Jan wrote: My sister is getting married in 2012 and talking about having a coworker officiate the marriage. She says he ordered his license online and is willing to do the wedding for free (if it’s open bar). I didn’t think this was legal. Is it?
This is a good question Jan. I’ll attempt to answer it, and then raise one of my own.
I know some “officiants” have performed marriages using a fake ordination – and many have gotten away with convincing couples that they are legitimate clergy. While it may seem nice to have a friend or colleague perform your ceremony, couples should take the time to investigate the legal requirements to officiate a marriage. The IDPH website provides some clarify on who can perform a marriage in Illinois:
To be valid, a marriage must be performed by one of the following individuals:
1) a judge of a court of record or a retired judge of a court of record;
2) a judge of the Court of Claims;
3) the county clerk in counties having 2 million or more inhabitants (Cook County);
4) a public official whose powers include solemnizing marriages; or
5) an officiant performing the marriage in accordance with the principles of any religious denomination, Indian nation or tribe or native group provided that when such principles require an officiant, the officiant be in good standing with his religious denomination, Indian nation or tribe or native group.
So, back to your question… Can your sister have her marriage performed by someone with mail order or internet credentials? Well, wedding officants fall into 5 classes. As you can see, the first four include judges, county clerks serving counties with a census of 2 million or more, and public officials with specific power to officiate. The fifth class includes religious leaders. I am assuming your sister’s coworker doesn’t fit into the first four classes – so this leaves us with religious leaders. Look closely at the language of the fifth class:
a) an officiant performing the marriage in accordance with the principles of any religious denomination
b) the officiant be in good standing with his religious denomination
Even if you could stretch things a bit and say that the fee-paid “ordination” met the qualifications for a), you may have some difficulty with b).
The question of being legally authorized to perform a marriage not only extends to those with illegitimate credentials, it also extends to those attempting to convince couples that they serve as a Justice of the Peace (class 4?). This is even more misleading than the “clergyperson” with fake credentials. The fact is, Illinois abolished the office of Justice of the Peace effective in 1964.
My suggestion would be to stick with someone legitimately qualified to perform a wedding – a Judge, Cook County Clerk, or clergyperson with legitimate credentials.
And here’s the question I promised…
Why would a couple place so little value on their marriage that they would have it begin with an illegitimate officant?
I hope this helps.