Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

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Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby jbrown157 » Mon Oct 11, 2010 8:08 pm

Looking around at various posts (including Rev. Dave's site) and started to think about the benefits of being able to actually officiate a wedding ceremony. I looked around a bit more and came across a site based in California that basically "ordains" pretty much anyone as a minister in their "church". Out of curiosity, I filled out the form and two days later received an email telling me that I had been "ordained" a minister. No charge, no obligation. This email is evidently all the proof I need (but for a nominal fee, I can get a custom certificate and laminated wallet card).

I'm not sure how I feel about this. It somehow doesn't seem quite right that someone like me with no training or background is "ordained" as a "minister" with no questions asked. OK, I don't take this very seriously and I would never present myself as an actual member of the clergy (although, I bet lots of people do). The bottom line here, if I understand this correctly, is that I am actually now "legal" to perform a wedding. IMHO, this isn't much more than a loophole to circumvent State requirements. The question I have is... is this really OK? I have no aspirations to become a wedding officiant, but what about being "official" in case of emergency? What if I am already at a Wedding Ceremony and the Officiant does not show?... I could actually step in and prevent the day from being a disaster. I keep an extra cake knife, garter and other things in my road cases for emergencies... is this different? I'm not sure. It could certainly save the day for one of my clients.

I know that Dave does it and I know of other DJ's who do it as well. I am only trying to sort this out in my mind. Your opinions are welcomed and encouraged. To all, What do you think? Dave, I would love to hear your take and how this is working for you.
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby dokai » Mon Oct 11, 2010 9:18 pm

I have no idea if it's legit. However, if it is, then I think it'd be a great "just in case" service to be able to provide if the officiant doesn't show up. I'm curious about this, too. Hopefully someone that has a clue will chime in soon. :-)
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby Dave Miller » Mon Oct 11, 2010 11:28 pm

Whether it's legit varies by state.

When I first looked into it, I had the same doubts you have. I called my local office that issues licenses to the couples. I explained EXACTY what I was planning. The clerk replied, with a sigh, that, yeah, it's legal. I repeated that call to a couple other towns in NJ. I then found a comment about it on an official NJ state website.

Ditto for NY.

PA, with it's large Quaker population and general more conservative attitudes, is stricter. However, I've discovered that a lot of counties in PA have a "Don't ask" policy.


Personally, I have a brother that's "this close" to being a Rabbi. I have a lot of respect for him, and for religious people in general. So I did a LOT of research into many internet churches. Most use some obscure passage of scripture as the basis for their religion. The church I chose does not do that. In fact, it passively believes that God does no exits - spirituality comes from within, not a higher power. Passively meaning that until there is proof, they don't believe, but to not insist that their officiants or people using the officiants have any specific beliefs - just keep deities out of ceremonies. Because of my personal doubts about God's existence, along with my proud feelings about my heritage, it seemed that this was the way to go. I first talked to my brother about it. His opinion was that since the church makes no specific claims, it not unlike performing a play for the Rotary club. I.E. I had his blessing.

Then I told my mother I joined a church. It was the most fun I ever had. I told her everything I just glossed over, and her response was, after a delay, "You can make money at this?"


For what it's worth, for a variety of reasons, I've been scaling back my DJ business, even before I became an officiant: 1, I'm not as in tune with the new music, 2, My back hurts, etc. But about 6 years ago, I started getting calls to do ceremony music, and I saw a rash of BAD officiants. That planted the seed that, without the God / religious part, the ceremony is nothing but a piece of entertainment. Therefore, it needs an entertainer to do it right. Duh, I'm an entertainer.

Financially, I'm better off as a DJ. Emotionally. Officiating, no question.

I do still DJ, and occasionally I get hired to do both. I think it's kinda weird to do both, but I won't turn it down.

The weirdest thing for me is how clients think about me. As a DJ, my clients call me 'Dave'. As an officiant, I expected people to call me 'Reverend Dave'. Nope. They call me 'Reverend Miller'. It really weirds me out. I sometimes have to tell them that I love cursing and porn just like any other regular guy. Then they start calling me 'Dave'.


