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Queen Latifah and Steve Harvey officiated a wedding: Why it was legal

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Recently celebrities are officiating weddings; yet they are not ordained ministers. How can that be?

The answer is quite simple, and what they are doing is quite legal.

First of all, an officiant is one who has the authority to lead a service such as marriage, burial, or baptism. In some jurisdictions, ordination is a requirement to officiate at weddings. However, each state, province and country has its own laws.

The confusion is that most people believe an officiant has to be an ordained minister, but that is not true. Here is a list of people who are recognized officiants in most cases.

  • An ordained clergy person
  • A person designated by an ordained minister especially if the ordained minister is present
  • A chaplain
  • A justice of the peace
  • A judge
  • An attorney
  • A notary public
  • A court clerk
  • Officer of the Salvation Army
  • Marriage commissioner
  • A friend or relative who get a marriage commissioner appointment

Don't believe what you see in the movies. Ship captains cannot legally officiate weddings at sea. That is because each state has its own laws for performing marriages. A ship's master can, however, officiate at a wedding if the legalities of marriage are attended to before the ship leaves port.

Ordained ministers and other clergy must check with the state in which they are to perform a wedding. That's why you hear these words: "By the power invested in me by the state of _____, I pronounce you man and wife."

These days a lot of celebrities get commissioned to officiate. That commission expires as soon as the ceremony is over. Queen Latifah was commissioned to officiate the wedding for 33 people at the Grammys. Steve Harvey was commissioned to officiate the recent wedding for 50 couples on his show on Feb. 10 for his Valentine's Day segment. However, he was assisted by an ordained minister who is the owner of the Little Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. She has been performing weddings over 50 years.

See the list of famous ordained celebrities including Blake Shelton, Russell Brand, Lady Gaga, Joan Rivers, Conan O'Brien, Tori Spelling, and Barbra Streisand.

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