Is Getting Ordained Online Legal?

The 7 Most Beautiful Wedding Ceremony Scripts…Ever
March 18, 2017
a beach wedding performed by a licensed minister

Seems kinda shady.

Pay a few bucks and some online “church” sends you a piece of paper that says you’re ordained.

Is this legit?

The simple answer?  Yeah, it’s legit.

If you want the in depth answer, buckle up…

Each State Sets the Law for Whether an Online Minister can Perform Weddings

The good news – just about every state in the United States permits ministers ordained online to perform a legal wedding.

Marriage laws through out the United States vary a little but generally are pretty similar.  The states set the general rules about the legalities of marriage (and of course, the US Supreme Court gets involved occasionally).

The state can set the law related to the minimum age to marriage, whether you can be married to multiple people, what relation you can have to your spouse (1st cousin, 2nd cousin, etc.).  And also, who can legally solemnize (fancy word for “marry”) a couple.

In states that allow online officiants, there is language in the state statute that says something like,

(a) “Marriages may be solemnized by any licensed minister of the gospel in regular communion with the Christian church or society of which the minister is a member; by an active or retired judge of the Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals, Court of Civil Appeals, any circuit court, or any district court within this state; by a judge of any federal court; or by an active or retired judge of probate.

(b) Pastor of religious society; clerk of society to maintain register of marriages; register, etc., deemed presumptive evidence of fact. Marriage may also be solemnized by the pastor of any religious society according to the rules ordained or custom established by such society.”

The County Courts Oversee the Marriage License Process

From there, the county (or parish for those in Louisiana) sets the administrative rules.  The county creates the forms and requirements to establish the couple can legally wed in the state.  Each county court houses the records of marriages and ensures compliance with state law.

The county courts also will establish whether the minister or officiant can legally perform the wedding under the laws of a given state.  And since almost every state in the Union allows online ministers to legally officiate weddings, the county clerk will only need you to provide a copy of your Ordination Papers.

If you’re about to perform your first wedding, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the marriage license…filling out some of these old forms can get confusing!

How to Ensure Your Friend or Family Member Can Perform Your Ceremony

The easiest way to find out is to ask the clerk when obtaining the marriage license.

“Excuse me [clerk’s name], my friend was ordained online and will be performing our wedding ceremony.  Do you need anything from him/h

er?”

The answer is usually “no”.  Or again, they may say, “yes, please provide a copy of your friend’s ordination papers”.  And that’s it.  

A few states require a certificate of good standing.  But again, nothing to be concerned or frightened with.

But before you go down that path, you can also look up your state’s laws on solemnizing weddings.

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Puerto Rico

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Virgin Islands

Washington

Washington DC

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming

Beyond knowing whether or not an online ordination is valid, there are a few other questions you may want to ask.

Questions like:

1. How long after wedding ceremony must the license be filed?  In Illinois it’s 10 days.  Maryland within 5 days.

2. Can you perform weddings out of state?  For example, you are a licensed minister in Ohio and the Ohio couple wants to get married in Cancun.

3. Can you sign a foreign marriage license.  So, if you are ordained in Ohio but the couple’s marriage license is from Texas, can you still perform the ceremony?

 

Look:

There isn’t a lot of mystery to this whole process.  Marriages are an important and serious undertaking and most state laws are there to ensure that both parties have knowingly and properly entered into the marital relationship.

So while getting ordained online can seem sleazy and possibly irreverent, most state laws wholeheartedly embrace online ordinations.

So don’t shy away from those questioning your authority.  You have every right to perform the most beautiful weddings in the world.

 

 

 

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