been asked to officiate at a wedding, which group is legitimate to become 'ordained'

I have an opportunity to officiate at a wedding and will want to be officially ordained. I’ve thought Universal Life Church seems pretty legitimate and not welded to some specific religion; so I think this would be a good choice.

Are there opinions on this particular organization that I should be aware of, or are there other organizations that would be a good fit?
I’m personally atheist, but appreciate the value and importance of the bible in peoples lives.

I’m taking this seriously and not doing it for the lulz, so I want to make good decisions.

I don’t understand.

If the couple want a religious wedding, why ask an atheist? If they want a civil officiant, why are you looking to get a religious varnish? What is the couple really looking for?

Maybe it’s a cultural issue, since Spain does differentiate clearly between civil and religious weddings and other places seem to have more problems with the distinction, but I really am confused.

You should check local requirements. In Santa Clara County, for instance, you don’t need to be any kind of ordained, any adult can become a “One-Time Deputy Marriage Commissioner” (funky title) for a fee.

Where are you located? In CA, you can get a temporary License to Officiate for $120, without having to sign up with a church.

Any church that will ordain someone for filling out a webform is equally legitimate. Which is to say: in the eyes of the state, you’re a real minister.

Legislative inertia. In many places in the US, ministers can perform wedding ceremonies for free. Civil officiants have to pay a fee.

In California, for example, the fee to become a temporary officiant is $120, and it’s only good in a single county. And you have to appear in person at the county registrar’s office, swear an oath, and fill out paperwork. And you might have to wait a while, because they don’t take appointments.

Or you can go fill out a webform and be a minister. Ta da!

It is a cultural issue. In many states, the only people that can perform a wedding ceremony are the judges, the county clerk, or a member of a religious organization. (ETA: Sorry, in my state, the wording is " “in accordance with the prescriptions of any religious denomination.") Ergo, if you want your atheist friend Bob to marry you, he nominally joins a church to become a minister. Here’s the rules in my state, for instance. Notice there is some wiggle room and gray areas there. And, yes, it’s kinda stupid but that’s the way it is.

In California, getting legally married is a matter for the county clerk. No matter how you get married, you still have to sign the documents. Organized churches may handle the documents for you, but they still go to the courthouse for filing.

What certificate, if any, the officiant, if any, has is a matter of taste. The certification stuff is a holdover from when churches were indeed the legal record-keepers for communities.

They’d be just as married if they read doggerel to each other alone by a babbling brook. Or nothing at all. They get the document from the county clerk and they’re good to go.

You should totally crib the wedding vows from Joe v. The Volcano!

In Colorado a couple can ‘self-solemnify’, don’t need anyone else involved just file the paperwork with the county after the fact. Otherwise, your buddy Gus from down the street can be the official, or anyone else right on up to The Pope if you want. Check your state’s rules–you might not have to buddy up to any organization to get the needed authority.

I’ve been a reverend with the universal life church since I owned a computer.

I’m an atheist.

I’ve solemized seven weddings over the years. People cry at my weddings. Those in the audience who do not know better assume I’m a “real” minister. I’ve been told my flock is lucky to have me.

I don’t think that’s true.

You need to agree to marry, you need to have a license, and you need someone to “solemnize” the marriage.

Here’s the CA Civil Code section on who can solemnize a marriage. A babbling brook does not appear to meet any of the requirements.

I’m pretty sure the officiant at our wedding (in California, Contra Costa county) did not need to appear in person at the registrar’s office - it was all handled by mail. Either the procedure has changed in the last twenty years or it varies by county.

I think you’re right that it’s a county-by-county thing. The procedures I mentioned were from a thing I found about San Francisco county.

That said, it’s almost certainly more expensive and more of a hassle than filling out a webform.

Thank guys. Spain is similar: for a marriage to be civilly valid, it needs to have been recorded by a city council member, a judge or in accordance with the prescriptions of religious organizations which have done the paperwork for it*. We don’t have any organizations offering quickie ordaining, though.

Still, if I was in that situation I’d get the necessary paperwork but I wouldn’t use any references other than my own. If someone wants an officiant who quotes from the Bhagavad Gita, St. Augustine or Kant they should look for someone else; I’m more into medieval Spanish legends, St. Luke and Pratchett and wouldn’t want to risk completely screwing an interpretation from a religion or philosophy I don’t really understand.

  • Story told before. A representative of the Iglesia Evangélica (Roma, do not confuse with American Evangelicals; these are a Lutheran-influenced Catholic offshoot) was on TV complaining that Roma weddings weren’t recognized as civilly valid. A person called to offer assistance getting the IE get set up for civil recognition and was surprised to be put on air when all he wanted was for his contact info to be given to the Pastor. The caller was from the local RCC Diocese.

Check with your local Unitarian Universalist church. To actually be a celebrant or minister (for lack of better descriptions) their process is just as long and complicated as any other denomination. But they do know people and things outside the main-line and could be a really good source of advice for you. If there are none near you or just the thought of approaching someone “ordained” fills you with feelings of dread, let me know and I’ll hook you into a buddy’s blog. He’s one of their ordained atheists and a pretty open and understanding dude.

I’m ordained by the ULC and have done four of them. Never had a problem.

What state are you in, please? Some of them are a lot squirrelier than others. NY springs to mind.

Wisconsin is the state of interest.

You look to be OK in Wisconsin, but be sure to call the county clerk first. Better safe than sorry! None of the weddings I’ve officiated have required me to get a letter of clearance or anything, but I’ve never officiated in Wisconsin.

A friend of mine has officiated for two weddings in Wisconsin (specifically, Brown County). She’s a Wiccan, but got a certification from the Universal Life Church specifically so that she could officiate weddings.

That said, I agree with StusBlues: check with the county clerk’s office in question.

I just now became ordained by the U.L.C.
I am available for Christenings, weddings, funerals and keg blessings.