Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — JoAnn Brumfield, far left, holds the bride’s bouquet of flowers as William Yarbrough, right, places the wedding ring on the finger of Sara Fortner Friday during a morning marriage ceremony at the Eola Hotel. The service was officiated by Justice Court Judge Charlie Vess. At top left, Fortner signs the marriage license for the spur-of-the-moment wedding. At top right, Fortner emerges from the hotel elevator dressed in her wedding gown.

Clinton couple elopes at Eola Hotel

Published 12:05am Tuesday, May 22, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: The new law that eliminates a required three-day waiting period and blood test was signed by Gov. Phil Bryant in April, but will not go into effect until July 1, 2012. William and Sarah Yarbrough confirmed Tuesday that they applied for their marriage license under the old law and did get a blood test. They were told by the Rankin County Circuit Clerk’s office they could wait until July to forgo the requirements, but decided they didn’t want to wait until then. The information given to The Natchez Democrat was incorrect. We regret the error and are glad to set the record straight.

NATCHEZ — Charlie Vess has performed a few quickie marriage ceremonies in his years as justice court judge — but never as quick as the one he officiated at the Eola Friday morning.

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Sara Fortner emerges from the hotel elevator dressed in her wedding gown.

Vess walked into the Eola, shook hands with the groom, signed the marriage license and proceeded to join William Yarbrough and Sara Fortner in holy matrimony.

Vess had never married couples under the new marriage law in Mississippi that no longer requires a blood test and a three-day waiting period.

That was a good thing for Sara who had the dress and the groom, but each time she set a date, she was met with obstacles that required her to postpone her wedding day.

“I got tired of waiting,” Sara said after Friday’s ceremony. In less than a week, Sara made arrangements for her big day.

With the help of the Eola hotel and staff, William and Sara were able to whisk down to Natchez from Clinton on Thursday with their new marriage license from Rankin County and marry on the marble steps in the Eola lobby on Friday,

“It was a first for me,” Vess said about the new law he thinks will be good for Natchez and other tourist towns.

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Sara Fortner signs the marriage license for the spur-of-the-moment wedding.

Of course, Vess has performed quickie weddings in Natchez before. It’s just that they have involved a 30 minute wait for a blood test and a trip to circuit court.

“I used to meet couples as they disembarked from the Delta Queen, and I would drive them over to Natchez Pathology,” Vess said.

After a 30 minute wait for blood test results and a waiver of the three-day waiting period from the circuit judge, Vess would then marry the happy couple at the gazebo on the bluff with the sun setting in the background or some other beautiful Natchez setting.

“It was quick, just not as quick as this,” Vess said Friday.


  • Anonymous

    MANY MORE OLD LAWS ON THE BOOKS NEED TO BE TRASHED. THAT’S A BEAUTIFUL SCEENERY ON THE MARBLE STEPTS. 

  • Anonymous

    Given that planned marriages have less than a 50/50 chance, this one might set a record.

  • Anonymous

    One of the most pleasant duties I have perfrormed over the past 21 years….

  • Anonymous

    LOL!!!!!!!!  Spellcheck anyone?