Thursday, December 6, 2012

Officiantly Ordained

In preparation for our wedding next summer, my betrothed and I are investigating different options for officiants.  We might want to have one of our friends or family members officiate the wedding, and so I'm trying to figure out what the rules are.

We don't want some stranger to marry us

I went to the Cook County Clerk's website to see what their rules are about getting married.  There is a lot of information about marriage licenses and marriage certificates, but the only thing they say about the officiant is this sentence:  "The officiant performing the ceremony must complete the bottom portion of the marriage license and mail or deliver it to the Clerk's office.

Nowhere else on the site does it say anything about officiants, who can do it, how you get authorized, etc.  On other websites they usually mention either public officials or clergy.  I know there are websites (such as American Marriage Ministries) that will "ordain" people by filling out a form on the web, but is that good enough for the county clerk?   

Dudeism: Church of the Latter Day Dude

So I emailed the Clerk's office and asked about it.  How does one become a wedding officiant?  Here was the response I got: "In order to perform marriage ceremonies in the county of cook, you have to be ordained or a judge or the county clerk himself. Those are the only people."

Thanks.  That doesn't answer my question at all.  So I replied and asked, "How do you define "ordained?"  Does the county have official criteria?  Is there a license/certification someone needs to become officially ordained to perform marriages?"

I received no response.  My betrothed said, "Welcome to my home... Get used to incompetent government." This is Chicago, after all.

My next attempt was to call them directly.  I called one of the six County offices and got a recorded message.  When I selected the menu option for information on marriage licenses, it gave me a recording of the exact same information on the website.  Useless.  I called a different County office, hoping to get a live person.  It had the exact same recorded message, but this time I listened through all the options, hoping there would be a live person after I got through this gauntlet of efficiency.

Eventually I got someone.  I asked Live Person who can officiate a marriage in the county, and even mentioned those free online ministries.  They couldn't answer my question, but gave me a phone number for the "Marriage Office" downtown. I called them, got a live person surprisingly quickly, asked about getting ordained, and he said, "We don't do that. You do that on your own."  When I specifically asked about websites that will ordain people online, he said that's fine.

Green light. We're good to go!

It sort of makes sense.  The State is not in a position to judge whether someone is "ordained" or not.  Churches do that.

Here's what I find silly, though.  If you have to be a minister to marry someone, and becoming a "minister" is as easy as filling out a form for free on some nutjob website, why bother with that requirement?  Why not just let anyone officiate a wedding?  It's like having a fence that's three inches high.  Why bother with it at all?              

Who certifies a Klingon wedding?


Lauren jonczak said...

Great post. I got ordained by Universal Life Church a few years ago so I could marry my sister and her husband. I think its a great idea having your friend or someone you actually know marry you, it makes it a little more personal. Thanks for sharing.

Alicia said...

Thanks for the blog. I too searched the internet trying to find anything about what Cook County requires to become ordained because their website is horrible. I'm a bit of a control freak, so I'll also call them because this seems crazy that they don't have some sort of legal document or fee. (Not that I'm complaining because lord knows the City of Chicago takes enough of my money already.) Thanks again! If I find out anything else out, I'll post again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing the legwork. I was looking for an answer to this exact question.