Is Your Marriage At Risk of Being Declared Invalid in NC?

It is a trend these days to have a friend or relative go online and purchase their ordination and perform your wedding and sign the marriage license. This is legal in many states but it is NOT legal in North Carolina (or Virginia) and never has been. Thanks to our friend Reverend Kayelily Middleton for writing this informative post to help engaged couples make sure their marriage is legal in NC!

How Do You Make Sure Your Marriage is Legal in NC?

If you think that a friend who is ordained online or Uncle Bill who paid $25 to get ordained on the internet can legally officiate your wedding in North Carolina, you are mistaken and your marriage would be declared invalid if any marriage performed by an online ordained minister is challenged in the courts. 

NC Marriage Law

NC General Statutes Chapter 51 of the NC Marriage Law says: “a couple may be married by an ordained minister of any religious denomination, a minister authorized by a church, or a magistrate.” (That also includes priests, rabbis, and chaplains and others a church may give that authority to.) The law also allows court-appointed magistrates to solemnize marriages at each county courthouse with a civil (non-religious) ceremony.

Laws are interpreted by the courts and there have been two court rulings in the past on this issue in NC that have established both times that online ordained ministers do not qualify to solemnize marriages. The rulings specifically cite Universal Life Church ordinations as not legal back when that institution was the only one ordaining folks online. By logical extension that would also include more recent popular online ordaining bodies such as American Marriage Ministries, etc. In addition, “Celebrants” are not legally recognized in NC unless they are also legally ordained, ministers.  

Why Don’t Couples Know This?

The problem in NC is: 

  1. state and local governments don’t police or enforce the marriage laws
  2. there is no registry to qualify ministers to officiate weddings
  3. there is no explanation to couples of who can officiate their wedding in the marriage license acquisition process 
  4. people believe what they read on the internet! 

What Does It Take to Be Legally Married in NC?

Hire a minister who has been ordained by a seminary of a known religious group or ordained in person by a church. Ask to see their credentials. They should have a certificate of ordination to show you. 

Can My Friend or Relative Still Perform My Wedding Ceremony?

Many professional legally ordained officiants are happy to include friends and relatives in the ceremony. I have officiated many weddings with the couple’s friend or relative and give the couple the choice of having that person perform the entire ceremony (except for the pronouncement of marriage which I must do legally to sign the marriage license) or have their friend or relative do parts of the ceremony. 

Another solution is to go to the courthouse before your wedding day and pay $20 for a magistrate to perform a simple civil wedding ceremony and legally marry you. Then the “public” ceremony later can be performed by your friend or relative. 

A professional wedding officiant has the expertise and experience to work with you to create a personalized and meaningful wedding ceremony and deliver it with grace on your wedding day, knows how to conduct a rehearsal, and can handle any unexpected incidents that may arise on your wedding day whereas online ordained friends and relatives lack this experience and expertise. 

It is important to me that couples marrying in North Carolina not risk the validity of their marriages and I am here to serve them in any way I can. I am most happy to answer any questions on this subject. I have been seminary-ordained since 1997 and have officiated over 2000 weddings since then. 

I can be reached at or text at (919) 345-4608. Thanks for reading, and I hope this has helped inform you of important laws in North Carolina that can affect the validity of your marriage!

Reverend Kayelily Middleton

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