Archive for Sunday, July 13, 2014

Faith Forum: What is your opinion on people getting ordained online to perform weddings?

July 13, 2014


Robert Minor, professor emeritus, Kansas University religious studies department, 1300 Oread Ave.:

In the US, individual states authorize people to do the government’s work of officially recognizing a marriage. If a state issues ministerial licenses, they basically authorize clergy to function as an officiant of that state over marriage ceremonies.

Generally, few requirements are imposed upon a person to be so licensed. Usually one pays a fee and must be backed by a group of people affirming that they’ve ordained that person as their minister.

There are no other requirements. Mainline denominations add appropriate education and fidelity to denominational values, but churches that are nondenominational can “call” anyone they choose.

The states have seldom been involved in seeing to it that the person so licensed is qualified in any way. It hasn’t been considered appropriate for the secular state to impose qualifications on religious bodies to legalize who can be their leaders.

So, there is no mystique about it - anyone can perform marriage ceremonies as long as they pay any fee and find a group of people who will say: “Yep, they’re our minister.”

In the old TV series, “Northern Exposure,” the local DJ, “Chris in the Morning,” functioned in this way as the town minister of Cicely, Alaska. He received his ordination, Chris was fond of relating, as a result of answering a classified ad for ordination in the back of Rolling Stone magazine in those days before the internet.

But now in the spirit of universities touting online courses as the equivalent of on campus education, one can be ordained online as well. It remains, then, just as easy as it has always been to officiate at wedding ceremonies. And those who use the internet to enable themselves to function as officers of the state, may or may not be as qualified as any of the others who legally officiate.

— Send email to Robert Minor at

Jeff Barclay, lead pastor, Christ Community Church, 1100 Kasold Drive:

It is capitalism at its irreverent, opportunistic, creative best! In other words, I am not a fan. My biggest question for “contract clergy,” as well as couples soon to be legally coupled, “Have you done anything to prepare for a successful marriage?” Taking classes before getting a marriage license does not guarantee a successful marriage, but studies prove that formal preparation before marrying helps—a lot!

Marriage, society’s premier institution, is hemorrhaging. This trend is triage with a leaky, entrepreneurial Band-Aid. But with more people having no connections with religious (traditional or otherwise) institutions, resourceful couples are indeed employing mail order clergy. It is an expanding niche in the lucrative marriage market.

A question worth asking is, “What a beautiful wedding! Was it legal?”

In Kansas the answer is yes. A clergyperson of any religious society can officiate a marriage ceremony. In fact, in Kansas a man and woman, by mutual declarations, in accordance with the customs of any religious society to which either of the parties belong, may be married without an authorized officiating person.

The idea for marriage came from God. Not the state and not the Church. I believe God established it to be the core human institution. God officiated the first marriage—Adam’s marriage to Eve. After that, I understand parents were delegated by God to corroborate a couple’s union.

Church tradition may require clergy to officiate at a wedding, but I don’t find that requirement in the Old or New Testaments. When I perform a wedding I put much more weight on the mutual declarations and consciences of the man and woman standing in front of me than on my benediction of “husband and wife.”

I have to trust that the vows they just made to each other were made in solemn acceptance of the legal and of course, romantic responsibilities that marriage requires. A couple may choose to be casual toward the things of the state, but I urge them to never be casual toward the things of God. And marriage is a thing of God.

— Send email to Jeff Barclay at


Ron Holzwarth 3 years ago

The question posed was:
What is your opinion on people getting ordained online to perform weddings?

This is a question asking if the Third Amendment to the Constitution of the United States can be ignored. I personally don't like the practice, but it cannot be prohibited on Constitutional grounds.

A clip from the transcript of the Joint Resolution of Congress, known as the Bill of Rights, ratified on December 15, 1791:

"Article the third: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;,,"

Scott Quenette 3 years ago

The Third Amendment? Quartering soldiers?

Ron Holzwarth 3 years ago

I messed up on this one! The Third Article ended up becoming the First Amendment.

History Lesson:

Seventeen Articles
Approved by the House on August 24, 1789
Approval of the Bill of Rights in Congress and the States
Third Article:
Congress shall make no law establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of Conscience be infringed.

Twelve Articles
Approved by Congress on September 25, 1789
Third Article:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Ratified: December 15, 1791
First Amendment

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years ago

i don't understand why anyone should have to be ordained anyway to conduct a marriage ceremony. It's the piece of paper that really counts. It gives you status as each others next of kin. Now if you are religious it should matter, but you probably would ask your minister to perform the ceremony anyway. If you are not religious, then you why couldn't the two of you perform the ceremony, as long as you have witnesses? Yes, I think it's important for a couple to express their vows, but if they either don't belong to a church or don't know any judges who will do it, how else are they suppose to get married?

Ron Holzwarth 3 years ago

You asked: "How else are they supposed to get married?"

A couple can go to the nearest courthouse, and ask a judge to marry them. You don't need to know the judge, and in a courthouse, it's very easy to find two secretaries for witnesses. That's very often done in elopements, when the element of time is of the essence.

For the younger set, this is not a step to be taken lightly. You should think about the person you want to marry, and ask yourself if you are willing to jump off a cliff with him or her. Do you trust your prospective marriage partner that much?

Or, a couple can become married with a Common Law marriage, which is just as valid in Kansas, and also in eight other states: Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and the District of Columbia, as any other marriage. The laws governing Common Law marriage vary a great deal from state to state.