My biggest fear is that DJs will become officiants, and turn the ceremony into "DJ Schtick". If you're gonna do this, commit to it.

For what it's worth, I approach the ceremony from an entertainer's viewpoint, but I keep it dignified while making it fun.


Feel free to check my website, and/or to ask followup questions.
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby Dave Miller » Wed Oct 13, 2010 10:39 am

As you can imagine, I'm still thinking about this thread.

jbrown157 wrote:It somehow doesn't seem quite right that someone like me with no training or background is "ordained" as a "minister" with no questions asked.
You're right. It's NOT right. And the more religious you are, the more 'not right' it seems. But it does fall within the scope of a religion defining it's own beliefs. If the religion believes that anyone has the right to be a minister, then' you're a minister. And, because of the separation of Church and State, the state can't dictate if it's acceptable or not.

The state can't define the religion, but can define minister. Some states require that the minister be an actual, or retired, preacher. I.E. They preach to a regular congregation on a regular basis. The do NOT have to be a prayer leader, but that is an optional way to satisfy the requirement.

For what it's worth, when I meet a potential officiating client, I ask how religious they are. Sometimes people don't read my webiste, and zero in on "Reverend" in my title and assume too much. I've turned down a couple weddings because of that.


jbrown157 wrote:What if I am already at a Wedding Ceremony and the Officiant does not show?
While I was still in the 'thinking about it' stage, one of my DJ buddies told the story of that exact scenario. He got ordained, almost as a goof. He also saved the scripts that had been given to him. One day an officiant was a no-show. So, taking a script, and shaking like a leaf in a windstorm, he officiated. Now he is far more comfortable and does them often.
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby jbrown157 » Wed Oct 13, 2010 3:09 pm

Dave, thanks for your thoughtful reply. I want to make certain that you know that I am not questioning you or anyone else who has gone this route. I simply have some philosophical issues with it myself that I would need to resolve before I move ahead.
One of my local DJ buddies also does ceremonies and I plan on speaking with him at our next ADJA meeting in the next couple of weeks.
I think this is a pretty interesting topic and would like to hear how others here feel about it.
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby Toneman » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:58 am

Thank You Dave. I too have been thinking about becoming ordained. Over the last several years I have talked to alot who officiate weddings. Most are preachers and ministers with religious backgrounds. Others choose to have a Judge officiate their wedding. Most of the judges that I have talked to about this have stated the signing of the wedding license by both parties and the witness is the legal binding of the marriage. The ceremony is only a traditional formality preformed for the guests. I don't know if this is the same for other states. Here it seems, you only have to be legal to verify the signing of the license.
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby Dave Miller » Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:26 am

Toneman -

You're absolutely right, but that's not the point of this topic.

For the record, the "Officiant" is the court-accepted "Official" who is responsible for getting the license properly filled-out and submitted.

Anyone can stand in front of a crowd and say a bunch of words, but it is an officiant that has the legal responsibility to take care of the paperwork.

The officiant must be a religious person, only if the clients are religious and/or want the wedding to be recognized by the church. That's why one of my first questions is, how religious are you? The reality is, if they were religious, they probably would have already hired the minister from their church. Most of my clients are not religious, and/or they want to avoid the typical hour long church wedding. My ceremonies are around 10 minutes.


Sometimes, when meeting with clients, I'll tell them that, legally, the ceremony can be as short as this "You two love each other? (Wait for a 'yes'.) Witnesses, sign here. OK, let's eat!" Much of the other 'stuff' is what is often required by mainstream religions, or traditions that have worked their way in from other cultures. For example, the Objections comes right from the Catholic Church. But the rings come from Egyptian and Roman traditions. Etc.

I provide secular versions of all the popular American wedding traditions, and allow the bride to pick what she wants, and alter the wording as she sees fit, etc.


