From the Forum – non-religious wedding officiants

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Any success with non-religious officiants for DC weddings?

I’m getting married this Fall and would love to have my brother perform the wedding ceremony.

We’re willing to fill out the paperwork and get notarized letters, and are working to find someone to sponsor him through ULC or The Monastery.

However, before we go ahead with all the hassle – has this worked for anyone recently? I have seen a lot of posts with people asking for help for the same problem. I just have not seen much follow up.

If no-one has been successful, we will just go ahead and do a JOP ceremony before our planned wedding. It would be great to hear feedback/ success stories though!

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18 Comment

  • The word is Secular

  • To my mind, it’s a violation of the separation of Church and State that non-judicial officiants need be sanctioned by some religion in order to obtain a license. That aside, my friend was discriminated against in his application to the DC Marriage Bureau (the clerk all but spelled it out for me) despite him having officiated weddings in Virginia. So good luck but I obviously do not have a positive experience to relay.

  • Contact the Ethical Culture Society. They might help.

  • This is why people need to pay better attention to the news. Just last week the Council approved legislation (well the first reading) that will allow for all sorts of secular wedding officiants. The vote was 12-1 w/ only Bowser voting against.

    Of course it still needs a second reading and then the mayor’s signature and then still must sit for 30 Congressional days (yeah D.C.) which with recess and whatnot at this time of year, may not make your fall timeline, but it could. The bill was introduced by Tommy Wells (co-sponsored by Graham, Evans, Catania, Barry and Grosso) so I would reach out to his office to see if they can give you some idea of a timeline for when it’s finally, officially legal.

    • This is the OP. I do read the news, but I have some serious doubts as to whether this will happen quickly enough to work out for my September 27th wedding. I’m more curious just to see if people had success in working with the current system. We’re having my brother apply for this at the courthouse in the next few weeks, so it will likely be before this legislation is enacted.

  • While I can’t give a direct answer to the original question (about having a specific individual not certified by a religious institution perform a wedding), I’d like to take the opportunity to point out the Washington Ethical Society’s officiant services.

    WES is a humanistic, non-theistic religious community, and as such many people who are not comfortable with the most popular religious institutions in this area may find it more to their taste. In particular, our dozen or so licensed officiants (including myself) are happy to work with you to craft the marriage ceremony that is most meaningful to you. In my experience this is much more personal and satisfying than the typical form wedding given by a justice of the peace.

    • Thanks Jonathan – we may look into this. One of the issues we face is that I think my fiance and I would be open to a religious officiant – we just come from very different religious backgrounds. A family member is a nice compromise for an officiant, although I have read about the WES community and it also seems like an interesting option.

    • WES sounds like an excellent option. Another possibility is someone from a Unitarian Universalist church. As discussed in today’s RRRR they have a pretty ecumenical outlook (broad enough to include atheists!) so might be able to provide something that combines elements of your different religious backgrounds.

  • a friend married me and my wife and was ordained through ULC. It was a hassle for him, but he got it done. I’m sure he would sponsor, but no longer lives in DC.

    One option is getting married at the courthouse and then have your brother do it at the actual ceremony.

    • Thanks, mmm. As of right now, this is our plan, and we’re fine with it. I was mostly curious to see if this had worked out for anyone recently before we put in the effort to find my brother an endorser, notary, etc. Mostly just needed a ray of hope before we committed the time to this process.

  • sayidoyourway.com

  • A friend of ours was licensed to perform wedding ceremonies here in DC after receiving ordination from the ULC. As a D.C. resident, I had to write an affidavit explaining how awesome and upstanding he is, and he had to jump through other hoops, but–overall, it was pretty painless, bureaucracy aside. I’m told, though, that whether you get licensed under current law can be a bit arbitrary, depending on which judge your papers come before.

    • I will add another voice to those for whom the licensing went pretty smoothly. Like the above poster I was the DC resident writing an affidavit for the non-local person getting licensed and it went fine. In fact, I get prodding the officiant-to-be to not leave things to the last minute, just in case there was a bureaucratic hold-up. She ignored me but the license sailed through pretty smoothly and all was great. I would recommend your brother pursue this, but have a back-up plan just in case.

  • Yes. It is really easy, our sister in law was recognized with no issue. I was somewhat impressed with how smoothly it went. I responded to your forum post.

  • I wrote the affidavit for my aunt who actually IS an episcopalian priest to be added to the list of DC registered officiants. I still found the process to be ridiculously convoluted and that the staff in the marriage bureau were way too strict about what documentation needed to be provided. For example, they want by laws or a founding document for the whole denomination – which for the Episcopal Church is several hundred pages. They also wanted a statement from the applicant about how much money they are compensated in their role as clergy/officiant. Why would that matter???

  • I recently got authorization from the District as a ULC minister. It was difficult, required a couple of hearings in family court, and seemed utterly arbitrary, but worked. I am happy to be an endorser if you need one.

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