Marriage Laws in NC
Getting married in North Carolina is relatively simple. All you have to do is agree to marry each other in front of an ordained minister and two witnesses, and have that minister pronounce you married. However, in North Carolina, it's not quite as simple as having a friend or relative to go online and receive an "ordination" to perform your ceremony.
Online Ordination Isn't Recognized as Legal in North Carolina
Don't just take my word for it. Here's a recent legal opinion by a Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Government:
"North Carolina law actually strongly indicates that marriages performed by persons with no credential of ordination other than a certificate from the Universal Life Church are invalid."
"If your marriage was performed by a ULC [online] minister in North Carolina, there is a very good chance that you do not have a valid marriage.
If you are currently planning a wedding, I advise you to not use a ULC minister."
The Universal Life Church has actually been found guilty of fraud in NC for stating that their ordination is valid in the state. So - how about other online ordination institutions such as American Marriage Ministries or the American Fellowship Church? Legal experts in North Carolina agree that marriages performed by any online institution would also be considered invalid. "If an institution is similar to the Universal Life Church, then a court would treat any marriage performed by one of their “ministers” as voidable as well."
What To Do?
The safest thing to do is to find a professional wedding officiant who is fully and legally ordained by a real church or religious denomination (and just because you need a minister it doesn’t mean you have to have a religious ceremony). Your friend or family member can still participate in the ceremony in a meaningful way while ensuring the legality of your marriage.
Still have questions? That’s what I’m here for. I’m glad to talk with you with no obligation whatsoever. Contact me for information about how I can help you through the process.
“We were considering having my college roommate perform our ceremony but after consulting with our wedding coordinator we decided to go with Kevin. We are so glad we did! All of our guests thought we had known him for years. He was warm and caring throughout the entire process. He’s one of those people that can put everyone at ease and make you feel like family.” - Jacqui M.
The state of North Carolina actually says that marriages may be performed by "an ordained minister of any religious denomination, a minister authorized by a church, or a magistrate." (NCGS 51-1). Furthermore, a "church" is legally defined as an organization which has a "distinct legal existence, established places of worship, regular congregations and ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study". In other words, ministers must have been ordained by a "brick-and-mortar" church (IRS Publication 1828). Unfortunately, there are a number of practicing ministers in NC with online or “mail order” ordinations. While the legal status of those marriages may never be questioned, there is the chance that they could be considered invalid in a court of law.
Here are a couple of other articles on the subject:
Obtaining Your North Carolina Wedding License
Applications are accepted at Register of Deeds offices M-F, 8:30 am - 4:30 pm. Times may vary by county. Click HERE for details on obtaining a license in Wake County. You can even begin the application process ONLINE.
Both partners must be present when applying.
No physical required.
Immediately upon issuance, the license is valid for 60 days.
Regardless of where your wedding is actually held in the state, you may use a license issued at any NC Register of Deeds office, but the license must be returned to the issuing office for filing.
Divorced applicants must provide the date of their divorce and some counties will request an original or certified copy of the Divorce Decree. Because not all counties are uniform in their requirements, it is recommended that you call the office at which you intend to apply to learn of their specific requirements before you go.
Likewise, should either the partner not be American citizens, it is best to call the office at which you intend to apply for your license to learn what paperwork will be required of you.
Both Bride and Groom must present identification;
21 years of age or older may use;
current driver’s license
current State ID Card
current Military ID
Applicants who are 20 years of age or younger must have a certified copy of their Birth Certificate and meet all requirements of their county.
Both partners must provide their Social Security numbers with verification through their Social Security Cards or W-2 Forms.
The Register of Deeds office does not automatically provide you with a certified copy of the license following your ceremony. You must request a certified copy in writing to the Register of Deeds office. Certified copies are $10 each.