Bill Seeks to Regulate Wedding Officiants

Bill To Regulate Non Traditional Weddings

BUFFALO, NY - A growing number of couples have dispensed with traditional religious or civil wedding officiants— choosing instead to be married by friends or relatives, who get ordained through an online ministry.

“We wanted something a little more intimate and we weren’t affiliated with any particular church," said Ken Kopper of Buffalo, who is looking forward to his third wedding anniversary with his wife Heidi next month.

The couple were married by a friend who obtained an online ordination.

Joe Vitalie, who works for a local document management firm, has officiated at about a dozen weddings since he was ordained on line a decade ago.

Vitalie produced wallet cards indicating he has been ordained by both the Universal Life Church, and another outfit calling itself the “Church of the Latter Day Dude”.

"I really like to be able to officiate for my friends. Those are the people I typically do this for," Vitale told WGRZ-TV. “They know me and I know them obviously, so they feel more comfortable with it."

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, a Westchester County Democrat, has introduced a bill that would allow anyone 18 or older to apply for the right to officiate at a wedding — for a single day.

The proposal would authorize the state to award "one-day marriage officiant" licenses enabling a person to perform marriages.

An officiant would have to pay a fee and file their application with the secretary of state's office at least 30 days before the ceremony.

A memo accompanying Galef's legislation says it's unclear whether current state law actually allows people ordained online to conduct a marriage ceremony.

Asked if that meant couples like the Kopper’s might have to fear that their marriage is not legal, she said they and others could presume they are legally married—but that a judge might not see it that way.

The issue has surfaced, according to Galef, in some isolated cases of contested divorce.

She believes her bill –if passed, would ensure the legality of weddings with non-traditional officiants, and that no judge could rule otherwise.

© 2017 WGRZ-TV


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