Published: Friday, Oct. 22nd, 2021
You may have heard that Delaware passed a law recently, establishing a statewide ‘Officiant Registry’ for clergypersons and ministers who perform marriages there, and that ministers must be listed on this registry in order to legally marry people. That’s true -- SB67 was passed in 2019, and the registry was supposed to become effective on January 1, 2020. But...
But if you’ve been to the Sussex County Officiators Information page lately, you know that this registry still isn’t available.
So, what’s going on? Will the Registry be up soon? And what do ministers need to do in the meantime?
To help you answer these questions and officiate weddings in Delaware with a clear mind, AMM contacted Alisa Mawson, Chief Deputy of the Sussex County Marriage Bureau, and researched pending legislation in the state.
Here’s what you need to know!
The new government registry requirements outlined in SB67 were signed into law in July of 2019, and were intended to go into effect at the start of 2020. This was initially postponed in 2020 when the Clerks of the Peace for all 3 counties requested more time to implement the updates, so that they could contact leaders of faith communities in the state to learn of any additional changes that might need to be made to the marriage registry structure or it’s enforcement.
It was postponed again in September of 2021 in response to COVID (SB164), and is still pending.
This is still unknown: Chief Deputy Mawson told us that at this time, the Marriage Bureau doesn’t have a date as to when the pending officiant registry legislation will be passed, and that this necessary legislation has been pushed a few times due to slowdowns caused by COVID.
This means that for now, the Officiant Registry is on an extended pause (but not a permanent one).
Currently, Ministers who wish to officiate weddings in Delaware need “written authorization by the clerk of the peace from the county in Delaware where the ceremony is to be performed.” (Pursuant to Title 13 § 106 of the Delaware Code)
This means that you’ll need to register as an Officiator with the Clerk of the Peace before the ceremony takes place.
You can learn more about the registration requirements and process here.
The Clerk may ask to see your ministry credentials (including a Letter of Good Standing and Ordination Certificate) to confirm your ordination. While the new registration process is still being ironed out, we recommend you have these before contacting the Clerk’s office -- You can order them here.
These are the pending updates that were recently made to the Delaware Code (Added text is in bold):
§ 106 Individuals authorized to solemnize marriages; requirements to solemnize marriage; penalty.
(a) (2) The following individuals over 18 years of age may solemnize a marriage between individuals who may lawfully enter into the matrimonial relation:
a. A clergyperson or minister of any religion who resides in the State of Delaware, provided he or she is registered with the Clerk of the Peace in the county where he or she resides.
b. A clergyperson or minister of any religion who does not reside in the State of Delaware, provided he or she is registered with the Clerk of the Peace in the county where the marriage ceremony is to be performed.
c. A current or former judge of this State’s Supreme Court, Superior Court, Family Court, Court of Chancery, Court of Common Pleas, or Justice of the Peace Court.
d. A current or former federal judge or magistrate with jurisdiction over this State.
e. A current or former Clerk of the Peace of a county of this State, within the county in which the Clerk holds or held that office.
f. The chief executive officer of an incorporated municipality of this State, within the corporate limits of that municipality.
(b) The Clerk of the Peace in each county shall maintain an online registry through which clergypersons or ministers of any religion must register.
(1) Upon registering, registrants shall receive a registration card online bearing the registrant’s personal registration number. That registration number must be entered on the Certificate of Marriage of each marriage ceremony performed by the registrant.
(2) Once registered with a Clerk of the Peace in any county, a registrant’s name will be added to a Statewide Registry accessible to the public online.
(3) Once registered with a Clerk of the Peace in any county, a registrant will be authorized to solemnize marriages statewide.
(c) Any clergyperson or minister who, while not registered in accordance with this Section, solemnizes a marriage shall be subject to a non-criminal penalty imposed by the Clerk of the Peace in the county where the marriage was performed, which shall include suspension or revocation of authorization to solemnize further marriages in the State of Delaware.
Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!