NPR: More Couples Have Friends Perform Wedding

The Wedding Report says two years ago, clergy performed 70 percent of all weddings. Last year, it was down to 62 percent.

The Rev. James Wind, president of the Alban Institute, a research firm focusing on religion, says he’s afraid couples may be losing out on what organized religion can offer a bride and groom.

“When we do a wedding ceremony, there’s a set of values that has been carried along for centuries in these religious communities that are resources for making this very important relationship, a bedrock relationship in our society, for making this work,” Wind says.

There is also concern over whether having friends perform weddings is legal. Many ministries offer instant ordinations. With the Internet it takes fewer than five minutes ”” and in some cases, no money ”” to become a minister. Fill out a few boxes with information, click submit and you too can be declared ordained.

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9 comments on “NPR: More Couples Have Friends Perform Wedding

  1. frdarin says:

    Interesting story.

    I recently returned to Utah from Iowa, where I had been asked to officiate at a wedding for former parishioners. Iowa requires only that I indicate my name and address on the Marriage License – even though I live out of state. Not sure what kind of follow-up, if any, the state does to verify that I am in fact an ordained clergy person as I claim to be.

    A few summers ago, while still living in Iowa, I officiated at a wedding of former parishioners in Minnesota. In that case, I had to supply evidence of my status as a clergy person to the county recorder well in advance of the occasion.

    The greatest difference in Iowa, now, is that the two parties in the marriage are referred to as “Party A” and “Party B”. Yuck.

    Fr Darin Lovelace+
    St. John’s Anglican Church
    Park City, Utah

  2. Flatiron says:

    Colorado doesn’t even require an officiant. The man and the woman just pay their fee at the county and say an oath in front of a clerk to receive the license. No other third party is required to execute the license. The bride and and groom can literally marry themselves.

  3. Jeremy Bonner says:

    Sacramentally, isn’t that exactly what the couple are doing in a Christian ceremony?

    I’m not advocating, by the way, that we dispense with the presence of the priest or that there is no value to the nuptial blessing, but surely the marriage covenant is one made between the contracting parties and God?

  4. Courageous Grace says:

    Interesting. My husband and I were married by a friend….but then that friend was already a priest.

    My son was baptized by his godfather….wait, that was a friend who was already a priest, too.


  5. Tegularius says:

    Some states don’t require an officiant–most obviously Pennsylvania, which has the “Quaker license” available.

  6. R. Eric Sawyer says:

    Jeremy Bonner (#3) said

    “Sacramentally, isn’t that exactly what the couple are doing in a Christian ceremony?’… ‘surely the marriage covenant is one made between the contracting parties and God?”

    I think that , too often, this is true. and if so, even our Texas allowing of “common law” marriages, which requires little more than that the couple understand themselves to be married, and so represent themselves in public, is perfectly reasonable.

    But I think the more accurate understanding of the liturgy in Christian marriage is larger. It is a covenant made between, not two parties, but three: Groom, Bride, and the church community. In exchange for the vows the B and G make to each other (and the social value of that to the community), the community promises to do all it can to support the couple in their life and fulfillment of these vows. They, too have entered into a covenantal relationship with the couple.

    Our community commitment is overlooked as a “polite courtesy” even more frequently than is the commitment between the B and G, but to the same result.

  7. Jeremy Bonner says:


    You’re quite right; I don’t know how I came to overlook the community dimension (which I would certainly not wish to be absent). I suppose I was thinking more in terms of priestly function i.e. the priest doesn’t “make” the marriage in the same way that he “makes” the Sacrament. Thanks for the correction.

  8. R. Eric Sawyer says:

    Jeremy, I apreciate your thought here. I would also see the commumity as the third actor, not the priest, save in his capacity as “head” or chief representative of that community.

  9. Larry Morse says:

    There is a nexus at which meaning, ritual, and religion meet , and the crossing of this point requires an agency. This agency has a power which classes in psychology have no power to fathom, more subtle, more mysterious, than the agency that shifts the embryo to the fetus.
    At this nexus, a union that might have been the sum of its parts becomes a union whose sum is incalculably greater than its parts. Who can adequately describe or analyze this vowing? Marriage means this and only this.
    Can two people marry each other just by saying so. Will such a marriage succeed or fail? Who can tell? But something is missing in the excised agency. Successful or failure-=bound, such a marriage has missed a meaning that, to quote EA Robinson, “Tells the more it is nottold.” Larry