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Choosing Your Wedding Officiant

Once you’ve said, “Yes!” there is a landslide of decisions to be made, which can seem overwhelming. Determining where and when you’ll get married, whether to have a formal or informal wedding, how many people to invite, and, of course, THE DRESS. There is, however, one more very important decision: who will marry you?

If you belong to a church, temple, or synagogue, you may already have this figured out. Congratulations! But for many people who are not affiliated with a congregation, you may find yourself vulnerable and overwhelmed by the choices available and not knowing what questions to ask to assure your marriage is legal.

Before someone marries you, ask to see their credentials. Assure the individual performing the ceremony can tell you what the laws and regulations are for the exact location where your wedding will take place. Laws govern who can perform a ceremony and what elements must be included, before your marriage is legally valid. The regulations are set by the country, state, and county where you will be married.

Usually a judge, attorney, or justice of the peace can perform a civil ceremony. These ceremonies do not include any spiritual language, nor is the marriage spiritually blessed.

In some jurisdictions, a friend or relative can perform the ceremony if they have obtained documentation that they are an “ordained minister.” Some people download a paper found online that says they are ordained. These credentials may not be accepted in the location where you are married, or by a religious community you may choose to join later. While these ceremonies may include spiritual language, the marriage cannot be spiritually blessed because the individual has not been given spiritual authority to do so from an appropriate source.

For those wishing a spiritual and legally binding ceremony that includes a spiritual blessing of the couple and the marriage, there are formally trained, professional, ordained ministers who have completed a graduate level course of study through a seminary, have been given the authority to spiritually bless a union through an official seal of oil during a formal ceremony, and have been assigned to a congregational body to minister to people. These individuals usually carry all rights and privileges to use titles such as Reverend, Pastor, Rabbi, Imam, or Elder, for instance.

Good luck!

By Rev. Ronnie Roll, Interfaith Minister

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