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State of the Union: Serving As A Wedding Officiant In New York

This article is part of a series for ministers on performing marriage ceremonies in the United States and elsewhere. In this article, we focus on New York State, as well as New York City, which has its own specific set of rules and regulations.

We often hear from ministers and officiants that are concerned about the complexities of performing marriage ceremonies in New York. While it may seem complex on the surface, it’s actually fairly simple and straightforward — as long as you follow the rules.

Becoming ordained as a New York wedding minister

In New York, you’re free to perform marriage ceremonies … if you follow the rules.

Basically, you must be legally ordained before performing a wedding ceremony in New York. If you are currently ordained and in good standing with the church, you are ready to perform the ceremony this very moment. (If you aren’t currently ordained, you may request New York-based ordination by clicking here now.)

With one major exception, you are not required to register with any agency in New York before performing ceremonies in the state, but always keep in mind that you must present your credentials to any legal authority upon their request — which can include the town clerk, county clerk, or any representative of the state — as well as the bridal couple.

That one major exception on registering relates to whether the ceremony is taking place in any of the five boroughs of New York City — Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx. Regardless of where the marriage license is being issued in the state, if the wedding ceremony itself is taking place anywhere in New York City (not just Manhattan, not just Brooklyn) then, as the officiant, you must register with the Marriage Bureau at 141 Worth Street in Manhattan.

Is there a way around this requirement? No, there isn’t. But the wonderful folks at the city’s Marriage Bureau actually try to make it as simple and painless as possible for you. But keep in mind that you should not wait until the last minute to get registered with them!

If you plan to perform ceremonies specifically in New York City, the church will provide you with the documents and forms required by the Marriage Bureau. If you intend to become ordained, you may request the New York City endorsement as part of the process. If you are currently ordained, but want to receive the New York City endorsement from the church, you may request it from us by clicking here.

The Marriage Bureau has a very nice website with very detailed information about their processes and procedures. We recommend that you take at least a few minutes to carefully read through their instructions.

More good news: as long as you are actively ordained, you can begin the registration process online on the Marriage Bureau’s website. Here’s a link to the Bureau’s online minister registration application.

What happens next? As noted on the Marriage Bureau’s website: “Once you have completed the form using the correct option … you must visit the Manhattan office to complete your registration if you are a resident of the City of New York. If you reside outside of the City of New York you may mail the signed and notarized application, a photocopy of your proper identification and your fee of $15 by credit card or money order payable to the City Clerk.”

So easy! Now get out there and perform that ceremony!

Interested in becoming ordained to perform ceremonies in New York? Click here now for more information.

But wait — you knew there’d be other variables to consider

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Renewing Your Ordination Term: The Why and The How

Another question that we on the WedMinTeam at FNC are often asked is (1) why do I have to renew my ordination term as a wedding officiant, and (2) how do I renew my ordination term?

The simple answer to 1 (the “why”) is that ordination isn’t for life. While some churches (and we all know who we’re talking about here) offer “lifetime ordination,” no real church or religious order grants unconditional ordination as a ceremonial minister for eternity.

What happens if you change your mind about your beliefs or your calling twelve years from now? Should we still consider you ordained? What about your personal information in our incredibly secure and private database? Should we continue maintaining it twenty years from now?

(The answer to these questions: no.)

According to our legal team, it makes sense from a legal standpoint to put a term limit on ordination. It precludes a bevy of potential problems from happening in the future.

The even simpler answer to 2 (the “how”) is for you to click here to go directly to our ordination renewal information page.

Once there, you’ll be asked to enter your name, your license number (if you have it; if you don’t, no problem) and the preferred length of your extended ordination term. Yes, it’s that simple.

Our ministers occasionally ask about how long their terms are, because it’s not on their documents. Actually, it is: look on the bottom-left corner of your ordination certificate, or in the body of your letter of good standing.

And if that doesn’t work, contact us and we’ll let you know! (You can email us directly using the handy form at the bottom of this article.)

Oh, and if your ordination expired a while back and you were busy doing other things and forgot to renew, you do not have to start over from scratch. Drop us a line and we’ll walk you through the simple reactivation process.

Want to to send us a message? Here you go…

 

The wonderful image accompanying this post was taken by Chris Moncus. To view Chris’ work and to book him for your ceremony, please visit ChrisMoncusPhoto.com.

