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Finding someone to marry us

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My fiance and I have just booked the location for our wedding. Yay!

Not-so-yay: We need to find someone to marry us. Obviously a religious officiant is out of the question. A justice of the peace or judge would be ideal, but we do not actually want to get married in the courthouse (we want to pay someone to marry us at the location of our choice), and apparently there's a law in NY prohibiting justices and judges from accepting money for performing marriage ceremonies (other than salary for marriages performed at the courthouse). So from what I hear, it is nearly impossible to be married by a JOP or judge outside a courthouse unless the JOP happens to be a friend of the bride and groom who will do the ceremony as a favor.

There's also the option of having a friend "ordained" online through the Universal Life Church, then registering him/her through a NYC government office to make the friend a legal wedding officiant. We would then, of course, ask said friend to perform a marriage ceremony with no mention of god or religion. However, I don't like the dishonesty of having one of our friends pretend to believe in god, even if it's just clicking some boxes on a Web form, solely to get "ordination" privileges.

I've also heard the Society of Ethical Culture will perform secular ceremonies, but that group's beliefs include an unhealthy dose of altruism. So we could get a secular ceremony from them, but would we be able to get language that reflects our belief in romantic love as a *selfish* value? And even if we could, would we want to support an organization -- by paying such an officiant -- that perpetuates altruistic beliefs?

I'm wondering whom other Objectivists have hired for their wedding officiants, particularly if you live in an area with such restrictive rules as New York. Is there another obvious option I'm missing?

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Well first of all, congratulations! :D

Now, I'm not that familiar with NYC laws on this issue so my advice might not apply. I would suggest going and getting your official marriage license ahead of your actual ceremony if you haven't done so already. You probably would be able to obtain this without having to appear before a judge or go through a ceremonial procedure. That way it doesn't matter who performs the ceremony since it's that piece of paper that legally states that you're married.

I also have heard that it is possible to hire a religious officiant to perform secular wedding ceremonies though given the NYC law you mentioned, this could be legally murky as well.

If nothing else, consult an attorney. You might also post something about this on Craigslists.com.

I hope this helps.

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Obviously a religious officiant is out of the question. A justice of the peace or judge would be ideal
Given this juxtaposition, I'm confused. It's quite likely that any given judge or JOP would believe in god, thus would be "religious". Are you looking for an confirmed atheist, or simply someone willing to officiate. A Catholic priest is unlikely to be willing to officiate at an irreligious ceremony, but I bet you could hire a Uniterian, since they don't seem to have any clear and identifiable beliefs other than "be good, we believe in what you believe in". I know they are perfectly capable of following instruction to avoid reference to god.
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Now, I'm not that familiar with NYC laws on this issue so my advice might not apply. I would suggest going and getting your official marriage license ahead of your actual ceremony if you haven't done so already.

My ex-wife and I had to apply or register for this licensing before the ceremony, or else it wouldn't have been able to take place, if I remember right. Also you may have to wait a certain number of days in between getting the license and the ceremony itself, there also might be blood tests involved in some states that require it. We had the actual ceremony performed by a JP right at our reception. My ex-wife worked our wedding day into the schedule that the JP guy was available to wed us, so you might want to watch, Stella, making any sort of real commitment to a particular place on a certain date, just in case.

If nothing else, consult an attorney.

Always my very best advice - quickest most accurate way to find out for sure - or call the court, since that's where we had to go to get our license. I had almost nothing to do with any of the planning involved in our wedding and reception. It was all paid for by my ex-wife's generous grandparents who were really very happy for us at the time and they totally wanted to take care of everything for us; which is exactly why I really don't know hardly anything about the specifics that were involved with the JP, and so forth. Our marriage was acknowledged by the state, so I have no clue as to what's involved with any religious acknowledgements. Now that I think about it, I think we actually had a mayor or former mayor wed us.

Oh and here is a link specifically for NYC; just click on what's in the Marriage Bureau section:


You might have already been on that site. All you have to do is get an eligible Marriage Officiant to register for the actual ceremony. There are probably numbers you could call to get information from the Office of the City Clerk and names of such eligibles, maybe they can help find someone.

Here is a link about marriage licenses in New York State too:


Edited by intellectualammo
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The Good Father Andrew Bernstein is always available, and he's a New Yorkian. He married a couple of Objectivists via the ULC.

Tenure! That's the best news I've heard all day! I may just have to ask him.

As for why I figured a JOP would be preferable to a religious officiant, I figured that a JOP would perform a civil ceremony, which would not be religious, whereas a religious officiant, at least one from a non-"fuzzy" denomination, would be unwilling to do the ceremony without mentioning god. (My parents have a friend who's a minister whom they are pressing on me, and there's no way...there's one can of worms about asking him to perform a non-god ceremony, and another with having him at the wedding when we are not having anyone from the family except parents and siblings, much less family friends!)

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Just wondering - is it against the law to have your own ceremony at which you exchange the vows that lock you irretrievably into hymeneal bliss, without incurring the oversight of the state via a state-endorsed officiant?

It seems to me that the personal ceremony you are seeking is between the two of you (with friends and family witnessing if you wish), while the state sanctioning is simply the establishment of a state-recognized (and enforced) contract, which can be accomplished privately, after the fact, in the courthouse.

If I had discovered Objectivism ten years earlier, I might have considered my marriage to my wife to be an act of will, unconnected to the requirements and enforcements of the state, except as the state sees fit to bestow upon us certain fiscal incentives.

Edited by agrippa1
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