alumni business profile Kimberly "Schroeder" Steward '91
Justice of the Peace
Jackson, New Hampshire
(603) 387-9496
Wedding ceremonies performed around New Hampshire, specializing in unusual locations.

How long have you been a Justice of the Peace?
Since 2001. A few years prior I had become a Notary Public as part of my fulltime job with the Appalachian Mountain Club. Then I attended a wedding of friends held in the White Mountains. They had to search for a JP who was willing to hike into the back country, and I remember thinking, "I wish I could have done that for them." Soon after that, a couple who worked at the AMC said, “We know you are a Notary but would you be willing to become a JP and marry us?” So I became commissioned in time to do their wedding that November. Once I had my commission, it seemed a waste to not use it. I decided that my niche would be weddings in unusual places, such as the top of mountains.

What exactly is the difference between a Notary Public and a Justice of the Peace?
Both are appointed by state governments and share similar responsibilities : Acknowledgements, oaths and affirmations, jurats, depositions, copy certifications, witnessing or attesting signatures, and protests. The key difference is that a JP may also perform marriage ceremonies.

How many weddings have you performed?
As of March 2010, I have performed 189 wedding ceremonies and expect to pass 200 by mid-May. 54 weddings were done in 2009 alone.

What are some of the most interesting locations or ceremonies you've encountered?
I am asked this question all the time and have trouble answering it. Because of the nature of my fulltime job with the AMC, places that might seem odd or exciting to others, are actually very normal parts of my life: The summit of Mount Washington, Tuckerman Ravine, any AMC hut, any waterfall or mountain top throughout the White Mountains, etc. Probably the most memorable wedding took place on the shoulder of Mount Washington. A bagpipe player and I hiked down from the summit to do the wedding for a couple and their 88 guests. Right after the wedding, he and I began to hike back to the summit. Half way up, we were caught in a lightning storm that moved right up and over us. We were pinned down in the rocks for about 45 minutes with nowhere to gain shelter from the lightning. By the time we managed to reach the summit and drove back down to the valley, we discovered the gate at the bottom of the road would not open because the power was out in the area. After all that, we were stuck on the other side of a gate!

What was your favorite ceremony that you performed?
Any that I did for friends of mine. It's very special to be able to do that for people I already know well. I feel honored to be asked by them.

What is the most satisfying part of your job?
Connecting with the couples beyond the business transaction and then staying in touch or visiting them later.

How have you grown your business?
My business took off a few years ago due to several factors—and several friends! A web designer I know did the bulk of the work on my website, Another friend designed my logo so that I was able to have a real business presence. A third, a wedding videographer, made a short video compilation of weddings I had done so that people could see my style. I also joined two organizations, and, which have helped bring in business with Web searches. And lastly, the economic situation has been a bonus for me. More couples wish to save their money by eloping or having a small ceremony.

Is there a certain type of person who's more likely to be married by you rather than in a church?
Certainly those that are not involved in a church or do not care for the rules that a church wedding might involve. Those who want to save money and not spend it on a giant "show." Anyone that wants something special and different or want to get married their way, be that on skis, on a mountain top, in a back yard or by a waterfall.

Since same sex marriage became legal in New Hampshire, have you seen an increase in same sex weddings?
Absolutely. And because I live close to Maine, I have seen a number of same sex couples come over to New Hampshire for their marriages. Some of their stories are amazingly touching—people who have been together for 25 or 30 years and are finally able to get married.

Any words of advice for people preparing to marry?
Please be organized! Ask as many questions as you want and do your research online. Think outside the box and incorporate anything you want into your ceremony. Remember: It's your ceremony, just the two of you, not anyone else's. And if you are having a rehearsal, be prepared and have your participants ready and able to rehearse.

Any words of advice for people interested in becoming JP's?
Have a clean criminal background so that you can obtain your commission from the State of NH. Return inquiry phone calls and emails ASAP as couples will move right on to the next person if they don't reach you on the first try. I would encourage anyone living north of the White Mountains of NH to become one, as there don't seem to be many up there. I often get calls to travel to the very northern part of the State and it's still 2.5 hours away from me, so I would welcome some competition up there!