Professional clergy persons call them “official acts.” Folks who go for online ordination might call them “the big three”: weddings, baptisms and funerals.
After four years of college and four years of seminary in order to qualify for ordination in my church denomination, and 30+ years of professional ministry which included officiating at countless official acts, I decided to go online and find out what online ordination is all about. Here is what I found.
First of all, as I said above, the three main events that people go online to get ordained for are weddings, baptisms and funerals. Since weddings involve a legally binding commitment, there is a bit more to consider when officiating at one of these.
Marriage laws differ from state to state and there are countless traditions associated with weddings but for a wedding to be legally binding there are only two required elements. The first requirement is the Declaration of Intent, the part where each person is asked, “Do you take…” and must give an affirmative response, typically, “I do.”
The second required element is the Pronouncement, where the presiding minister pronounces the couple as officially married. For all you fans of the movie “The Princess Bride” the Pronouncement is the part of the wedding ceremony that Prince Humperdinck is desperately trying to get the clergyman to say so that his marriage to Princess Buttercup becomes legal. Then he can go and deal with whoever it is that has the audacity to storm his castle in the middle of his wedding.
The Pronouncement is where I think it could get a little strange if you choose your brother to officiate at your wedding as I’ve heard some people have done. It just seems to me that the Pronouncement should be done by someone more official than a sibling.
After the wedding the officiant has to file the proper paperwork with the county in which the wedding took place. I’m not sure what happens if he or she does not do so. Do they have to do the wedding over?
For baptisms and funerals, there are no legal requirements so its just a matter of working with the family to get things just the way they want them. The online sites also offer tips for helping with other kinds of ceremonies too.
All the online ordination web sites I visited offer package deals where they bundle together all the things you’ll need to officiate at a wedding including a credential card, marriage certificates, and various other knick knacks to make it real. You can also order clergy apparel from these online ordination web sites to complete your look.
One web site lists all the celebrities that have secured online ordination. The most memorable celebrity-officiated wedding I’ve seen was when Queen Latifah officiated at the weddings of serveral dozen couples on a live TV awards show.
At another web site you can type in your zip code and find a list of folks in your area who have gone online to get ordained. When I did so for the Owatonna, MN zip code it came back with over 100 names within less than 100 miles. Some of the people listed I even knew. I also found out at this web site how much online “ordainees” charge for weddings. I guess I am going to have to adjust my fee schedule substantially upwards!
One web site boasted that “Becoming an ordained minister has never been easier or more convenient.” It can all be done with a few clicks online and no one is turned away. There is no need for any continuing eduction and online ordination never expires. There is also advice and training on preaching sermons and starting your own church.
Some are very concerned about all the ways weddings and marriages have changed in recent years. I’m of the opinion that since marriage was instituted by God, it will survive just fine no matter how creative people get with it.
For years people have been using the internet to meet and develop relationships with others and many of those relationships lead to marriage. So I guess it is not surprising that those couples would be have no problem choosing a person to officiate at their wedding who got ordained online with just a few clicks of their mouse.