Ceremony and Vow Ideas

If the state accepts an online ordination for filing with the state, does that mean it is legal?

My wedding is just a few months away, and we've decided to have my mother officiate. She got ordained online through Universal Life Church. In our state, she is required to file her credentials with the county before performing the ceremony. That's no problem.

I've been reading around online about the legalities of online ordination. I do understand that the laws vary by state. According to the ULC website, my state does accept ordination certificates from ULC. I also know of other people who have gotten married in my state by officiants who were ordained online. However, I've read a lot of stuff online (here and in other forums and articles) that couples really need to be careful because if they use an officiant who was ordained online, there is a chance that their wedding isn't actually legally accepted.

I understand this concern. I'm imagining that there are some people out there who *thought* they were officially married, and then when they get to some event like a divorce or the death of one of the spouses, they discover they were never actually legally married, and all kinds of problems ensue.

(Please note: I'm asking this question not because I foresee a divorce or a death, but because I just want to make sure our marriage is legal!)

I'm confused as to why couples would let this happen. The Universal Life Church website is quite clear that it is important to check with your county beforehand. So my question for you all is this: When an online-ordained person goes to the county to file their credentials before the wedding (as my mother will do), and if the county accepts the certificate at the counter for it to be filed, doesn't that mean the person is in the clear? Is THAT the point where one would find out whether or not their ordination is legally recognized? I mean, if the county accepts your certificate, there would be no reason to believe that any marriages performed would not be official. If, in fact, the state did NOT accept online ordination, they would refuse to file it, right?

Further, after the wedding, once the couple receives official copies of their marriage certificate, doesn't that mean they are legally married? Is there any way the county would issue those certificates without the marriage being legally recognized? (For example, if the ordination credentials were not accepted... But then why would the state allow one to file them?)

I apologize if my question is not clear. Please let me know if you need clarification! I just want to make sure we don't go through the process of ordaining, filing my mother's credentials with the county, filling out the marriage license, and getting our marriage certificate only to find out down the line that we never really were married.

Re: If the state accepts an online ordination for filing with the state, does that mean it is legal?

  • Just call your county clerk and ask
    InLoveInQueensholyguacamole79DrillSergeantCat
  • Our friend was ordained through the ULC. Our state (GA) website was pretty clear on what was needed for a legal marriage. We had no issues.

    if that state accepts it then they do. If you are worried, call and ask.
    DrillSergeantCat
  • edited July 22

    if that state accepts it then they do.
    I guess I'm wondering at what point do they "accept" it? Is it when she goes in to file her credentials? Or is it when we send in the signed marriage certificate-- Would we get something back that says, "Sorry, we can't issue a certificate because the officiant's credentials weren't official." Would the county even allow her to file if the state doesn't accept it?

    And yes, I know I can call and ask. I'm fairly certain it will be fine, but all these people online are saying "Be careful-- Your marriage might not be legal." But, it would only not be legal if the officiant wasn't properly registered with the county, right? I just can't comprehend how someone would let it get to the point of the wedding without following through on all necessary steps first. Are there really that many people that just get ordained online and then assume there are no further steps, and have their wedding without being prepared?
  • ernursejernursej
    Tenth Anniversary 1000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    member

    if that state accepts it then they do.
    I guess I'm wondering at what point do they "accept" it? Is it when she goes in to file her credentials? Or is it when we send in the signed marriage certificate-- Would we get something back that says, "Sorry, we can't issue a certificate because the officiant's credentials weren't official." Would the county even allow her to file if the state doesn't accept it?

    And yes, I know I can call and ask. I'm fairly certain it will be fine, but all these people online are saying "Be careful-- Your marriage might not be legal." But, it would only not be legal if the officiant wasn't properly registered with the county, right? I just can't comprehend how someone would let it get to the point of the wedding without following through on all necessary steps first. Are there really that many people that just get ordained online and then assume there are no further steps, and have their wedding without being prepared?

