Something like ten years or so ago I became an ordained minister. I was ordained by the Universal Life Church of Modesto, California right from the comfort of my computer over the internet. Yes, I'm a minister. I was ordained specifically because my friend Malissa was getting married and I wanted to conduct the ceremony.
Now, to conduct a legal ceremony you have to have more than just a certificate that you printed out at your house. You have to get on the state's marriage registry, which requires getting a license from your local courthouse. At the time I lived in Clarksburg, which is the seat of Harrison County. So I marched downtown to the courthouse, asked around, and was eventually sent up to the county clerk's office.
The lady at the county clerk's office was a hoot. I remember walking in and telling her I wanted to perform a wedding but needed a license. She didn't even blink, just got out the forms and started asking me questions. It was all well and fine until we got the part about what church I belonged to. I told her, "The Universal Life Church."
"Uh huh," she says. "And where is that?"
"Modesto, California!" I said this with a big smile. She put down her pen, looked up...and just looked at me. I explained that I was ordained over the internet. This did not reassure her at all.
"Look, I'm not trying to declare my house a church for tax reasons. I just want to be able to marry my friends." This sounded weak when I said it. Then the big surprise. She shrugged, looked up, and said, "yeah, okay." I paid five dollars or so, and that was that. Legal.
I did the marriage, and all was well. Then a few years later I did another marriage for some friends of friends. Then there was the emergency biker wedding. Then another biker wedding.
The first emergency biker wedding was on a Saturday. My dad calls and asked if I could still do weddings. I told him that as far as I knew I sure could. Then he asked if I would marry his friends. That day. Their minister had double booked and was hours away. An hour later I was in a state park parking lot drinking a beer before the ceremony. The second biker wedding was at the dude's house. I can't remember either of their names, but they were both friends of my dad. I called the lady by the wrong name, then demanded that they stop tape so we could have a do over. Yeah; I'm a very professional minister.
A few months ago I heard on the news that Pennsylvania was no longer allowing Universal Life Church members to marry people. This made me worry. What if the marriages I performed weren't actually marriages and I had led people to possible tax repercussions? I meant to look into it, but then just kind of forgot.
Anyway, all this back story has a reason. This morning I'm sitting in the dining room playing my guitar when the phone rings, unknown number. I answer it to discover it's my friend Haley's new number; so far a delightful phone call. She tells me her friend wants her to marry her, but when she tried to get a license they wanted two letters from parishioners of her church. She's also a Universal Life Minister and was worried that if she just had two people write letters (I offered to write one) that she would either get in trouble or perform a marriage that would later be declared to not be a marriage at all. So she was wondering if I could still marry people.
I checked. According to the Secretary of State's office I am on the registry. This took a load off. According to the State of West Virginia the power to marry people that they so wisely vested in me is still in full effect.
I'm doing a wedding on the 22nd.
Checks and Balances
10 months ago