The Quakers Have the Right Idea
March 5, 2012 11:38 AM   Subscribe

Help me marry some folks!

I am super excited that my brother and his babymama asked me to officiate at their wedding in June, but I need to get credentials to legally perform the ceremony and I do not live in the same state as they do. Ordinarily, I would sign up at the first online ministry google result I found, but there is a complicating factor. My family is Jewish, babymama's is not. To avoid family drama, I'd prefer something non-religious for getting my certification. Bro has been clear that they do not want a Justice of the Peace ceremony for legal purposes followed by a family ceremony. They want me to do it.

Is there such a thing as a non-religious online wedding officiant license? A second-best would be something not explicitly Christian (i.e., no "church," "reverend," "ministry" on the website or name), which I didn't see either.
posted by *s to Law & Government (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
The answer really depends on which state they are getting married in.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 11:48 AM on March 5, 2012


They're getting married in Michigan.
posted by *s at 11:50 AM on March 5, 2012


Call the county clerk's office and explain your situation. They've undoubtedly heard this question before.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:54 AM on March 5, 2012


When we got married in MA, we had a friend get a one-day officiants license. This let her sign our marriage license (which is a really cool reminder for us every time we need the license for something).

On Preview: no idea if Michigan allows this (and a quick search isn't revealing anything), but it's something to look into.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:55 AM on March 5, 2012


Apparently the Spiritual Humanism ordination is now recognized in Michigan.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:00 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here is what I learned about trying to have a non-JOP civil marriage ceremony.

Some states, such as CA and MA, have one-day officiant licenses. I cannot see that Michigan offers this, although you should definitely call the county they are getting married in and ask.

Beyond that, in the majority of states (including Michigan), the onus is on the couple getting married to ensure that their wedding officiant meets the legal requirements. For Michigan, the legal requirements for someone to solemnize a marriage are:
Marriages may be solemnized by any of the following:
(a) A judge of the district court, in the district in which the judge is serving.

(b) A district court magistrate, in the district in which the magistrate serves.

(c) A municipal judge, in the city in which the judge is serving or in a township over which a municipal court has jurisdiction under section 9928 of the revised judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 236, MCL 600.9928.

(d) A judge of probate, in the county or probate court district in which the judge is serving.

(e) A judge of a federal court.

(f) A mayor of a city, anywhere in a county in which that city is located.

(g) A county clerk in the county in which the clerk serves, or in another county with the written authorization of the clerk of the other county.

(h) For a county having more than 2,000,000 inhabitants, an employee of the county clerk's office designated by the county clerk, in the county in which the clerk serves.

(i) A minister of the gospel or cleric or religious practitioner, anywhere in the state, if the minister or cleric or religious practitioner is ordained or authorized to solemnize marriages according to the usages of the denomination.

(j) A minister of the gospel or cleric or religious practitioner, anywhere in the state, if the minister or cleric or religious practitioner is not a resident of this state but is authorized to solemnize marriages under the laws of the state in which the minister or cleric or religious practitioner resides.
Please do call the County Clerk of the county they are getting married in. If that is not fruitful, your brother and his fiance need to decide which is more important to them - that you avoid online ordinations, or that they avoid a JOP or courthouse wedding.
posted by muddgirl at 12:05 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just a heads up: quickie ordinations in "paper" churches don't necessarily work in all states. In some states, marriages have been annulled because "ministers" in organizations like the Universal Life Church do not actually have congregations.

Which is to say, always call the County Clerk's office to check.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:15 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Call the County Clerk's office to check--these things vary widely by jurisdiction.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:23 PM on March 5, 2012


If a notary can perform a legal marriage, it's a very useful certification to have.
posted by theora55 at 12:36 PM on March 5, 2012


In some states, marriages have been annulled because "ministers" in organizations like the Universal Life Church do not actually have congregations.

Yep, this is why I suggested the Spiritual Humanism folks who, according to their website, do have a "local congregation" in Michigan. Of course I would suggest that *s verify that with the county clerk in Michigan and get a firm confirmation from the Spiritual Humanism folks.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:28 PM on March 5, 2012


"ministers" in organizations like the Universal Life Church do not actually have congregations

If that's not an issue in Michigan, this is how my husband and I got married. He's Quaker, I'm Jewish, and a good friend of ours ponied up the $5 to get a certificate that he was now a minister in the Universal Life Church and signed all the papers for the state we were married in (Washington). Easy peasy.

