After tying the knot thousands of times, Sue Lewis is ready to retire.
For the past eight years Sue has been in charge of the North Yorkshire registration service and is retiring after conducting her final ceremony when she married Alison Towers and Steven Burns at the Sun Pavilion, in Valley Gardens, Harrogate.
On the last day of the month she will officially bring to a close a career as a civil registration officer spanning 34 years.
Born in Newland, near Drax, Sue attended Selby Girls’ High School, leaving in 1968 to work in the rating department at the former Derwent Rural District Council in Fulford for four years.
Sue returned to the public service in 1982 after spotting in the Selby Times an advertisement for a part time Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages at Selby Register Office.
Sue was promoted to Superintendent Registrar of Selby in 1987, leaving five years later to occupy the same post at Scarborough. In 1998, in a dramatic departure from tradition, the whole of the North Yorkshire council area was fashioned into a single registration district, by far the largest geographically in England, and Sue became senior registrar and area manager for the eastern division.
In 2008, she was appointed head of the service as Superintendent Registrar with full responsibility for day-to-day operational management, and with 90 staff who work at several locations in the county.
Sue paid tribute to her “dedicated and wonderful’’ colleagues and reflected on her good fortune in having been able to enjoy “the best career imaginable’’.
It has been a great privilege to have been so closely involved with people at such important and momentous times in their lives.
After presiding at many thousands of ceremonies, Sue has a fund of memories and many out-of-the-ordinary incidents spring to mind, such as the time a groom appeared at the register office hoping to be married dressed in a full Disney character outfit.
I admired his originality, but had to remind him about the solemnity of the occasion and that Mickey Mouse didn’t quite comply with that requirement. Apart from all else, imagine how shocking it would have been to have upstaged the bride!
The registration service has moved forward apace during Sue’s 34 years.
When I started the service was steadfastly operating on legislation implemented only days after Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837. Perhaps the most progressive move was introduced 20 years ago when, for the first time, couples were able to marry in a civil ceremony outside the register office in premises such as civic buildings, hotels, and stately homes.
Another very popular reform came in 2005 when same-sex unions became legal. A further statutory responsibility placed on registrars is in conducting citizenship ceremonies, while many register offices now offer secular child naming, renewal of vows and funeral ceremonies.
One of the biggest advantages of retirement for Sue will be that she will no longer have to make the daily 80-mile round trip between the family home in Hemingbrough and the register office at elegant Bilton House in Harrogate.
She will also have more time to pursue her passion for cooking and gardening, as well as practicing and performing with the Selebian Singers based at Barlby Church. Voluntary work, the gym, and spending much more time with her four grandchildren will keep Sue active during her retirement.