Can I get ordained to just marry a family member or friend?
After researching this subject in-depth, I would not recommend doing so. In many states it is a criminal offense to get ordained to marry just a family member or friend. Even though a County Clerk or Wedding Authority may say you can, remember they are not attorneys or judges. The Universal Life Church World Headquarters also does not recommend that you get ordained only to officiate one wedding for a family or friend and they will not ordain someone who they know is intending to do such.
Why? Not only may it be a criminal offense, ordination is a sacrament for an individual to become a minister, someone who administers sacraments such as multiple marriages for more than just friends or family and/or who holds services and performs other ministerial duties. A marriage officiated by someone who just became ordained to do just that, is grounds for annulment.
Secondly, I wonder how God would look at it if someone became ordained as a disciple of Christ just to perform one wedding? I do not believe that will justify ordination in God's eyes. Remember it will be you who faces God to be judged and it will be you who may face criminal charges or some day ending up explaining to a judge why you became ordained not to perform ministerial duties.
Many States have alternatives to ordination for individuals who wish to marry a family member or friend. For example in California you can become deputized for a day through the County Clerk, in other states there are similar options, such as notaries being allowed to perform wedding ceremonies. Your best bet, do not attempt to pass yourself off as a legitimate minister when you get ordained only to do just one wedding, you know and I know that is not what ordination is for. Captioned below is part of an article written by the foremost expert on marriages with the Universal Life Church. This man has been with each of them. Top priority should be with the couples marriage, don't take chances and do not listen to these greedy internet marketers who say, it is ok you can do it, they don't know what they are talking about. Consult with an attorney who specializes in family law, don't take these bimbo's word for it.
Reverend Daniel Chapin, OSM. has served on the board for each of the Universal Life Churches over the course of the past twenty years and is considered a foremost expert regarding weddings. Recently Chapin was interviewed concerning the laws regarding Universal Life Church Ministers being able to officiate weddings within the USA. Chapin includes a special definition of a minister as defined under the IRS and Supreme Court decision following the "Knight Case." The Universal Life Church World Headquarters wishes to release unedited transcripts of this interview they are as follows;
1.) Can I Be Ordained Simply to Officiate A Wedding?
The Universal Life Church World Headquarters understands and adheres to the following definition of a legal " Minister." Understand that becoming ordained simply to perform a wedding ceremony or two can get an individual in "Hot" water with government authorities as often the IRS and Federal Government only considers weddings valid when performed by an official minister of a faith based denomination with a tenet of faith, history of apostolic lineage, proof of what is considered Church activities, etc. The Universal Life Church World Headquarters and its ministers ordained through us meets all of the below guidelines.
"Ministers" are eligible with respect to services they perform in the exercise of their ministry: the housing allowance; the parsonage exclusion; exemption from social security coverage (if several conditions are met); self-employed status for Social Security (if not exempt); and exemption from income tax withholding. In deciding if a person is a "minister" for federal tax purposes, the following five factors must be considered: (1) the person must be ordained, commissioned, or licensed; (2) administration of sacraments; (3) conduct of religious worship; (4) management responsibilities in the local church or a parent denomination; (5) considered to be a religious leader by the church or parent denomination.
In general, the IRS and the courts require that a minister be ordained, commissioned, or licensed, and then they apply a "balancing test" with respect to the other four factors. The more of them that a person satisfies, the more likely that he or she will be deemed to be a minister for tax reporting purposes.
Now Once You are ordained with us & an opportunity to perform weddings arises here are some questions which may come up and some of our direction on them....
2.) What type of Officiant or Minister are you? Are you able and willing to perform civil wedding ceremonies?
Ministers/Wedding Officiants themselves usually fall into two different groups. The largest and most ‘trusted’ group are those who are tied to a religious tradition (Jewish rabbi; Catholic Priest; Methodist pastor; etc). Although these are the most trusted or well known, this does not mean they are necessarily right for your wedding celebration. Many of their traditions have strict rules on with whom and where they can and can not celebrate a wedding. Often, unfortunately, the rule of thumb for many of them is if a couple does not belong to their tradition they will not be allowed to celebrate their big day.
The other group call themselves Non-denominational ministers. The name says it all. This group is made up of all ministers not tied to a “main line” faith tradition. A wedding officiant typically carries additional training, in addition to their specific ordination, in working with couples; for example in relationship counseling. Ask your officiant about these areas. How much experience do they have? Why do they serve as an officiant? The more a couple gets to know their officiant the more personal the relationship becomes, making for an even more relaxed and secure atmosphere as they progress toward their wedding day celebration. Serving as a wedding officiant, whether one is an ordained minister or not, is about the couple, not about religion.