    I'm assuming that the people who aren't really married never bothered to check the status of their officiant. Lots of people are not detail oriented and may not read the fine print. Just like the other internet people telling you to be careful, I would say that we are probably not the best to determine if it is okay or not. Phone and ask questions.
  • CMGragainCMGragain
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 25 Answers
    member
    edited July 23
    Here is an unofficial website that gives you state by state information.  Some states do not recognize Universal Life ordinations, for instance, Tennessee and Virginia.  Others, like New York,  require the officiant to register with the state before performing a wedding.

    https://getordained.org/state-marriage-laws

    The only thing that is important is that your county clerk allows your marriage to be registered at the courthouse.  This is what makes your marriage legal.  This can also vary within a state, so check with the county clerk before making plans.  Only very recently, LGBT couples were denied registration in some counties, with the Supreme Court stepping in to protect the couples' rights.  God bless America!

    httpiimgurcomTCCjW0wjpg
    short+sassy
  • We were thinking of having a friend get ordained, so I called our county clerk and asked, because I found conflicting information on different online ordination websites. The county clerk told me they would accept online ordination. However, I did hear from a few other people in our state (NC) that people have run into issues in the case of death or divorce. We didn't want to risk it, and just ended up hiring an officiant in the end. It honestly made things a TON easier. She had performed 8 billion weddings, so she was able to help with the flow of the ceremony, she basically directed our rehearsal, she had sample vows for us to use, knew what legally needed to be included, and she handled getting our license to the county afterwards. If we had a friend do the ceremony (with no prior experience), we would have been lost on a lot of that, and it probably would have been a lot more stressful.
    short+sassy
  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 5 Answers
    member
    Just call your county clerk and ask
    This.  I trust the county more than the ULC's website.



    Anniversary
  • edited July 24
    ernursej said:

    if that state accepts it then they do.
    I guess I'm wondering at what point do they "accept" it? Is it when she goes in to file her credentials? Or is it when we send in the signed marriage certificate-- Would we get something back that says, "Sorry, we can't issue a certificate because the officiant's credentials weren't official." Would the county even allow her to file if the state doesn't accept it?

    And yes, I know I can call and ask. I'm fairly certain it will be fine, but all these people online are saying "Be careful-- Your marriage might not be legal." But, it would only not be legal if the officiant wasn't properly registered with the county, right? I just can't comprehend how someone would let it get to the point of the wedding without following through on all necessary steps first. Are there really that many people that just get ordained online and then assume there are no further steps, and have their wedding without being prepared?

    I'm assuming that the people who aren't really married never bothered to check the status of their officiant. Lots of people are not detail oriented and may not read the fine print. Just like the other internet people telling you to be careful, I would say that we are probably not the best to determine if it is okay or not. Phone and ask questions.
    Sorry quoted ErN by mistake.

    we were married in GA by a friend who was ordained off the internet. We looked up the requirements for marriage in the county we were to be married and it said internet ordained accepted. Our friend called to confirm, it was fine. We got married, she signed it, we turned it in, and got our copies the same day. The people who have problems are the people who never call to ask. Don't make this more difficult than it needs to be.

    edited: typo
  • I'm in NC where the legal stuff is sketchy in terms of online ordination.  But I really wanted a friend to officiate.  So we're going to the courthouse the day before to do everything legally.  Then the ceremony will be where give our vows.  Then we know we're set on the day of and don't have to worry about keeping track of the license and getting it to the courthouse later.  I know some people would consider it to be a "fake" wedding then.  But every bridal party I've been in, the officiant has the license signed during the rehearsal.  So I don't see that it's all that different.
  • edited November 2
    I'm in NC where the legal stuff is sketchy in terms of online ordination.  But I really wanted a friend to officiate.  So we're going to the courthouse the day before to do everything legally.  Then the ceremony will be where give our vows.  Then we know we're set on the day of and don't have to worry about keeping track of the license and getting it to the courthouse later.  I know some people would consider it to be a "fake" wedding then.  But every bridal party I've been in, the officiant has the license signed during the rehearsal.  So I don't see that it's all that different.
    Lol, it's not different, you're right about that,  you're all being rude. Enjoy your play pretend dress up party.
    eileenrob
  • I'm in NC where the legal stuff is sketchy in terms of online ordination.  But I really wanted a friend to officiate.  So we're going to the courthouse the day before to do everything legally.  Then the ceremony will be where give our vows.  Then we know we're set on the day of and don't have to worry about keeping track of the license and getting it to the courthouse later.  I know some people would consider it to be a "fake" wedding then.  But every bridal party I've been in, the officiant has the license signed during the rehearsal.  So I don't see that it's all that different.
    I'm sure there is a good reason you decided to revive this dead thread from four months ago.  You get one wedding day.  It is the day when you are legally married.  Anything else is just pretend.
    httpiimgurcomTCCjW0wjpg
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