Help finding wedding officiant
March 21, 2004 10:38 PM   Subscribe

Wedding officiants. I'm getting married in Pennsylvania this summer, I'm struggling to find someone to marry me and my fiance, and we belong to no church. If I wanted a friend to officiate, but he or she isn't a minister of anything (or a county official), how could that person become an "ordained minister". OR: how do I find someone good to do it?

Also, to make it more complicated, Pennsylvania requires the following (different wordings from different sites):

A. Officiants: Any ordained minister who has filed credentials with the county clerk of the county in which he/she resides or in which the marriage is to be performed. Judges, Justices of Peace, and County Clerks or their appointed Deputies may also perform wedding ceremonies.

B. Officiants: Ministers of any church organized, carrying on its work, and having congregations in this state may perform marriages in this state if authorized by their church to do so. Before performing marriages, ministers must file their credentials with the county clerk of the county in which they reside or in which the marriage is to be performed. Ministers must give the bride and groom a marriage certificate upon request. Also, the minister must send a marriage certificate to the county clerk who issued the marriage license within one month after the marriage.
posted by thebigpoop to Law & Government (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
In Pennsylvania, you don't need an officiant (in part because of the Quaker tradition and influence -- Quakers have no clergy). You should be able to get a self-uniting marriage license from whatever the relevant county is, and then you have SMALLNUM adult witnesses sign it.

So get one of those and have whoever you want to say whatever they might say over you, and then pass your marriage license around like a high-school yearbook. [perot]Problem solved case closed![/perot]
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:07 PM on March 21, 2004


You can also have the friend get ordained by the Universal Life Church, and file those credentials. They even give you a nifty certificate of ordination. I am not familiar with PA law, but I have successfully officiated a wedding as a minister in the ULC here in California.
posted by bedhead at 11:25 PM on March 21, 2004


I don't know if the ULC could be said to be "carrying on its work, and having congregations in" PA. But perhaps that clause isn't actually enforced.

I assume you could just have whoever you like say whatever words you want in front of your friends and family, and then go off to a justice of the peace afterwards (or beforehand) for the paperwork.
posted by hattifattener at 11:57 PM on March 21, 2004


Friends of mine were married in Pittsburgh by a Unitarian minister. They said the Unitarians will marry anyone. The minister basically ran the ceremony the way my friends wanted, with strong Celtic influences. They were married in a small garden area at the church, and they held the reception (pot luck!) in the church's basement (at the time, showcasing art by homosexual artists - think homoerotic wrestling, intriguing leather outfits, etc. :-).

Search Google for "Unitarian [your city name / area]" and you should find some churches. Oh, and there was a fee, I believe both for the use of the basement and the minister's time.
posted by whatnotever at 11:59 PM on March 21, 2004


I'd strongly recommend that you do not use a minister/ministrix unless you have at least a modicum of religious committment. Otherwise it seems like you're wasting their time. If you want a wedding ceremony, go ahead and have a friend speak, but do the paperwork with the mayor or a judge beforehand.
posted by plinth at 3:10 AM on March 22, 2004


The non-denominational person that married us referred to himself as a "lay celebrant."
posted by machaus at 5:10 AM on March 22, 2004


then go off to a justice of the peace afterwards (or beforehand) for the paperwork
...
but do the paperwork with the mayor or a judge beforehand

Everything I've read indicates that this is utterly unnecessary in PA.

Go and get a self-uniting marriage license, have anybody or nobody or a recording of L. Ron Hubbard speaking through an R2-D2 say some words over you, exchange your vows, and then have witnesses sign your license. That's it.

Pennsylvania marriage law allows for weddings with no officiant whatsoever. Logically, this includes weddings with ineffectual ``officiants.''
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:29 AM on March 22, 2004


In Massachusetts, your marraige can simply be "solmenized" by whoever you wish. They have a one day appointment made by the governor of the state to conduct an official ceremony. All you need is 25 bucks and the appropriate form.

This site seems to lay it all out for Pennsylvania. Doesn't look like solemnizing is an option for you.
posted by dhacker at 6:33 AM on March 22, 2004


Here's what ULC's site says about PA: "Ministers of any regularly established church or congregation may perform marriages. Also, persons may marry themselves if they obtain a certificate from the clerk of the orphans' court. --- Ministers must provide a certificate of marriage to the bride and groom. Also, they must send a marriage certificate to the clerk of the orphans' court who issued the marriage license within 10 days after the marriage. --- For questions see the clerk of the orphans' court." Dunno what the heck orphans have to do with it . . .

Speaking as a person who got ordained and married two friends of mine (in MA) I can say it was a real and true honor to be integrally involved in their marriage ceremony. Honestly, it was one of the coolest things I've ever done. If you're not religious, I can't think of a neater thing than to have a good friend marry you . . .
posted by lazywhinerkid at 7:08 AM on March 22, 2004


Here's what ULC's site says about PA
...
Doesn't look like solemnizing is an option for you

You do not need your friend to go get a ULC or any other "ordination." Nor do you need to have your friend pay money to Pennsylvania to be a solemnizer-officiant for the day.

Pennsylvania marriage law allows for weddings with no officiant whatsoever.

Go to the county courthouse, or whatever the local agency is in that county. Ask for a self-uniting marriage license. Then, on the day, your friend can say whatever (s)he wants over you, having precisely zero legal effect. After that, your friend and someone else sign the marriage license as witnesses.

The only difference is that your friend will sign on a line that says "Witness" rather than "Officiant" or "Solemnizer" or whatever.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:13 AM on March 22, 2004


My wife and I were married by a good friend who was ordained by ULC, and I can't recommend that route enough.

We've been talking about gay marriage, given that we live in Multnomah county, and if given the opportunity we would rather have had a civil union with the same rights as a marriage. Not that either of us think that gay marriage is a bad thing, quite the contrary, it's just that neither of us is religious, and it would be nice someday to have the option (straight or gay) to be either married or civil unioned and have it mean the same thing no matter which term gets applied.

For us getting a friend to be the officiant was as good as it was going get.
posted by togdon at 9:24 AM on March 22, 2004


I'm a ULC minister. You pretty much need to get a kit from the ULC to get them to send out notice of your credentials-- they'll do it for free, but it takes months. 25 dollars well spent.

(I'm available for weddings in the Boston area.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:19 AM on March 22, 2004


No need to pay the $25. One can be ordained and immediately print out ULC credentials directly from the web site. It looks like they stopped allowing you to print "blank credentials" like the one that I used.

In order to be technically valid, you are supoosed to have your ordination on file with your "church" but, in my experience, the secular county clerks have no interest in checking your credentials. Once you're ordained, you can ordain your friends! Fun for all!
posted by maniactown at 12:01 PM on March 22, 2004


Again, though, you don't need to do any of that for a wedding in PA. Just get a self-uniting license and have whoever you want say whatever you want. All the state is going to care about is the license returned with signatures in the right places.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:38 PM on March 22, 2004


You're all making my life much better. THANKS ASK.MEFI!
posted by thebigpoop at 2:02 PM on March 22, 2004


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