My best articles result after a couple asks a good question.
Recently, a potential couple posed this question to me:
“Hi – I saw on your site that you are ordained through the ulc. Does nj consider you clergy or are you a civil celebrant meeting the requirements of nj’s marriage law (listed below). Thanks!” http://law.onecle.com/new-jersey/37-marriages-and-married-persons/1-13.html
(Wedding date and couple’s name removed by me for their privacy.)
In answer to them and anyone else who has this question, here is my response:
Thank you for your insightful question.
In answer to your date, yes, I am available on the date you requested for your wedding and I would be delighted to help you depending where in the state you wish to be married. I prefer to remain in southern NJ and do not typically travel to northern locations.
For your 2nd question, the short answer is: Yes, NJ recognizes ULC ordinations and in NJ, a wedding officiated by me is officiated legally.
Your question is an insightful one, because not many people know the difference between the various terms. My response may end up as one of my blog features, so thank you for the idea. 🙂
Because of the distinction, and because I am an ordained non-denominational minister, I am able to make reference to a supreme entity, God, or however a couple thinks of their creator. But I am also able to write and officiate secular ceremonies, without reference to a deity, though personally meaningful to a couple’s sensibilities or spirituality. Under the umbrella of the ULC Church I can offer a couple flexibility with the type of ceremony they’d like. In the case of Atheist couples, since Atheism is considered a faith (there is no proof that there is or isn’t a supreme being and it’s all a matter of personal belief) being an officiant through ULC gives me the flexibility to marry atheists. Not all clergy feel that way and whether or not they’d feel comfortable with that is a matter of their own conscience and how the couple feels about technically being married by ‘clergy’. Although in NJ, (unlike in NY or other states) the paperwork does not ask if the ceremony was religious or secular, simply the title of the officiant. (Minister, Officiant, Celebrant, etc.) ‘Minister’ and ‘Celebrant’ tend to give a religious vibe while ‘officiant’ remains neutral. When I sign off on a wedding I do so as either ‘minister’ or ‘officiant’. However, as marriages evolve, the word ‘minister’, like the word ‘celebrant’, is taking on the meaning of the person who administered the wedding, religious or secular, whereas a ‘priest’ or ‘pastor’ or ‘reverend’ is more an indicator of a person with a religious following.
ULC (the one in Modesto, not the Monastery) was founded in 1959, long before the internet and has helped a few generations of people. I was ordained in 2001. My father had just died and I had become disenfranchised from my church and no longer had a church. But I was a spiritual person and was desperate to get myself onto a positive path to cope with my loss. ULC offered courses and guidance and I eventually looked at it as my church, institution or whatever you call an organization that offers spiritual and philosophical information and help. I became ordained but had another career.
About a decade later, I found myself in a position to begin a wedding ministry and I took it. With my attorney, I established my services as an LLC, and the state recognizes my professional officiant services as a legitimate business entity. So I have the benefit of a church behind me as well as the recognition of the state of my services. Not every officiant (a generic term which covers every person legally able to marry individuals) is a legal entity. I have since gone on to write several books relating to marriage and I have mentored other wedding officiants.
Through the years I have benefit from philosophical and spiritual courses through ULC and have belonged to a forum with other officiants and ministers, some who have a regular church ministry and others who limit their ministry to weddings, funerals, and baptisms. When I started out, I was mentored by another ordained individual.
Because I do not have my own congregation I present myself as a professional officiant since I secure payment directly from my couples and not from the church. This article I authored expands on that point.
Some individuals use the word ‘celebrant’ interchangeably with the word ‘officiant’, and some ordained ministers call themselves celebrants because their particular ordination might refer to them as celebrants and not as ministers. It’s becoming kind of a trendy term. But use of that word does not mean that they are civil celebrants in the sense that NJ means.
The NJ celebrant ruling only recently came into effect, in June I think. I have been officiating weddings for four years, and have about 220 weddings under my belt. Due to the brevity of time civil celebrants have been recognized by the state, and factoring in the time to initiate an advertising campaign etc, a new civil celebrant would be lucky to have half a dozen weddings under her/his belt as of this writing. (July 2014) There have been only so many weekends between June and today’s date, and being recognized enough to get inquiries means you’ve been around a while, and maybe have word of mouth reference. Just because a person can legally marry people doesn’t mean the phone is ringing off the hook on day one. It takes time to build both a presence, skill, and a reputation.
I hope that I have been able to give you a satisfactory explanation to your question.
Thank you very much for your inquiry into my services and if you will be getting married in a point south of Manahawkin, I’d love to help you.
Professional Wedding Officiant
With This Kiss I Thee Wed LLC