From muddgirl's (i) and (j) above, it looks like there isn't an explicit requirement to have a congregation (but check!).
posted by leahwrenn at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2012


To make this even more complicated:

Since *s is not a resident of Michigan, my understanding is that if she goes the online ordination route, she will have to follow the laws of her home state to be in accordance with Michigan law (see j). The relevant Texas law is:
Sec. 2.202. PERSONS AUTHORIZED TO CONDUCT CEREMONY. (a) The following persons are authorized to conduct a marriage ceremony:

(1) a licensed or ordained Christian minister or priest;

(2) a Jewish rabbi;

(3) a person who is an officer of a religious organization and who is authorized by the organization to conduct a marriage ceremony; and

(4) a justice of the supreme court, judge of the court of criminal appeals, justice of the courts of appeals, judge of the district, county, and probate courts, judge of the county courts at law, judge of the courts of domestic relations, judge of the juvenile courts, retired justice or judge of those courts, justice of the peace, retired justice of the peace, judge of a municipal court, or judge or magistrate of a federal court of this state.

(b) For the purposes of this section, a retired judge or justice is a former judge or justice who is vested in the Judicial Retirement System of Texas Plan One or the Judicial Retirement System of Texas Plan Two or who has an aggregate of at least 12 years of service as judge or justice of any type listed in Subsection (a)(4).
This is, relatively, a very lax requirement that would be fulfilled by many online ordination websites.

Isn't it fun to deal with varying state laws?
posted by muddgirl at 3:12 PM on March 5, 2012


I forgot to mention earlier that the California one-day officiant license requires that the officiant be a resident of the state of California, so even if any Michigan county had such a license, a non-resident may not be able to make use of it.

Honestly, I feel like my dream to have a completely civil wedding of my own choosing was a confluence of luck (the right wedding location, the right officiant who lived in the right county such that he could go down to the courthouse to fill out the right paperwork), and had either element been different I would have settled for either a courthouse ceremony followed by a big reception or an online ordination.
posted by muddgirl at 3:17 PM on March 5, 2012


I got married in MI by my best friend... who became a member of the Universal Life Church just so she could officiate our wedding.

It was a completely secular wedding.
posted by LittleMy at 4:33 PM on March 5, 2012


FWIW (and it's not worth much) in New Jersey you can perform weddings without either in-state or out-of-state ordination as long as you have a note from an appropriate organization that certifies you divine enough (I was married by a friend from High School who was in Harvard Divinity, but not yet ordained. Her local church wrote that she was good enough and the local chapter agreed - I don't think anyone at the clerk's office checked her credentials).
posted by plinth at 5:03 PM on March 5, 2012


There are very few states which require that the officiant be certified in any way with the county clerk. Michigan does not seem like it is one of them, from what I've read.
posted by muddgirl at 5:07 PM on March 5, 2012


I'm Jewish, and became a minster in the Universal Life Church to perform marriages. They are completely non-denominational, so for me at least, I saw no conflict. I have performed several ceremonies for friends and coworkers, and have made it clear that I won't do religious weddings of any kind.

It has never been a problem, and I have worked with the couples to design a ceremony that works for them. Don't get hung up on the word 'church' or 'minister'- a church doesn't have to be Christian, and I have never pretended to be one.

The ULC also has a handy resource on state laws for marriage here -
http://www.themonastery.org/tools/wedding_laws/
posted by Philbo at 7:46 PM on March 5, 2012


My (completely atheist) husband performed a (completely secular) marriage ceremony as a minister of the Universal Life Church. I think it's pretty much the standard workaround to this problem in most states.

When we were looking into options in Tennessee, where Universal Life Church is a little iffy (in TN, the officiant must have "the care of souls" which is hard to justify with ULC), we ended up finding a Presbyterian deacon who was happy to perform a secular ceremony for us. So that was awesome.

If all else fails, you could tag team with the county clerk, judge, whatever. Good luck! Fun! Congrats!
posted by elizeh at 8:15 PM on March 5, 2012


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