VT wedding officiant
June 9, 2005 6:03 AM   Subscribe

I've been asked by friends to officiate their late August wedding in Vermont.

I am not clergy nor even a resident of Vermont. I've heard that you can get a good-for-one-wedding ordination through the Universal Life Church, and the web searches I've done suggest that I should call the Caledonia County (that's the county where the wedding's occurring) Probate Court to get an exception for non-residents. Before I did anything, though, I thought I'd see if anyone had done this in Vermont and could walk me through it.
posted by MarkAnd to Law & Government (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not Vermont, but I have done this in DC.

In DC, you have to have a "sponsor," someone from your same denomination who will attest that you are a legit minister, and who is already registered in DC as an officiant. There's a way around it, but you'd have to go in front of a judge and affirm that you are legit. I googled around bit, and found someone to sponsor me.

The catch was that this person wasn't a Universal Life minister, so I had to get "ordained" by World Christianship Ministries. That was easy and free, though not web-based as is Univeral Life.

Basically, it seems that the whole system is set up to keep out people like me, who are doing the whole thing pretty much on a lark. But there are work-arounds.

I don't know if any of this will be relevant, though. States all do things differently. In DC and VA, at least, I know you don't have to be a resident to do any of this, including the marriage.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:49 AM on June 9, 2005

laws are on this page. short answer: get a ULC license, then call the probate court. Your friends will need to purchase a license from a town clerk in person in Caledonia County. Only one of them legally has to be there, but I'd suggest both go in case there are issues with whether the two people are "both free to marry under Vermont law." If your friends are a gay couple, I'd make sure the town clerk isn't going to make that a problem. Legally they can't deny them, but some of them still make their assistants do the wedding license thing which could be time consuming if they don't plan ahead.

You'll then have to register the marriage license with the town clerk within 10 days. Since clerk's offices are open all sorts of weird hours, especially in Caledonia County, I'd make sure you can plan that as part of your trip somehow.
posted by jessamyn at 7:03 AM on June 9, 2005

You might be able to skip the "ordination" altogether.

Call the county probate court first, tell the clerk that you have been asked to perform a wedding ceremony there, and ask if you need to register with the county as a recognized officiant. Odds are very, very good that they will say "No." If so, skip right ahead to the ceremony, sign their marriage license, and have fun.

I say this as an ordained minister with qualifications somewhat better than ULC's. I have done quite a few ceremonies all over the country and have come to discover that the government doesn't care who performs the ceremony, so long as the couple obtains a proper marriage license from the county. The exact wordings of the laws vary from state to state, of course, but unless you find a county clerk who has (usually personal) reasons to challenge your qualifications, it really doesn't matter. If the couple say that you are their minister and are qualified to marry them, that's really all that matters.

Jessamyn's link had the quote, "An out-of-state priest, rabbi, or minister may perform your ceremony, but must first obtain special authorization from a probate court in the district where the marriage will take place." This gives the probate clerk authorization to make you prove ordination, but I'd still think you'll be able to skip that.
posted by ewagoner at 7:33 AM on June 9, 2005

As a follow-up, in case anyone in the future (hey, nice hoverpants!) reads this, I thought I'd note how it worked out. Vermont seemed a little stressed about letting a lay person from out of state perform a ceremony. Here's what to do:

-Contact the probate court in the county where the ceremony will be performed and get them to send you the "Request for Authorization to Perform Marriage Ceremony" form.
-Get an internet quickie ordination.
-Fill out the form and send it into the probate court along with a check for $25 and a copy of your certificate of ordination. (It asks for a letter to be written on the letterhead of the place where you're serving as clergy -- I just wrote a letter on my work letterhead (not affiliated with any religious institution) that I was a member in good standing and minister of the Universal Life Church, and that worked for them.)
-Wait two weeks and call to make sure that the request has gone through and a Certificate of Special Authorization has been issued by the judge.
-Before the wedding, the bride and/or groom has to take the marriage license (obtained from the town clerk) to the probate court and get an official copy of the Certificate of Special Authorization stapled to the marriage license. This gives an out-of-state clergyperson permission to sign the marriage license.

And that's it. I was an idiot and waited until about 3 weeks before the wedding before I got my act together and then I was a little stressed out, but it all worked out well. Honestly, I'd imagine that if I'd just signed the marriage license and sent it in to the clerk, there wouldn't have been any problem but it was nice to be able to do it officially.
posted by MarkAnd at 11:51 AM on October 25, 2005

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