In June of 2019, Derek Mosley married Angela Gonzalez and Jessica Neuendorf on a patio overlooking the Milwaukee River. When the couple kissed, it was also a special moment for Mosley – he had just officiated his 1,000th wedding.
Mosley’s path to becoming one of the most popular officiants in the city began in 2014, when he was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease. During his long, difficult treatment, Mosley, who has been a municipal judge since 2002, decided that he wanted to officiate more weddings.
“When you’re on dialysis every night, it pains you,” Mosley says. “I was looking for some happiness. … [Weddings] were a happy place for me. When you see the couple look each other in the eyes and profess their love in front of their closest friends, that’s the most special moment.”
In 2016, he received a kidney transplant and went off the dialysis machine, but didn’t stop officiating weddings. A charismatic speaker and welcoming presence, he was catching people’s attention.
His ceremonies often include special touches, such as the couple passing the rings around the room to their loved ones – to “warm” them and send blessings – before putting them on.
Soon, dozens of couples who had seen him at weddings or heard about him through friends were reaching out personally about officiating their ceremonies.
His 1,000-some weddings haven’t been without hiccups. He once forgot the rings and had to chase the newly married couple down as they left the church. And on one particularly memorable occasion, a groomsman was so intoxicated that he lost control of his bladder mid-ceremony.
Most of the weddings haven’t been so dramatic, Mosley says. And despite the pandemic, he has still been booked week after week and has no plans to slow down. “I started doing weddings to find that happiness, and now I’m in that happy place every weekend.”