The following is clipped from the website of the Kansas Bar Association:

Common Law Marriages

A common law marriage is a marriage by agreement of the two persons without any formal ceremony or license. A common law marriage will be recognized in Kansas if the couple considers themselves to be married and publicly holds themselves out to be married and if they are legally eligible to marry. No minimum period of cohabitation is required.

Common Law marriages are subject to the same legal obligations and privileges that apply to marriages with licenses. Once a common law marriage is established, the couple must get a court ordered divorce to terminate the marriage.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years ago

But maybe they don't want to get married in an office. Maybe they want to get married in a park or in their living room. I don't think too many judges go to weddings to marry people. Do they have to be a preacher or a Rabbi to perform a ceremony outside a judge's office? Friends who believe in the commitment of marriage should be able to perform a ceremony. The couple is just as married. And if they wrote their own vows, maybe even more committed. At least they paid attention to them long enough to have written them.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years ago

Go for a Common Law marriage then if you want, that's not a problem. There is no law that states that a Common Law marriage cannot have marital vows questioned by any person that the couple chooses.

It's easy to get married. The difficult part is to stay married. Many books have been written about that subject, but very few have been written about how to get married in the first place because it's such a simple matter.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years ago

Common law is without a license. If you have a marriage license with a person who is registered with the state to perform marriages (why people get "ordained" on the internet) then you have a marriage. Then you are just as married as someone who was been married by a priest, preacher or rabbi, or any other religious person.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years ago

That's true, a Common Law marriage does not require a license. That is because it is not needed. And, it is just as valid and legally binding as any other marriage.

You are either married, or you are not married. There is no in between.

Although some might consider "separated" or "filed for divorce" to be in between. For clarification on that matter, read what I clipped from the Kansas Bar Association again.

Just for a bit of humor here: Years ago I developed a rather perverse hobby. I noticed that many people, especially celebrities and persons of means, used to make the cost of a wedding very public.

My hobby was to remember the cost of the wedding, and then later, after the divorce, calculate how much the wedding had cost per month of marriage. In some celebrity cases, it was in the tens of thousands of dollars, and sometimes even more.

And, many years ago, I had a girlfriend that wanted to get married to me. But we had a serious difference. I insisted that the only place I would ever get married was at the courthouse, and she insisted otherwise, saying, "I want everybody to know!"

I thought that was a total waste. My opinion was that it was the marriage that was important, and not the wedding. Bad attitude, huh?

In retrospect, I would have been much happier if I had been more flexible.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years ago

I'm not sure if I agree with your ex girlfriend, but I don't agree with you either. When you marry, you are becoming a part of each other's family (like it or not), and circle of friends, so I think it's important to declare with all involved. That being said, I am a cheap skate. I wouldn't spend a lot a wedding. There are so many ways to have a nice simple, but fun wedding without spending money that could be a down payment on a house.

Laura Wilson 3 years ago

First writer seems to pretty much bypass the question, speaking more towards ordination to lead a congregation rather than ordination to perform a wedding ceremony. Second writer is all about Christianity but at least he stated he was against becoming ordained online just to perform a wedding.

While there may be benefits to classes and meetings with a minister to prepare for marriage, the first writer does have a good point in that so many ministers these days have no training at all to do so.

So, why not have a friend get ordained online to marry you, especially if you're not religious? While a judge will work here in Kansas, it's usually a more private ceremony in chambers. A friend of mine, she one religion, her fiance pretty much nothing, asked a friend to marry them in a lovely ceremony in a hotel with family and friends from all over the world joining in and participating. There was music and poetry and candles and it was just as meaningful as any wedding I've been to led by a trained minister. And, ten years in, they're still together and still happy.

Really, in the end, it's whatever works best for the couple getting married. Just because the person performing the ceremony might not be trained doesn't mean the marriage won't be a good one.

James Howlette 3 years ago

As long as the two adults in question are consenting to the marriage and legally qualified to marry, it shouldn't matter to anyone else who officiates.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years ago

The combining of religion and civil service in marriage is a bit of a puzzle to begin with. Marriage is a legal contract, and how in the devil did the "religious" ceremony became so important?? Of course in today's society where a frightening number of "religious" people seem to think that this should make their opinions over others of more reasonable attitude, it is not too surprising that a number of folks put this "religious" opinion over all others.

All religions are fantasy, the notion that there is some diving being sitting on a cloud passing out blessings and thunderbolts is a matter of human fabrication. Be not dismayed, I believe that there is a Divine Power of the Universe, but I also believe there is no human that truly understands or knows what the nature of this power is. But there is no shortage of persons that will tell you it is their opinion that some Divine Power has directed them to some sort of religious fantasy. The idea that you must be "ordained" to some religious order is strictly a human order, it matters not to any Divine Power. But you are free to believe as you wish, that is the beauty of this land of free people.

John Reher 3 years ago

I am one of those people who got ordained online to perform a marriage for two friends of mine. Ended up doing it again for a co-worker. Not everyone has a religious affiliation but would like to be married in a ceremony outside of the courthouse. I don't know why it is some sort of problem. The people I helped were happy that I was able to do so and I was happy to do it. In all honesty, the only thing that really matters in a marriage is that the two people in question are committed to each other.

Kevin Elliott 3 years ago

traditional marriage, until the 14th Century, was a civil and not a religious act.

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