilbanks from Hot Springs, Ark., are just one of the many couples that Doug Jordan has married on Destin’s beaches and in the surrounding area.

Now that spring has sprung on the Emerald Coast, wedding planning is in full gear. While flowers and photographers are among the top vendors on a bride’s list, no wedding can be performed without an officiate.

“The sunset weddings on the beach are a majority of what people want because our beaches are just so beautiful with the emerald green waters,” said wedding officiate, Judi Fraser.

Fraser, originally from Toronto, Canada, moved to the Destin area five years ago and was immediately intrigued by the amount of beach weddings she witnessed along the shores.

“I saw all these people getting married on the beach, so I started looking into what you had to do, and I found out a notary could marry people in the state of Florida,” she said.

Most states require a member of the clergy or a judicial officer to officiate a wedding, but Florida is one of only three states in the country that allow notaries to officiate weddings, the other two states being South Carolina and Maine.

“I took the classes and became a notary, then I started advertising for weddings on the beach and the business has been growing ever since,” Fraser told The Log.

Formerly a financial consultant for a defense contractor, Fraser has seen her career take a complete 180-degree turn. She said she was seeking something fun and enjoyable for her next job.

“I was looking for something totally different,” she said. “This is my happy job. It’s a very rewarding job to do.”

Fraser now officiates weddings full-time, and her business partner, Doug Jordan fills in part-time when needed.

While most people are comfortable with a female officiate, Fraser said some couples prefer a male.

  “I think a lot of people just expect it to be a man,” Fraser said. “Whatever people would like we are able to accommodate it.”

  Calling Destin a “Good alternative to Vegas,” Fraser said that most couples she works with are spur-of-the moment, or small intimate ceremonies.

“Sometimes I get a call on a Thursday and they say, ‘Can you marry us on Saturday?’ I would say probably about 90 percent are people from out of state. People come here to get married on our beautiful beaches.”

And Jordan agrees.

“I think the casual nature of the weddings, when someone contacts us it’s usually for a sunset beach wedding," he said.

Jordan says the main draw to Destin is the fact that it can double as a wedding and honeymoon destination.

With an average of 80 weddings per year, there are always a few that stand out. Jordan shared one of his favorite wedding stories as he said, “One time I went out to South Walton and I was looking for the bride and groom, and when I found them she was in her swim suit and he was in his shorts. It was kind of windy, and the wind had blown their tent away. I later found out the groom was changing under it, and he eventually put on formal attire, but she preferred to get married in her swim suit.”

 Fraser shared that in the wedding business she works with all types of people, and enjoys helping them make their day truly reflect their love story.

“Everyone is different, everyone is unique; from a couple on their own just eloping, to entire families; from young couples just starting out, to couples in their 50s and 60s, each one has their own stories.”


Fraser and Jordan can be reached on the web at www.yourdestinofficiant.com

Or by phone at 850-499-7867

They will also be at the Gulf Coast Wedding Expo, at the Okaloosa Convention Center

April 13, from 1-5 p.m.