Tennessee Law for Wedding Officiants
A Tennessee law for wedding officiants was passed in June 2019, and we’ve been receiving many emails from brides and grooms with questions about it. The new law states after June 30, 2019:
“Persons receiving online ordinations may not solemnize the rite of matrimony.” – Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-301
However, after the law was passed, two orders were issued by Judge Waverly Crenshaw forbidding enforcement of the new law and requiring that the Status Quo be maintained. The orders state that “the STATUS QUO SHALL BE MAINTAINED and this SHALL CONTINUE until the Court issues a ruling after the trial.” This is a legal term which forbids the enforcement of the new law until after a ruling on the merits of the case has been determined. In other words, online ordination is still recognized in Tennessee until further notice.
Please see more on the American Marriage Ministries web site for updates.
Who can legally marry a couple in Tennessee?
In addition to ordained ministers, priests, rabbis, and other religious leaders, the state of Tennessee also recognizes the following people who can perform weddings: the governor, judges of civil sessions courts, county clerks, county mayors and former mayors, current and former speakers of the senate and speakers of the House of Representatives, current and former members of county legislative bodies.
Make sure your wedding is performed by a person who is legally recognized in the state of Tennessee. This is because if the legality of a wedding is ever contested (i.e., if a couple ever sought a divorce) then the question of whether they were legally married in the first place — and therefore needed a divorce — would be a matter for a judge.
Tennessee Marriage Laws
The new law is affecting many of the weddings we are photographing, so we want to help answer a few questions and help you plan your wedding to make sure you are legally married.
- Do you know any officiants who you can recommend for our wedding? Yes, we do! There are many officiants in the Knoxville area whose ordinations are legally recognized in the State of Tennessee. A few of them are Rev. Chuck O’Connor with Sensational Ceremonies, Rev. Chaplain Patterson, and Magnolia Matrimonies. These officiants may also offer premarital counseling, which provides a discount on your marriage license in some counties. Knox County provides a discount on your marriage license if you have completed premarital counseling.
- Do we still need to get a marriage license? Yes! You must obtain a marriage license from the county clerk’s office. There is no waiting period, the marriage license is valid for 30 days from issuance, and it is good for ceremonies performed anywhere in Tennessee. So, for example, you can get your marriage license from the Knox County clerk’s office and have your ceremony in Sevier County, and that’s ok.
Here are links to local county clerk’s offices. Make sure you contact the county clerk’s office before arriving to ensure you are aware of the paperwork requirements, costs, hours, and locations.