Alternative Wedding Officiants in New York
June 4, 2015 6:35 AM   Subscribe

I would like a friend to officiate my wedding, but apparently the state and city of New York have a problem with ULC ministers. Do you have any other suggestions for sites, etc., that will minister-ize folks?

I don't want to get married at the courthouse before or after; I want the legal part and the social part to be together. I would like for my friend to be the officiant but even more I want to not spend hundreds of dollars for ten minutes' work. (I don't need someone to write the ceremony or help me figure out my vows or anything. I just need someone approved by the state of NY to stand there while we say our vows so it can be legal.)

This is obviously super frustrating and makes me want to just go to Penn where we can self-solemnize except we already told everyone to come to Brooklyn. Help!
posted by dame to Law & Government (8 answers total)
About the New York cases.
posted by dame at 6:38 AM on June 4, 2015

The easy answer if you want to avoid the major religions is the Society for Ethical Culture (explicitly recognized under NY and NYC law).

But who told you ULC won't work in NYC? I know people who've done it. There are just more hoops to jump through and it takes more time. See the NYC clerk's office page and this from the ULC monastery. Now if you're super paranoid, there are some conflicting case precedents in NY superior court and it is theoretically possible someone could legally challenge the marriage's validity, so again the most conservative safe option is just to contact the Ethical Society but ULC is totally doable in NYC as of a couple years ago.

edited to add: I put a link to the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture but I think the original one is in Manhattan and there are other ones in other places, just FYI in case the Brooklyn people are not working for some reason I'm sure you could get an officiant from one of the others.
posted by Wretch729 at 6:48 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the links, Wretch729. The other thing I am realizing is: I don't want to be married by some random stranger off an officiants list. And as long as the state will take the certificate, even if it gets invalidated by a case years in the future and then I have to it again, that's totally cool. You may have averted wedding crisis #1! 🎉
posted by dame at 6:59 AM on June 4, 2015

Oh one other thought - you will note on that city clerk's page that judges can also officiate weddings, even if they are retired. If you have any friend or family connection to a judge (or a lawyer who knows a judge) who'd be willing to do this they can come to you, it's not like you need to go to the courthouse or anything. My sibling in-law was married by a family friend who's a judge and it was lovely.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:00 AM on June 4, 2015

Glad to help dame!

One final thought then I'll stop cluttering up the thread. Just for future reference to anyone looking at this thread interpretation of the NYS marriage laws varies by county and even by town. If you're having a ULC or similar minister do your ceremony it is always a good idea for them to contact the town clerk's office well in advance to make sure it'll be okay.

Finally the officiant in NYC should be aware that it can take 30 days or more for the officiant registration to be processed by the city. Don't leave it to the last minute!

And for couples don't forget about the mandatory 24 hour waiting period between getting a marriage license and actually getting married. The license is good for up to 60 days, pick it up from the clerk's office in advance.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:22 AM on June 4, 2015

Are the NY cases just trying to limit the ULC specifically? If so, your friend could look into getting ordained through American Marriage Ministries instead. We were married by a friend (though in CA, not NY) and he was ordained through AMM.
posted by darkchocolatepyramid at 7:56 AM on June 4, 2015

I just realized I missed adding one of the links I meant to in my first reply. More details on the conflicting case law about ULC officiants in NYS can be found here from Justicia. I know that's from 2013 but as far as I can tell NY's dysfunctional legislature hasn't done anything since to clarify the issue. NY Assemblywoman Sandy Galef has sponsored a bill to make lay officiants a recognized thing but it keeps dying in committee.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:11 AM on June 4, 2015

My uncle is a ULC minister and he legally married us in NYC. He just had to fill out the officiant paperwork (he did so a couple months out because he's also from out of state) and it was all perfectly fine.
posted by bedhead at 8:44 AM on June 4, 2015

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