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Goin' to the chapel? You don't have to go far

Goin' to the chapel? You don't have to go far

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T.J. Tranchell/Rally Daily staff Joan Pillen has turned part of J & J Optical into a "hitchin' post" for the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Her dog Jack is part of every wedding, Pillen said and serves as head of security and customer service.

Joan Pillen helped about 50 couples tie the knot at the Sturgis motorcycle rally in 2009, which isn't unusual. Many bikers get hitched or renew their vows during the annual event.

The unusual part was they could order a pair of prescription glasses at the wedding chapel.

Pillen is a nondenominational minister who co-owns J and J Optical in Sturgis with her husband, Jubal, who has been operating a small wedding room inside the optical store known as The Hitchin' Post for the past five years, providing Sturgis riders a place to say "I do" during the weeklong bike rally.

"It just seemed like a fun thing to do, so we tried it," Joan Pillen said. "During the rally, we make prescription sunglasses over night for bikers, and on the other side, we have brides and grooms coming and going."

Pillen was ordained in 2003 and began officiating weddings for her friends. She soon started Hitched in the Hills as a year-round business officiating weddings throughout the Black Hills.

In 2005, she began to preside over wedding ceremonies during the motorcycle rally, which she said is easy to do with South Dakota's less restrictive marriage laws.

Within 20 days of a wedding, a bride and groom have to present identification and pay $40 cash to receive a marriage license at any South Dakota courthouse, she said. There are no required blood tests, waiting periods or documentation for those that are widowed or divorced. The Sturgis Register of Deeds is at 1425 Sherman St.

Pillen's does have one additional rule: she won't marry anybody who has just met.

"We have a little conversation before I go ahead with anything," Pillen said.

The fee to have Pillen preside over a wedding is $200, which includes a custom ceremony, flowers and a bridal veil.

"They get to leave with a ceremony I created, and I do a lot of special things," Pillen said.

So far, the Hitchin' Post has 20 reservations for this year. Pillen said the most she has ever had was about 60 in 2007.

New for the 70th anniversary of the rally is the Sturgis Quicky ceremony, which Pillen said will take five minutes outside in front of the stain glass window on the side of the building.

Though she has seen many interesting people get married in the past five years, one of the most memorable moments was the wedding she presided over for a couple that was involved in a motorcycle accident and still wearing hospital scrubs and gauze wrapped around their wounds. Pillen said she thought they just got several tattoos.

"We threw them a wedding that was on the house," she said. "Sixty people came for the wedding, and the groom was just there to get his glasses fixed."

As the rally begins to draw in bikers from throughout the country, Pillen knows it's a great time and opportunity for couples of all ages to get married or renew their marriage vows.

"There are so many relationships formed during the bike rally, it's kind of like a coming together," Pillen said. "People become nostalgic and do their renewal of vows because it's a place they want to make promises."

Contact Tyler Jerke at 394-8415 or

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The Sturgis Hitchin' Post will hold ceremonies on a walk-in or appointment basis throughout rally week. It is in the J and J Optical building …

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