On some of the forums where I participate there has been some disagreement over who may conduct the wedding ceremony and file the legal documents with the county. Most of the disagreements surround people who obtain an online ordination for a one-time ceremony, then decide to offer their services to others for a "cut-rate" price. I'd like to address a couple of these items in this blog. Let's start at the beginning...
Who may officiate your wedding ceremony? The State of Ohio is the authority for determining who may solemnize marriages and requires those who do, to be ordained and licensed. The Counties in Ohio issue the marriage license to the couple. "Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Section 3101.10, upon producing (to this office) credentials of the minister's being a regularly ordained or licensed minister of any religious society or congregation, a minister shall be entitled to receive a license authorizing the minister to solemnize marriages in Ohio so long as the minister continues as a regular minister in that society or congregation."
This includes traditional clergy (priest, rabbi, pastor, minister, etc.) as well as others who fit into an accepted religious society or congregation. One additional organization who is well known is The Universal Life Church Monastery (ULC). They are a non-denominational, non-profit religious organization. The ULC, recognizing the importance of maintaining open hearts and minds, embraces any individual, no matter his or her spiritual background, who wishes to become a member of this family of faith. The ULC has also become renowned for its role as a champion of religious freedom, social justice, and spiritual expression. The Universal Life Church is headquartered in Seattle, Washington."
Let me say something about online ordination. First, I obtained my ordination online through the Universal Life Church. I did it so that I could register with the State of Ohio to solemnize weddings for couples in Ohio. As far as the State of Ohio is concerned, I am qualified to perform these ceremonies. I also believe that I am qualified. I have three university degrees (BSOE, MS, and MS). My BSOE degree was obtained through an accredited Baptist university. Even though it did not result in a theology-based degree, the basic curriculum required study of a significant amount of Christian theology courses. I also have over 40 years of work experience in the Federal Government. Of that, I spent more than 20 years at the senior level, to include executive. I can read well, write well, and speak in public. I am licensed to officiate wedding ceremonies in the State of Ohio.
It's true, we now have family or friends who can also become ordained online. These are often friends of a couple who may simply do the ceremony for free. When this is factored into the surveys as to how much couples paid their officiant, this adversely impacts, and frankly skews the expectation of how much a quality officiant should cost. In fairness, there are those people who become ordained online to officiate weddings, but have no training or education and who can’t write. They plagiarize a ceremony from Pinterest and consider themselves officiants. They charge a very small fee and provide a simple, cookie cutter ceremony.
If you choose this budget method, are you still legally married? Most likely, yes. Is it something that will represent your relationship to your guests and be memorable? Probably not. For those couples who really don't care about the content of the ceremony and are just looking to "make if official," I always recommend finding your officiant on Thumbtack.com, Craigslist, or Facebook groups.
The ceremonies that I write are written using a format that I prefer, but the words are delivered from the heart and are personal to the couple. Just because I did not have the opportunity to attend seminary, does not make me unqualified to perform wedding ceremonies. Colleagues who attended seminary have indicated to me that the entire amount of time devoted through curriculum to life ceremonies (weddings, funerals, baby namings, etc.) amounted to no more than one day for each type of ceremony. One day. So, I suggest that you look at the whole of experience before you select your officiant.
The bottom line is, unless you are looking for a specific faith-based wedding ceremony, an officiant who meets the State of Ohio's criteria and has been officially licensed, will be able to successfully perform your ceremony. The value you receive from the officiant is directly related to the fee they charge. Higher priced officiants usually have more experience and skill. If you just want to "make it legal," be sure to check out the credentials on the Secretary of State's website which can be found at: https://www5.sos.state.oh.us/ords/f?p=241:1::::::
I would be happy to chat with you during a no-cost consultation! Just sign up on my website and let's see if we're right for each other. Your vision is our mission!