Justice of the Peace
Internet Minister for your Wedding? Not in Connecticut. Ask a JP!
Recently the topic of who are legal marriage/civil union officiants has received a lot of attention. An August 5th article in the New York Times, Great Wedding! But Was It Legal? by Devan Sipher related how a Connecticut couple were married by a friend who had been ordained online by the Universal Life Church. Guess what? The marriage is not legal in Connecticut, which does not recognize ministers who were ordained solely to perform weddings. Mary Pugh, Norwalk CT JP, confirms: "Internet ministers cannot perform weddings in CT unless they have a flock, i.e. they are actively performing as clergy. Ordination is not enough. Anyone can be ordained via the the Internet in less than two minutes." The same rule applies in Alabama, Virginia and Tennessee, as well as municipalities like Las Vegas, Westchester and Long Island.
Lawyers advise couples to make sure their officiant is authorized by the state. The union is unlikely to be challenged except when it really matters -- during divorce or death proceedings, for example. Or the IRS might question their joint return.
Our conclusion: Couples who want to be sure their ceremony is legal should hire a JP!
Correction: Vermont Offers Training to JPs
"Just want to let you know that Vermont does offer trainings for JP's. I have been a JP since February. In May, I attended one of a series of trainings held at numerous locations across Vermont. It was facilitated by the Vermont Secretary of State and a lawyer who specializes in tax abatements. It was inclusive of all of the JP responsibilities and it was very helpful to me." Mary Barber, Rockingham, VT
Note to Connecticut JPs: We are looking into holding regional meetings later this year, most likely in southwest, central and eastern CT. They will be on Saturday or Sunday mornings: convene at breakfast, followed by small group workshops. Possible dates: Oct. 21, 27, Nov. 3, 11, 17, 18. We can only do this with your backing. Let us know if you would attend (assuming the date selected works for you) and if you can help (logistics, workshop leader). Anticipated fee is $20.
Fee for Copy of License Increases in CT
The fee for a copy of a marriage or civil union license in Connecticut has increased from $5.00 to $10.00, effective July 1, 2007. The fee for other vital records -- death certificates and the long form birth certificate -- also went up. (Short form birth certificates remain $5.)
Second Thoughts Before the Ceremony...
Q: A first for me, a couple booked for this Saturday about a month ago. I wrote the ceremony, they were fine with it, all a go until today, I received an email "wedding CANCELLED, will not be getting married." My question is: they have not asked for a refund, I turned down another wedding for the same day. What is the norm for cancellation after the fee is received? Sandra Bullock, East Lyme CT
A: I'm sure you're entitled to keep the fee. The couple must have enough concerns, having cancelled their wedding, that your fee is the least of it. You might return some portion of it if you feel magnanimous. Don't think there's a "norm" for this situation. Barbara Jay, Westport CT What have others done in this situation?
Q: I received a call from a fellow JP. He had performed a wedding on Friday. The Bride called and asked him not to file the paperwork because they'd like to wait another year. Is that possible? I've been told that signing and filing the license makes the marriage legal. Elaine Bedard, Southington CT
A: As I understand it, once the JP says "By the power vested in me by the state of XX, I now pronounce you husband and wife," that's it! The JP then signs the license signifying he has done so and is obligated to submit the signed license to the Town Clerk. There doesn't appear to be any option not to do so. I will pose the question to my local TC and let you know. Saul Haffner, Westport CT
P.S. Westport Town Clerk Patty Strauss confirmed that the ceremony makes it legal. You can't back out afterwards.
Advice Sought on Civil Unions
Elizabeth Snee, Candia, NH, writes: Now that the Civil Union has been passed in NH and will be effective Jan. 1 2008, I am wondering, since I have never joined two people of the same gender before, would you mind sharing some of your vows with me so that I have an idea what I should be saying in a respectful way. You can respond to me at email@example.com, I would love to know how other JP's will be organizing this type of ceremony and what words they are choosing to use. Love this newsletter!
Editor: This topic has been discussed on the JP Forum, at
Why I Love Being a JP
I have loved doing this for quite a while but performing my son's wedding last October was quite a thrill and pleasure. Also, in June, I was able to renew the vows of my parents for their 60th anniversary. It was very emotional to share the feelings of the occasion. Sal Fiore, Enfield, CT Ed: Care to share your ideas on Vow Renewal ceremonies? Too late for Joe Casso, Kensington CT who did his first one in July. There's always another one!
My couple added a "wine box" ceremony to the wedding and it was absolutely beautiful! The Bride and Groom nailed shut the box containing a bottle of wine, two glasses, letters that they had written to each other about why they fell in love along with letters from each of their parents, to be opened on their 10th anniversary. I LOVE being a J.P. and I love working with each of my couples and helping them to have the wedding of their dreams. Rainelle McKenna, Enfield, CT
Not a wedding but two civil unions. The first was overlooking the Connecticut River after a thunderstorm and the sun shone down on the couple. The families and friends beamed and Buddy, the dog, dutifully presented the rings tied to his collar. The brides' brothers took the flowers gracefully, the words that the brides had chosen were perfect and the new couple walked back down the aisle, hand in hand to "At Last" by Etta James.
I then drove a few miles away to a beautiful old home where I performed an intimate ceremony for two men witnessed by a couple that I had joined last fall. The witnesses served as ring bearers and we all celebrated with hugs, a glass of wine, and a toast. What a wonderful evening. I'm still smiling. Laura Minor, Forestville, CT
My first ceremony! The couple
called exactly one week before they wanted to get married. An
older couple, 51 and 59. The site of their ceremony? The horse
barn on their property, where they spend a lot of time. In
attendance were three horses, three dogs and one other human
couple. The ceremony took about 10 minutes and when I pronounced
them husband and wife, these two very laid back people beamed
New York Gay Marriage Update
Although the New York State Assembly approved Gov. Eliot Spitzer's gay marriage bill on June 19, chances are slim that the Republican-led state Senate will follow suit. Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said the Senate will not even take it up until next year.
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