(Closed) Is getting ordained online legit??

posted 9 years ago in Secular
Post # 17
60 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: January 2012

We had our friend get ordained through the Universal Life Church. Fiance has some co-workers who also did this and they were legal immediately. I called the county clerk, who referred me to the state department. They told me that he’s legal throughout the state, and not just in the county.

We live in Michigan. Call your county clerk and ask about the legality before you pursue this.

Post # 18
3316 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: October 2009

Anyone considering getting married online should check out this New York Times article.  Summary:

  • In some states, getting married by someone ordained online is clearly legal.
  • In some states, getting married by someone ordained online will clearly invalidate the marriage.
  • In many states, there is as yet no determination (court case or attorney general’s opinion) as to whether use of an officiant ordained online will invalidate the marriage.
  • If there is a problem, you will likely not find out about it when the marriage license is filed.  Instead, you’ll learn about the problem only if and when the status of the marriage is at issue in a court proceeding–e.g., on death, divorce, or bankruptcy.  At that point, if there is a problem, it will be too late to do anything about it.

I personally would not take the chance, except in a state that had clear authority to the effect that getting married by someone ordained online was legal.  In other states, you could consider:

  • Using “officiant for a day” procedures like those available in Massachusetts and Virginia.
  • Using “self-uniting marriage” procedures (which avoid the need for an officiant at all), like those available in Pennsylvania and Colorado.
  • Using a notary in states like Florida that allow it.
  • Using someone with a regular ordination who is willing to perform a completely secular ceremony.  (Just because the officiant is ordained doesn’t mean s/he has to perform a religious ceremony.)
  • Having a brief ceremony at the courthouse for paperwork purposes, then having whatever symbolic ceremony you want.

Post # 19
429 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: April 2014

From the NY Times article it sounds like weddings are ONLY legal if the officiant is a minister of a congregation.  That sounds like discriminatory bullshit to me, but it’s discrimination that in many states would unfortunately be shrugged off.  There was a case in Illinois about it, but the state courts ruled that having a religious minister legally perform weddings was “religious accomodation.”  Because atheists don’t take vows or ceremonies seriously at all and are perfectly content with just getting a certificate at the courthouse, right?  Whatever.  I know I’m not.


The best option right now in every state is to just suck it up and get a regular, legal officiant who’s willing to do secular ceremonies.  Plenty are, but it’s still annoying.  North Carolina is especially strict about who can and can’t perform weddings– there’s no “officiant for a day” procedure that I know of, no online ordinations, no notary publics, just ministers and clerks at county courthouses. But I really want to get married at the Outer Banks…

Post # 20
2494 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: August 2015

You can’t in Pennsylvania, sadly 🙁

Post # 21
108 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: July 2012

Not in Minnesota. MN Statute §517.04 and §517.05 cover that, §517.15 states it’s a misdemeanor to knowingly solemnize a marriage and not have the lawful authority to do so.

We found an officiant who mainly did secular and interfaith ceremonies. She did a wonderful job. We wanted a completely secular ceremony but not something in your face secular as my religious grandparents were there who don’t deal with that well so she incorporated things without being spiritual at all (and I loved how she opened with stating we were here to celebrate in an ancient tradition of marriage… can’t remember her exact words, but it was great), and it was a beautiful ceremony.

There are a lot of officiants out there who perform secular ceremonies or spiritual but not specific, really just tailored to how you and your SO would like your ceremony. The hubs and I were lucky and found a perfect match with our officiant in one try, but you may have to meet with a few before you find one you click with.

Also, even if internet ordained ministers are legal now, consider the possibility of that being outlawed in the future and while some marriages may be grandfathered in, the date of your wedding happens to land outside of when the law would grandfather marriages performed by internet ordained ministers. I personally wouldn’t do it, for that reason and many others.

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