I recently moved to the lovely state of Virginia (it was actually eighteen years ago, but time is relative—anyway, who’s counting). Being a preacher type, I had to make sure I was legal (to perform weddings, I mean). After asking around, I discovered I had to go to the courthouse, pay $16, and take an oath to uphold the constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
I felt very proud as I raised my right hand and put my left hand on the… Hmmm… Now that I think of it, my left hand was dangling at my side not participating at all. At any rate, I can now legally perform my duties as a wedding officiant (or celebrant as we like to say in the trade).
These things vary from state to state. In good old PA and MD, I don’t have to do or pay anything (I have a trusting face). In WV, I had to apply “to be placed on the statewide registry of persons authorized to perform marriages…” Their application includes the following:
- Prove you’re 18 years of age
- Produce certification you’re authorized by a church, synagogue, spiritual assembly, or religious organization
- Present documentation you’re in regular communion with said church, synagogue, spiritual assembly or religious organization
- Provide at least one of the following:
- Official ordination paper from a church, synagogue spiritual assembly, group or school
- A document signed by at least two members of a group stating you’re in regular communion with that group
- Sign a paper stating the above info is accurate (no worries, however—it doesn’t have to be notarized)
In DC I had to fill out a brief form (the brevity of which was downright shocking considering it was a Federal Government thing). The catch, however, was that it had to be notarized and a $35 check attached. They did send back a very nice certificate of authorization, however. The Feds are first class all the way…
I once did a wedding in Wisconsin where I had secure sponsorship from an elder of my denomination who resided there. That was an interesting experience since I personally knew no one fitting that description.
Then there was the wedding I celebrated in Michigan. The pastor of the local church had to stand beside me and pronounce the couple man and wife at the appropriate time. I guess Michiganders don’t trust my type.
Of course, when a couple is nice enough to give me an honorarium, the government wants a slice. So much for separation of church and state…
Pretty soon they’re going to tell me who I can and can’t (or have to) marry. Maybe I should become a baker.