Believe it or not, in some states a couple can legally marry themselves with no formal officiant. In other states, the rules are more strict as only officiants ordained within that state can legally perform ceremonies there. The state of New York has its own guidelines and when you're planning your big day here, it's good to do your research.
To be valid, a marriage ceremony must be performed by any of the individuals specified in Section 11 of the New York State Domestic Relations Law. These include:
- The mayor of a city or village;
- The former mayor, the city clerk or one of the deputy city clerks of a city of more than one million inhabitants;
- A marriage officer appointed by the town or village board or the city common council;
- A justice or judge of the following courts: the U. S. Court of Appeals, the New York State Court of Appeals, the New York State Supreme Court and the Appellate Division, the Court of Claims, the Family Court, a Surrogates Court, the Civil and Criminal Courts of New York City (including Housing judges of the Civil Court) and other courts of record;
- A village, town or county justice;
- A member of the clergy or minister who has been officially ordained and granted authority to perform marriage ceremonies from a governing church body in accordance with the rules and regulations of the church body;
- A member of the clergy or minister who is not authorized by a governing church body but who has been chosen by a spiritual group to preside over their spiritual affairs;
- For marriages taking place within New York City, officiants must be registered with the City of New York. The officiant does not have to be a resident of New York State.
- Ship captains are not authorized to perform marriage ceremonies in New York State.
Ministers must complete a marriage certificate and return it to the town or city clerk who issued the marriage license within five days after the marriage.
Once you have chosen the person who will marry you, be sure to discuss with them other details such as fees, expected donations, choice of ceremony and sending in the license to be recorded. Putting all of the legal issues in order beforehand will leave your mind carefree and focused on each other, on that most important of days.
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