Q: I am an ordained minister in California, and have been asked to perform a marriage ceremony for a friend in Indiana. Am I legally qualified to do so?
A: This is a common question. Pastors often are asked to perform marriages in other states for friends and relatives. Many never consider the legal implications of such commitments until the deadline looms. By then, it may be too late to comply with applicable legal requirements, which leaves the couple in a precarious position.
Here is a checklist of items for pastors to consider as soon as they receive a request to perform an out-of-state marriage:
1. A pastor's legal authority to solemnize a marriage in another state will depend on the law of that state. The fact that the pastor is ordained does not necessarily empower him or her to perform a marriage in another state.
2. Many states have enacted laws that permit nonresident ministers to solemnize marriages so long as they comply with certain requirements. Here are a few examples: