Q & A/Commissioner’s weddings draw thousands
Couples seeking a free and unique wedding experience have been flocking to Temple’s Feed and Seed Store in Sevierville, Tenn., for almost 20 years. Jimmie Temple, one of 25 Sevier County commissioners authorized to perform weddings, estimates that he has married more than 15,000 couples in the store, which is across the street from the county courthouse. In 2000 alone, Temple, who has been married for 46 years, wed more than 1,300 couples. Even though the family business closed on March 24 after 67 years, Temple plans to continue performing the ceremonies in an office behind the store.
Q: How long have you been performing marriage ceremonies at your store?
A: I’ve been marrying people ever since I became a county commissioner [in 1966]. The feed store was finished on April 7, 1982. A lot of changes have been taking place in the community, and the business that we were doing and the big accounts we used to have aren’t there any more. We used to have dairy and hog farms, feed accounts, grocery stores scattered all over the country, and there’s none any more. Sevier County is going urban and tourist, and it’s just a totally changed world.
Q: Why do you think people come to your store to be married?
A: Well, I guess it’s where we are in downtown Sevierville. I don’t know why they come here. I can’t answer that, but I do know I’ve married people from all around. I’ve enjoyed it. You really see a lot of interesting people and visit with a lot of interesting people from all over the world.
Q: How would you describe your ceremonies?
A: Well, I try to give [the couple] some awfully good advice. I have a certain ceremony that I use, and I have a certain prayer that I use at the end. Then I give them a card, and I make them both sign it after I pronounce them [husband and wife]. I make them take the card, face each other and make a pledge to each other that they’ll never break these points: your love, your trust, your friendship and your respect for each other. I tell them to put that on their person. I say, “If that keeps your marriage together, it will be one of the most important cards you’ve got in your pocketbook.” I’ve had them to come back, and they’ve had that card on them for years and years. They will open up their billfold and say, “Mr. Temple, here’s my card.”
Q: Have you ever turned anyone away?
A: I don’t know that I’ve ever turned anyone away. I’ve had people say, “I just don’t want to get married in a feed store,” and, if they don’t want to get married in a feed store, I don’t want to perform the ceremony. Most of the time when you sit down with somebody to talk, you can find out that most people are pretty good people. They may look rough and gruff, but most all people that come to get married are pretty good people, or they wouldn’t get married.
Q: What do you do during the annual renewal of vows ceremony that has been held for the past three years?
A: It’s sponsored by the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce, and they furnish the place at City Hall. You register as you enter. They give you a name tag, and you have pictures taken with your family or your spouse. You go in the auditorium, and music is there. We try to do it very promptly. We get everybody together, and they look at us and hold hands with their spouse, and I do the ceremony. We have a song or two by the First Baptist Church song director and then the reception with cake and punch and all the food you can eat. We usually try to have somebody who’s been married at least 50 years in the community to come to set an example of what it is like to be married 50 years. It’s really a fun time.
Q: What’s been the best part of marrying couples in your store?
A: Meeting people. Having them come back year after year after year to say hello to you and tell you how much they appreciate you. That says it all.