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Home > In The News > Nelsons Today 03/1999

Looking for a Minister? Call 'Rent-A-Rev'

Jim Rehnberg's profession requires him to perform in some odd locations, deliver his lines flawlessly-and maintain a sense of humor.

Sounds like a stand-up comic, right?

Not exactly. Jim is the original "Rent-a-Rev," an ordained minister who will perform your wedding no matter where it is or what kind of ceremony you want.

Rehnberg, once pastor of a small church in St. Paul, Minnesota, has performed more than 2,000 wedding ceremonies in the past 15 years. He's married folks in forest preserves, in a sky box at Wrigley Field, in a gondola atop the Navy Pier Ferris wheel, among other odd locations.

"I'm in the love business," Rehnberg likes to say. "I've got the funnest schtick there is."

On average, the minister-for-hire uses his schtick to marry four or five couples a week. He provides pre-wedding counseling sessions, usually one per couple, and also attends rehearsals. Because most weddings are held on weekends, it's a hectic schedule

"I get into my car Friday morning and I get out of it Sunday night. I spend the time in between going to weddings to rehearsals to weddings to rehearsals to meetings to rehearsals-to more weddings."

Rehnberg is no fly-by-night minister. Gayle Hinsberger, owner of a wedding consulting business in Naperville, says he's one of the best matrimonial chaplains. "He takes a very personal interest in the couple, applying his very special figs and creates a ceremony they will never forget," she says.

The 46-year-old Geneva resident never intended to make a profession of performing weddings. His first free-lance wedding was in 1983, when two friends asked him to perform their ceremony in a forest preserve in Batavia.

Two years earlier, he had retired as pastor of a small evangelical free church in St. Paul after finding he was unable to support his family on a salary of $210 a week. He moved his family to Naperville to sell life insurance and, in subsequent years, was a manufacturer's rep selling gas station equipment for his father- business.

Friends attending that first wedding, however, encouraged him to perform other weddings, however, and he took their encouragement to heart. One thing led to another and over the years he performed hundreds of ceremonies.

When the manufacturer's rep business went sour in 1995, he became the full-time "Rent-A-Rev," his trademarked business. He attended wedding trade shows and advertised in a wedding magazine to promote his services-and is now booked months in advance. He went from 13 marriage ceremonies in his first year to 150 by 1996.

Each ceremony, he says, is tailored to the couple and he enjoys getting to know each of the couples he marries.

"He gets to know who you are ... As a result, the ceremony is very personal"

"He talked about our childhood during the service as if he's known us and our fami- all of our lives," says Victor Johnston, of Naperville, the proprietor of the Outback Steakhouse at Fox Valley.

Rehnberg's services are popular, particularly, among families who have moved to the area recently and have not yet put down roots. He also performs a lot of intercultural and interfaith weddings, where couples prefer a neutral location over choosing one location or the other.

Rehnberg, who holds a bachelor's degree in biblical studies from Wheaton College and a master of divinity degree from Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, says he's never regretted the direction his career has taken him.

Weddings, he says, are more simple than his work as a manufacturers rep "and a lot more fun."

    

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