Late last month, an online church sued the Cleveland County Register of Deeds in North Carolina, alleging that the County’s Register of Deeds Betsy Harnage denied a marriage license to an unnamed couple because their officiant was ordained online. A few days later, local media reported that they were dropping the lawsuit.
It turns out, the real problem was that the couple got married before applying for their marriage license – which is against the rules. You need to apply for the marriage license before the ceremony!
That's just the way things work.
You need to get a fishing license before you go fishing. You need a food handler's permit before working in a commercial kitchen... you get the point. The moral of the story is, always check the local requirements, and if in doubt, call ahead and ask.
So, just to clarify, North Carolina county clerks still accept weddings performed by online-ordained ministers.
American Marriage Ministries has 18,980 ministers in North Carolina. Our ministers have officiated thousands of weddings without encountering any resistance from county clerks. In our experience, North Carolina’s County Clerks have been helpful and friendly.
That’s because a big part of what we do here at AMM is outreach and education. We work closely with clerks in North Carolina and every other state in the country to make sure that they know who we are and the role that our ministers play in their communities.
We understand that online ordination is a relatively new concept. That’s why it’s so important to tell our side of the story. Our ministers are dedicated and sincere members of their communities. They use wedding ceremonies to celebrate love and shared values. If that sounds like something that local governments would want to support, that's because it is! It's a founding principle...
There’s no meaningful difference between what AMM ministers do and what their brick-and-mortar counterparts do. The only difference is that they got ordained online.
We’re pleased that online ordination is gaining acceptance. Learning that it’s embraced by North Carolina will certainly come as great news to couples planning their weddings in that state.
Ultimately, the moral of the story is: do your homework. If you are planning a wedding, make sure to check out our State Minister Registration pages. We also provide our ministers with a state-by-state marriage law library.
And if that’s not enough, we’re always here to help at [email protected]