We ran into the same issue when we got married last October. We’re both basically atheists and didn’t want any sort of religious connotations to our ceremony. We had a friend we wanted to have marry us, but DC requires that you have to be certified by a religious institution. And they don’t recognize the Universal Life Church like many jurisdictions do.
While I’m not religious, I am pretty old-fashioned and wanted to legally get married on the same day we were getting married in front of our family and friends. Basically, I wanted my marriage license to have the same date as our ceremony. I also really wanted to get married in DC since we both live and work here AND we recognize same-sex marriage. But DC makes that virtually impossible if you’re not willing to use a “religious” officiant. So we had to make a concession…our solution was to have our friend become a registered officiant in Virginia where it’s easy to do (Virginia is for lovers!), we got up a little early the day of our wedding and meet him and his wife (she was our witness) at the Netherlands Carillon, and performed a short yet sweet, intimate ceremony while we looked across the Potomac River at our beautiful city. No one but the four of us ever knew about it, but it ended up being a really great decision for us since it took a lot of stress out of the day.
Anyways, this ended up being a long explanation, but it’s basically the same story as all the others. There doesn’t seem to be a way to have a friend officiate in DC so you have to either have go to the courthouse beforehand, hop across the river and have your friend marry you beforehand, or have a recognized officiant perform the ceremony. It’s unfortunate, as progressive as DC is about who can get married, they aren’t progressive about who can marry you. Strange irony.
This recent story on WAMU documents the same experience and my same conclusions: