i have been the minister in a few hundred wedding ceremonies over the course of my life. i’ve got a lot of different observations about the whole process. i mean…a lot. if i stay at this marriage tuesday thing for a few more years, we’ll probably cover a bunch of them.
so keep reading.
i did a little research on officiating wedding ceremonies this past week. i’m still kinda creeped out about what i found.
out of the 50 states of the union, only seventeen of them require ministers to register with state or local authorities to give proof of their “official” status as a minister. (official status would be proof of a valid ordination or license to perform ministerial duties).
here are a few statements taken directly from county clerk web pages governing marriages in different states:
Illinois – Ministers must contact county clerk before performing any marriage
Nevada – Ministers must receive a “certificate of permissions” before they can perform marriage ceremonies.
West Virginia – All ministers must register with the state of West Virginia. Requirements for registration: 1. Proof of Age – The registrant must be 18 years of age or older, and may show proof using a birth certificate, driver license, passport or military ID. 2. Proof of Authority – The registrant must be duly authorized to perform marriages by his or her church, synagogue, spiritual assembly or religious organization; and in regular communion with that group of which he or she is a member. 3. Bond – A bond of $1,500 with surety approved by the county commission, is required if the formal ordination or similar authorization is not provided. The Secretary of State will establish a registry of all persons authorized to perform marriages.
Wisconsin – Any ordained clergyman of any religious denomination or society may perform marriages as well as a judge, a court commissioner, or certain religious appointees. Before performing marriages, ministers must file their credentials of ordination with the clerk of the circuit court in the county in which their church is located. The clerk will give the minister a certificate.
arkansas, delaware, virginia, hawaii, kansas, louisiana, massachusetts, minnesota, new hampshire, ohio, oklahoma, and oregon are the other states that require ministers to provide proof of who they are and a confirmation of their status as ministers before they can officiate over a marriage.
what that means is the two states that i hold closest to my heart, require absolutely no proof of any kind from a minister to validate that he/she is, in fact, a real minister.
honestly, over the course of my marrying career, i have never ever…not one time…even in the slightest way…been asked by anybody official to prove that i am a minister. i just perform the ceremonies, sign the license, pop it in the mail…and that’s all, folks.
so what i’m saying is that in both the state of california and the great state of texas, pretty much anybody can perform a wedding ceremony…and sign on the dotted line…because nobody is ever going to check!
and i’ve got almost forty years of ministry experience to prove it!
moral of the story? there is more to marriage than a civil ceremony. there is more to marriage than a church ceremony. there’s more to marriage than what you’re putting into it right now.
…and i don’t need no stinking certificate to speak that kind of truth!
one last thing. my absolute favorite county clerk quote comes from the state of maryland:
In Maryland, any adult can sign as clergy, as long as the couple who are getting married agree that he is a clergy. The celebrant (the one overseeing the wedding) doesn’t have to be a resident, register in advance, or fulfill any other requirements of any kind.
you gotta love the state of maryland.