has been major confusion surrounding our state's new laws governing
who solemnizes (performs) marriages in Tennessee. Just what IS the law,
and who is legally authorized to perform your marriage ceremony in our state?
This page will cut through the confusion and help you decide which type of
ceremony is right for you, Civil or Religious.
Even though a local county official recently stated "you can not require ordainment to do a service," It wasn't clear to the public, that this applied to the civil ceremony only, NOT the religious ceremony. According to our state's attorney general, our law requires that any minister, preacher, pastor, priest, rabbi or other spiritual leader (acting in a spiritual role), MUST be ordained or otherwise designated in conformity with the customs of a church, temple or other religious group or organization, and such customs must provide for such ordination or designation by a considered, deliberate and responsible act. "Same sex" marriages are not legal in our state and carry a jail or prison sentence for any county court clerk convicted of granting the license.
Civil ceremonies are typically performed by judges, city or county officials or others duly appointed by the city or county to solemnize marriages. We do not have issues with this method because an ordained minister is NOT needed for the proceedings. Our constitution provides this means of legalizing the marriages for persons such as atheists, or others who may find it offensive to have God or religion mentioned in their ceremony.. It's the perfect way to go if all you want to do, is "make it quick, cheap and legal." and don't require any of the religious aspects. If you'll be choosing the civil ceremony, read no further. Go find a qualified city/county/state official to tie the knot, and best of luck to you in your new lives together!
(The remainder of this page will only pertain to the couples wishing their marriage ceremony be "religious" in nature and want it performed by a qualified minister)
-- THE RELIGIOUS CEREMONY--
If you choose the religious ceremony, you may want to be informed of some new (and very defined) guidelines regarding the religious ceremony and just "who" is qualified to solemnize your ceremony in Tennessee. If you are choosing this option, our state requires that the person performing the marriage be duly ordained by a church body, and or otherwise designated in conformity with the customs of a church, temple or other religious group or organization. As you will see in the following collection of news articles and state statutes, there are certain ordination credentials (such as the Universal Life Church, based in California) which are NOT LEGAL in our state and your wedding may not be legal if performed by a person possessing these type certificates. This page is dedicated to helping you make the right decisions in choosing your minister.--One who is duly ordained by God and qualified to perform your marriage in our state.
Wedding in Tennessee may not be legal !
Tennessee State House Bill #2079, passed by the 71st Legislature (voted 94
to 0), religious ceremonies must be performed by a church-ordained minister
having the care of souls (or a civil service by a county official). Mail
order or internet obtained ordination papers do not permit a person to perform
legal marriages according to our state Attorney General.
|Just to see if there was any screening process involved in getting one of these mail-order/online licenses, here's an example of an ordination certificate obtained online by Rev. Dr. Taylor for his pet dog "Tiny". Wouldn't you find it unacceptable if your minister carried the same credentials that can be obtained for a family pet, (no questions asked)? Many of the ministers that perform marriages here in this state, have been doing so with fraudulent credentials like this. A person was recently arrested in TN (see article below) for using these same type documents to validate their ministerial status. Bottom line, these marriages are not legal in Tennessee!|
of our ministers are church-ordained pastors, ordained by a church body, and set
apart for the purpose of full time ministry.
For more info, call Smoky Mountain Ministerial Alliance (865) 436-0990
Here is an excerpt from USA
Today, Dated January 3, 2003.
|If you thought an ordination certificate like the one above is legal in Tennessee, You'd better read this news story!|
Below is an article dated April 28, 2004, text copied verbatim from the
Kingsport Times News, Kingsport TN.
Former owner of Wedding Loft arrested
Sunday, April 28, 17443
By JIM WOZNIAK
NET News Service
JONESBOROUGH - The former owner of the Wedding Loft in Jonesborough, who left couples wondering in the late 1990s whether their marriages were valid, was arrested last week on charges she was not properly credentialed.
Brenda Gorst, who is charged in Washington County Criminal Court with impersonating a licensed professional, faces a maximum of six years behind bars. She is accused of impersonating an ordained minister from May 3, 1993, until March 10, 1999, when she performed more than 600 weddings.
Her alleged actions led to an emergency bill being passed in the Tennessee General Assembly to validate marriages in the state that took place from April 15, 1998, to June 1, 1999. The law was designed to ease the minds of about 70 couples who had been married by Gorst.
An earlier bill addressed problems with earlier marriages after problems with other ministers and their qualifications came to light.
Gorst was indicted in 1999 but was not arrested until last week. District Attorney Joe Crumley said she was not making herself easy to find.
"We've had her sighted several times over the last couple of years, usually out of the country," Crumley said. "I think she was seen in Canada and then somewhere in the central part of the United States, but she would get back over the border before anybody was able to apprehend her. We knew sooner or later that she would probably come back."
Gorst is being housed in the Washington County Detention Center until she posts a $5,000 bond. She is scheduled to be arraigned June 29 in criminal court.
Crumley was glad to have Gorst in the court system, where she will have to face accusations she was not properly licensed to marry people even though she said she was.
"I hate to have any case just out there just left unsolved," he said. "I know when the case first broke, there were a lot of people who were affected by what she did. We did get a number of calls, usually people wanting to know whether or not they were legally married ... especially once they had children."
Crumley said one of the major issues in her case will be to repay the couples any money they lost through her actions. Another bill she might have to pay is the cost of the legislature having to pass the special act.
County Clerk Doyle Cloyd told the Associated Press in 1999 that his employees became suspicious of Gorst when she started writing "civil" on marriage licenses to indicate the type of wedding ceremony. Previously, she had written "religious" on the document.
Winnie Byrd, who got married at the Wedding Loft in 1993, said Gorst had held herself out to be an ordained Methodist minister, according to the AP. But others said Gorst told them that she received her credentials through a mail-order company in California.
Gorst sold the facility in February 1999. The new owner, Patti Lewis, said she used two ordained ministers for weddings there.
|Discover the Difference|
Rev. Dr. Ed
the Need and Fill it...
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We'd also like you to know
that we are a real church attending to the needs of our married couples FAR
BEYOND their initial wedding date! Here is a scan from the Sevier
County Yellow Pages dated 1-31-05 clearly showing we have been here since 1979
in the Sevier County area. NO OTHER chapel facility in our area can boast this
kind of longevity!
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