A wedding officiant should be focused on creating an atmosphere and a wedding ceremony which focuses on highlighting the couple's love story, not about long winded sermons. The officiant or minister should be open to performing everything from non-denominational wedding ceremonies to more religious ceremonies based on what you desire. Our ministers here have officiated over and planned: Civil wedding ceremonies, traditional Christian ceremonies, informal beach weddings and more.
3.) If Ordained, where are you ordained through? What makes you authorized to officiate weddings?
See above Supreme Court And IRS Notes on What constitutes a legal minister and wedding officiant. This can be a touchy subject with some non-denominational ministers. Although it is a touchy subject it is one that every couple needs to ask. This is where a couple will get some insight into how much training and/or studies this minister or officiant has in the field of marriage and wedding celebration. Being ordained over the internet should not itself be a disqualifying factor so long as the minister requirements are met by the ordaining entity and meet the stats of the "Knight Definition." The Universal Life Church Monastery, The Universal Life Church Seminary for example whom primarily serve as wedding officiation ordination mills are very often challenged and not recognized as ministers and the weddings are often challenged in court. Your officiant should have ample experience, some additional education, couples references, should be flexible, personable & professional. They should also have some affiliations with recognized Wedding Referral Agencies. And, hopefully, they will be of good nature and fun personality as well. After all this is a celebration isn't it?
4.) What type of ceremonies does the officiant celebrate?
An officiant worth their salt will have choices for a couple to choose from.
If an officiant says that they have a copyrighted ceremony that a couple can not see or hear before their celebration, we would recommend finding a different one. This type of officiant is so closed minded that they think they know better then the couple what they would like as part of their wedding. Scary no? The same, incidentally, can be said for wedding planners. The couple is the one who gets to dictate their special wedding day! Often wedding planners, no matter how good may at times begin to tell a couple what would work or not for their ceremony. Some of their advice might be worthwhile. But, ultimately, this is the couple's day and it should be treated and prepared according to their own desires, dreams & love story.
If an officiant tells a couple that they will need to research and write their own ceremony with out their input, then will just read it the day of the ceremony, we suggest, in this case, that couple's end the conversation and find a new officiant. This is often a sign of an officiant who has no real clue as to what is legal and appropriate to make a couple's celebration celebration a valid wedding. A good officiant will seek a balance between what they like and what is necessary for a valid wedding. They will normally ask the couple what types of things they do and do not want in their wedding. Although it is natural for couple's to often have no idea what they might like or dislike, a minister or officiant who asks this type of pointed question is looking to guide the couple in the right direction. A minister/officiant worth their salt will have a ‘base’ ceremony that they will suggest and share with couples. This ceremony is typically the ministers favorite celebration and the one they work with the most and has the most popular components they use. A couple's individual ceremony, however, will branch off from that as they and you progress in plans collectively.
5.) How much should I pay for the Officiant services?
The fee a minister charges does not always reflect the quality of the officiant. The fee varies greatly from location to location. A minister in Chicago is going to ask a lot more then one in Waldo Ohio. The main difference is the ‘going rate’ in the region. Before you agree to meet with any minister call up to 3 or 4 and ask how much they charge along with ask some of the above suggested questions. This will give you & couple's some idea of what is appropriate in their area and if, based on research, is even worth paying that individual.
In the greater Southern California area, for example, most ministers and officiants have a price range of $200-$300. If a minister is charging a lot higher or lower then the average we would be highly suspect of their services. On the other side, If they charge $95 they are usually not doing any type of real work for you. This is the “you write the ceremony and I will read it” types. If they are charging couples a few thousand dollars they are usually seeking to make their whole monthly income off of them and their wedding. Another concern to address is the "Same day" wedding officiants. We try to encourage couple's to steer clear of these services. These are usually Notary Publics and not overall Wedding professionals, ministers or officiants. Of course, there are a few exceptions to this rule.
We here at the ULCHQ encourage couples and the ministers who officiate over their ceremonies to remember that their wedding day ceremony is perhaps one of the most important events of their life. Encourage your couples to not sell themselves short or hire someone who is not willing to go that extra mile in preparing a couple's ceremony. If it is a few extra dollars it might be well worth it. Also, an officiant or minister should not be in this business for the money alone. If a couple gets that impression, they will typically find another officiator for their wedding. If a couple's budget is minimal, work with them. A true individual worth their weight will work with a couple's budget if they really wish a couple's business & truly care.
What is included in the price?
