how can we get married in OK without God?
July 28, 2009 9:29 PM   Subscribe

We'd like to get married in Oklahoma, and we were hoping for a courtroom marriage for now with a big to-do later on, but it turns out that the state has stopped providing this service!

We've googled extensively and can seemingly only find information on how to procure the marriage license itself. we have ten days after that to "get married".

We're not religious, and would strongly prefer to be married by someone other than a minister. where do we look, and who should we ask?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (15 answers total)
Is going to a bordering state an option? Some friends of mine got married in Texas instead of OK.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:32 PM on July 28, 2009

What are you expecting, exactly? We got married in Illinois, and the marriage license was the "record of marriage" -- the fiddly legal bit of getting married. Anything after that is up to you to arrange. But that's IL, and OK is probably different.

If Oklahoma requires that you have a minister or JP preside over the marriage, I bet the county clerk's office (or equivalent) will have a directory.
posted by boo_radley at 9:35 PM on July 28, 2009

I'm an athiest who got married in South Carolina, so I sympathize. We ended up hiring a minister but told her explicitly that we were atheists and did not want any mention of god in the ceremony. She did the ceremony exactly as we asked. If you google non-denominational minister or try a Unitarian, you may be able to find a minister to do a non-religious ceremony.
posted by bananafish at 9:43 PM on July 28, 2009

You could always go to the "Church of Agnosticism" AKA the Unitarians.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:44 PM on July 28, 2009

Most states allow judges to perform marriages. Are you saying that OK explicitly bars this? Or are you saying that a particular court doesn't perform weddings? It's not clear from your question.

When I got married in New York (admittedly the law will be different in OK), a clerk at the city office performed the perfunctory service.
posted by dfriedman at 9:47 PM on July 28, 2009

According to the Universal Life Church folks, you can get married in OK without having to do it in a church. Get a friend to become a minister in the Universal Life Church and have them sign the paperwork. And you're married.

This is how your friend can become ordained.
posted by rtha at 10:01 PM on July 28, 2009

A marriage license is a piece of paper that authorizes you to get married (i.e., you are of age, you are not cousins, etc.). A marriage certificate is a document that proves you are married. You get the marriage certificate after your marriage ceremony is performed. If you want a non-religious marriage ceremony, you are looking for a civil ceremony. From your question, it sounds like you are looking for somewhere like a city or county clerk's office to have a civil ceremony performed after you get your marriage license.

However, according to, in Oklahoma, only an ordained or licensed clergymen or justices of the peace can perform ceremonies. It doesn't appear that city or county clerks have the authority to perform civil ceremonies in Oklahoma (city or county clerks can perform civil ceremonies in other parts of the US like New York). So you'll need to get the marriage license at the county clerk's office but go elsewhere to have the actual civil marriage ceremony performed.

The county clerk's office, however, might be able to point you towards a justice of the peace or judge who might be willing to perform the civil ceremony for you. Or you can ask an ordained clergyman to perform a civil (non-religious) ceremony.
posted by kathryn at 10:15 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'll second getting a friend to get ordained through the Universal Life Church. I got married in North Carolina and my friend who signed the paperwork was ordained through the ULC. I also got ordained and signed a few marriage licenses too.

I verified that this was okay by calling the county clerk's office and asking if it was okay if the marriage license was signed by a minister from another state (in this case, California, the ULC's headquarters). They said it was.

I'd skip the googling and make a direct phone call to confirm this with your local county clerk. Then, have a friend get ordained online (it takes about three seconds and is free). Then, have your friend sign your marriage license. Presto!
posted by bluedaisy at 12:55 AM on July 29, 2009

Oklahoma's marriage laws are a huge mess, and they've only gotten messier with the Legislature trying to close every possible loophole gay marriage can slip through.

I'm guessing you're cohabiting and exclusive, which pretty much would mean you are already considered in a common law marriage in Oklahoma... well, if anyone can actually figure out if it's still in force. You could probably sue, probably win, and probably stir up a whole bunch of angry OKC suburban legislators to pass some law eliminating all marriage forever.

But anyway, to your actual question:

According to this site, judges can perform the ceremony for an additional fee. The evidence looks contradictory as to whether they still have it or not. But there are 77 counties in Oklahoma, and it doesn't look like there's a ban on judges doing marriage statewide. You might call the court clerk offices in some of your neighboring counties and see if they can set you up with an appointment with a judge.

As for getting someone to just apply for a Church of Universal Life ordination, Oklahoma does require all ministers register with the county court clerk as ministers, which would delay things some more (and there's a chance the clerk's office will pitch a fit at the credentials, but YMMV).

Of course, there's always Arkansas, where there's no waiting period and quickie wedding chapels all over Eureka Springs. OTOH, Arkansas requires a minister; you can't even be married by a judge, apparently.
posted by dw at 1:52 AM on July 29, 2009

Depending on how close to Colorado you are, you could also drive to a courthouse there. A self-uniting marriage license costs $10 and you don't have to get anybody to do the ceremony for you; just hand over the cash, say you're marrying yourselves, & sign the paperwork. Then you can do the big fancy wedding whenever & wherever you please.
posted by belladonna at 5:57 AM on July 29, 2009

You may wish to reconsider being married before your wedding. It's becoming a trend for young couples to get married before the "big wedding", but unfortunately it almost always creates a lot of resentment and even rage among the guests. If you choose to go through the marriage ceremony twice, you could even be putting your second officiant in danger of a fraud charge. (And of course if you don't go through the ceremony twice, your guests will catch on.) If you need to be married right away, I'd suggest either cancelling the do completely or turning it into just a party "to meet the bride and groom" and not a real reception.

The comments I've heard as the local church wedding coordinator have been incredibly vicious toward the bride and sometimes the groom. I mean phrases like (and forgive me for being honest, because these aren't pretty words) "entitled little attention whore", "lying con artists" and "who do they think they are, cheating us this way". I hear phrases like this every time we book one of these fake weddings, even if they're just having a reception and not a second fake ceremony on top of that.

I think the extreme reaction comes from the belief that the couple who does this has an entitlement complex. They get all the benefits of waiting until they can afford the big wedding, but aren't saddled with the responsibility of waiting for other things that go with marriage (whether that be insurance coverage, military benefits, or sex). After all, nobody is owed a big white wedding: it's not a basic human right.

The anger and resentment I hear from guests every time we book a reception like this is just amazing.
posted by watsondog at 7:15 AM on July 29, 2009

2nding calling the court clerk in your county or others. I didn't know judges were now not allowed to perform marriages- this may not be exactly true. if it is, it is a fairly new thing.
posted by domino at 8:04 AM on July 29, 2009

Stop googling and start calling. Local government websites rarely, if ever, have information you can actually use or rely on. Call the office where you'd apply for and obtain the marriage license, explain what you want to do, and they'll tell you how.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:37 AM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Section 43-7 of the Oklahoma Statutes (scroll down a ways) says that judges can conduct wedding ceremonies. I'd be shocked if they changed that law-- every judge I know loves to do weddings. It's a happy occasion and yields some pocket change for them. Ask the district clerk where you get your license which judge can do it, when, and so forth. I bet they get that question all the time.
posted by missouri_lawyer at 8:51 AM on July 29, 2009

watsondog, I guess the key is to not announce this fact before the wedding then. I'm sure marriage licenses are public record, but nobody is going to look.

Also, these folks sound like they are not religious, so I doubt anyone is going to resent that they are having sex a few weeks their actual ceremony. (Until you mentioned it, I had forgotten that it was some sort of "convention" to not have sex until you are married. Hah.)
posted by jrockway at 6:37 AM on August 2, 2009

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