Key point 3-04. All states permit clergy to perform marriage ceremonies. However, some states permit only "ordained" or some other classification of clergy to perform marriage ceremonies. It is important for clergy to determine if they are legally authorized to perform marriages under applicable state law, and, in addition, to be aware of the legal qualifications for marriage and any license and reporting requirements prescribed by state law.
A Kentucky court ruled that a couple who participated in a "religious marriage" without obtaining a marriage license from the county clerk were not legally married. After dating for nearly a year, a Jewish couple asked their rabbi if he could perform a Jewish marriage ceremony consistent with the laws, customs, and traditions of the Jewish faith, but without a "secular, legal marriage contract." In particular, the parties did not wish for any civil marriage license or marriage certificate to be executed or filed. Neither person was an American citizen, and the rabbi understood that their desire to avoid a civil marriage was based upon immigration concerns and a need to remain legally free to marry American citizens for the purpose of applying for citizenship.