We see a lot of officiants spelling out a laundry list of things they offer with their packages. ALL ministers and wedding officiants will file the paperwork with the courthouse. This is required by law in every state or province we have every heard of. Most states have strict filing requirements that spell out that the minister is responsible for filings. If an officiant is charging a couple for individual meetings held regarding their planned wedding ceremony, we would be suspect of their motives. A fee to write up a custom ceremony is not the norm. We do not see a reason for it in most cases. In most cases the minister is only reworking other English texts. The only way we could see is if a couple were seeking their officiant to have an ancient text read in English that would require the minister to pay a translator to write out or something else that would cost the minister to have reworked.
It is however common for an officiant to charge extra for a rehearsal. In a large percentage of weddings a full blown rehearsal a day or two before the wedding is a waste of time and money. If a couple only has a few attendants and a straight forward ceremony a minister could easily do a walk through an hour or so before the wedding celebration. If they have a large wedding party or if there is a lot of extra movement then a rehearsal might be advisable.
If their wedding is being held outside the local area of a minister/officiant (as defined by them) a travel fee is also often common.
This fee is typically charged a few different ways:
* Per the hour
* Per the mile
* Flat fee
Each fee should be spelled out in advance of booking how you the officiant arrived at the fee.
6.) When should an officiant charge for a hotel stay?
This can be a touchy subject with some couples and ministers. There is no catch all right or wrong answer.
First to consider is how far the officiant must travel to arrive at the ceremony site. If they have to travel more then 2 hours then a hotel stay is likely. Secondly if there is a rehearsal the night before the ceremony and they are traveling more then an hour one way there is a chance that they may ask for a hotel stay. It would be cheaper then two round trips. Lastly would be the time of the ceremony. If a couple's ceremony starts at 7pm an hour travel time away, chances are that an overnight stay might be asked for.
Should I invite the minister or officiant to the Rehearsal Dinner and Reception?
There are a few things to consider.
How comfortable a couple is with their officiant? Some ministers or officiants are very "stand offish" and a couple might not like their interpersonal skills. If this is the case they will leave them off the guest list. Secondly, would the minister or officiant charge a couple to attend. We do not understand the idea of charging a couple to attend an event that they are feeding you at. Obviously if they are charging a couple for such a time, we would say no. Lastly is whether or not the couple would like a prayer or blessing said at the meal. If they would then by all means they should invite the minister. Please be aware that the minister may decline an invitation to dinner. In most cases the minister has other obligations that he must see to. Please understand that for the most part there are only 50 weekends a year to get married and of those 10 or so are the most desirable. On these ten dates a good minister might have 5 or so celebrations.
7.) My officiant is recommending other wedding vendors to me. Should I be concerned?
This is not an immediate reason for alarm. We would say that the first thing to do is determine why is the officiant or minister is referring a couple to this vendor. There are a few reasons that come to mind;
A) The vendor is paying the officiant a fee for every couple that books their service.
B) The vendor is a friend of the officiant and he is just trying to throw his friend some business.
C) The officiant has worked with the vendor in the past and is comfortable that the couple will get good service with out getting ripped off.
If the answer is #1 then couples are encouraged to find their own vendors and maybe consider a change of officiant as well.
If the answer is #2 then we recommend caution. But the vendor might do great by the couple. We encourage couples to keep their options open.
If the answer is #3 then take a serious look at the vendor and might even give them preference over another vendor of equal statues. After all the minister is only sending couples to them because he has seen their work and liked it themselves. Many of our ministers through the ULCHQ routinely work with vendors such as Florists, DJ's, Caterers, etc. as we provide detailed in house wedding planning as well as our officiant services. They are trusted and these officiants typically receive no compensation for referring clients to them.
8.) How many meetings will you have?
Some officiates say no meeting is necessary, that he or she will just show up for the wedding and couple's can run their own rehearsal. Others want couple's to go through extensive premarital counseling. Some will offer one or two preparatory meetings and a rehearsal. Some are even unwilling to meet with a couple in person if they are just “shopping around.” What does the couple want? Can the officiate meet your wishes? Will the officiate be available to talk by phone as questions arise? Can the couple trust this person with family secrets if they just need someone to talk to about personal matters? Couple's will seek out & find an officiate who is as helpful as they want him or her to be but not overbearing.
9.) Will the officiate run the rehearsal?
An experienced officiate at a wedding rehearsal can be very helpful, but he or she may not be available at the scheduled time. If the minister or officiate is unable or unwilling to attend the rehearsal, will other arrangements be made for someone to put the wedding party through its paces? Don’t believe an officiant who says that a couple can easily run a rehearsal themselves without some advance practical help! If the minister is running the rehearsal, will the facility also have an assistant there to help? If so, the best way to run a rehearsal is to have the wedding coordinator help walk the bridal party up to the front, then have the officiate rehearse the ceremony itself, and finally have the coordinator direct the recessional march at the end. They might ask the officiate if it is all right for them to face one another during the ceremony; the pictures will look much better!