Can A Ship Captain Perform A Marriage Ceremony?

There are certain questions we receive day in and day out, generally about whether a ceremonial minister who lives in one state (let’s say Texas) can legally perform a wedding in another state (let’s say Hawaii*), but one that pops up occasionally is also one that can be quite perplexing.

So … can a ship’s captain perform a marriage ceremony?

The simple answer is yes, as long as he or she is legally ordained by a church or religious organization. Earning the position of ship’s captain does not automatically give you the right and responsibility to serve as a wedding minister.

Can a ship captain perform marriage ceremonies

The Skipper may be permitted to perform your marriage ceremony on the Minnow. Gilligan? Not so much.

The more complicated answer is maybe, depending on where the ceremony is taking place.

When a wedding ceremony takes place on dry land, the law that takes precedent is that of the country, state or territory that you are standing on. If you’re in Iowa, then Iowa’s marriage laws are in full effect; the local county clerk in Iowa must issue the marriage license, the marriage license must be used (solemnized) within Iowa’s state boundaries, and it must be filed with that same county clerk to be legal and valid. Want to take your Iowa marriage license to Wichita, Kansas, and have your ceremony there? Can’t do it. Not legal.

Meanwhile, back on the boat: let’s say we’re sailing from Bermuda to the Bahamas (come on, pretty mama) and you’ve decided to tie the knot. Cool your jets. It isn’t that simple. Some cruise lines, such as Cunard, do have wedding packages that include a shipboard ceremony. Check with the cruise company or your travel agent (yes, there are still travel agents) for information.

If you’re off the coast of Maine, sailing in the Florida Keys, island hopping in Hawaii or on a bay cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge, and if the captain is legally ordained — and you have a valid locally-issued marriage license — then it’s full steam ahead.

But if you’re taking a three-hour tour out on the high seas, chances are that the Skipper isn’t going to be able to help you get hitched, even if he’s an ordained minister. (Gilligan can’t do it, either, so don’t bother asking.)

Need additional information specific to your shipboard ceremony situation? Tell us where you plan to get married, and we’ll fill in the details for you.

Are you a ship’s captain? Do you want to perform shipboard marriage ceremonies? The process is quick, simple and affordable. Click here to become legally ordained right now! (That link works for land-lubbers, too.)

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* — The answer is actually yes! Hawaii does not restrict non-resident officiants from performing ceremonies anywhere in the state, as long as you are legally ordained and have registered in advance with the Department of Health in Honolulu. It’s a fairly fast and simple process! To find out more, please visit our Hawaii information page.

Making Beautiful Music … and Marriages, Too

We’ve heard and read countless stories over the years about wedding ministers that failed to show up for the ceremony. Not just late, but not at all!

For a bridal couple that has gone through months and months of planning for their perfect ceremony — having chosen the venue, the wedding dress, written their vows — and then not have the officiant show up to perform the ceremony can be tragic.

It’s always good to have a back-up plan in place, just in case. Of course, if the wedding is taking place at a church or chapel, then there is usually an assistant pastor or minister on hand to step in.

However, with more and more ceremonies taking place outside of churches these days, it takes some creativity to build a back-up plan. Remember, nearly every jurisdiction allows you to designate your officiant, whether it’s your favorite uncle, a close family friend or your old high school volleyball coach!

Become ordained as a wedding minister

Can your wedding DJ perform your marriage ceremony? Sure. And so could the wedding singer, if he’s ordained.

A great back-up plan is one that’s fairly obvious, but also often overlooked: your disc jockey. Your wedding DJ is a trained professional who probably has years and years of experience as a master of ceremonies, and has no problem getting up in front of an audience.

In addition to having the perfect mix of music to get your guests up and dancing, many wedding DJs are also ordained to serve as ceremonial ministers, and many of them have performed more marriage ceremonies than some ministers have!

It’s always a smart idea to have a back-up plan — hopefully, you won’t need anyone to step in to perform the ceremony, but now you have a potential pinch-hitter just in case!

By the way, if you are a wedding disc jockey and you aren’t legally ordained to perform marriage ceremonies, the process is quick, easy and affordable. Begin the ordination process right now!

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