The first ceremony I did was actually a re-enactment. Because of a green-card issue, at nearly the last day before the groom would have been deported, the couple got married in a simple, judge's office paperwork procedure. A few months later they wanted the ceremony and reception. Because they were already legally married, it helped to settle my first-time nerves.
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby djmc » Thu Oct 14, 2010 1:19 pm

Interesting thread topic......looks like another good niche for us "older" DJs to pursue before we "hang it up" for good!!! :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby Toneman » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:53 pm

Again, Thanks Dave. My concerns and questions were more on the legal aspects. I understand the religious part and being recognized by the church. If the clients are religious the requirements of their church must be set and the clients would already have a minister from their church.

I guess I should have asked the question "What requirements are there to become a court accepted officiant?" There seems to be very little to no requirements.

This post has helped answer that question.
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby jbrown157 » Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:49 pm

So here I am all concerned about preserving the sanctity of weddings and then I am reminded of this... Maybe I shouldn't be so concerned! :lol:
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby Dave Miller » Thu Oct 14, 2010 10:27 pm

Wow. That's the worst looking Elvis I've ever seen!

That reminds me. When I was at the Wedding MBA conference last year, we took a tour of some Vegas chapels. One of them was the http://www.VivaLasVegas.com chapel. There, the Elvis did a mock ceremony. While we were all sitting in the chapel, the back wall opened, and a convertible driven by Elvis with a bride & groom in back drove up. Then they got on stage and Elvis officiated. It was kinda fun if you're into that sort of thing.

At a different chapel, I learned that Nevada, home of the instant wedding at any hour, is one of the states that is very strict on who can officiate.

The next day, 'Elvis' was at the conference, in regular clothes. I got into a conversation with him. I asked him about the Nevada officiant law. He said he is not a preacher. He merely does the ceremony, and they have a list of preachers that they can call to sign the papers.

Like I said in a previous post, any idiot can stand in front of a bunch of people and say a bunch of words. But the officiant's only responsibility is the paperwork.


The 'sancitity' is what your bride wants. This couple wanted the goofy Elvis wedding. My couples want something more spiritual and dignified. One of my officiating friends got a request to do a Star Wars wedding. He even found a website that translates into 'Yoda'.
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby djmc » Sun Oct 17, 2010 12:37 pm

Dave Miller wrote: One of my officiating friends got a request to do a Star Wars wedding. He even found a website that translates into 'Yoda'.


Oh, I bet they will use "Imperial Death March" (Empire Strikes Back) for the Wedding Party Intro and the "Main Title Theme" from "Star Wars" for the B/G intro.

(Been there, Done That) :mrgreen:
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby jbrown157 » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:19 pm

Well, OK... I'm in it now! I placed a small note on my web site about being able to perform ceremonies and within a week, I was contacted by a couple who wanted exactly what I offered (a simple ceremony). They did not want pre-marital counseling or complicated vows... just short and sweet. We just booked it and I will be conducting the ceremony in addition to MC/DJ duties at the reception. It isn't until September though... plenty of time to prepare. I know I can count on my DJ Gold pals for support! I have no doubts about being able to do this, but there will be a few butterflies when I do the first one... whenever that may be.
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby dokai » Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:05 pm

Congrats Jack!
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby CJ Greiner » Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:11 pm

Great Jack! Where'd you get ordained? Did you have to do any kind of special registration in your county or state?

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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby jbrown157 » Tue Feb 01, 2011 12:05 am

Hi CJ. I became ordained here: http://ulc.net/ - The Universal Life Church of Modesto Ca;ifornia. They confirmed with a simple email which is all I need to be "legal" in Michigan. I simply registered online and received the official email a few days later. There was no cost but they will happily sell you credentials and many other items. I guess that's how they make their money. I have a DJ friend who is also registered with this church and has been doing ceremonies for several years.
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby djmc » Tue Feb 01, 2011 10:15 am

Hey --- Modesto is about 120 miles south of where I live.

FWIW -- its the sh1thole capital of the Central Valley.......Unemployment is highest in CA (around 20%) and one of the highest murder rates in our state.
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Re: Conducting Wedding Ceremonies?

Postby CJ Greiner » Tue Feb 01, 2011 9:05 pm

Yes, I believe I have an old ordination certificate from them lying around here somewhere...

Virginia is very strict in who it allows to legally perform wedding ceremonies. I'm glad it's easier there for you - good luck with the event!
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