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Tipsheet: Will You Marry Me?

Finding an officiant can be tricky if you want a nontraditional ceremony—but not impossible, as long as you know the ground rules.

Justices of the Peace.
Justices of the peace at City Hall can perform a civil ceremony (secular, legal) for a heterosexual couple in their offices. Domestic Partnerships are offered for same-sex couples.

Interfaith Ministers.
A host of interfaith reverends and liberal-minded rabbis and cantors have cropped up to meet the demand for flexible officiants. Most are happy to incorporate a mix of religious and spiritual traditions into the ceremony, and many are bilingual. Double-check that he or she is licensed by the state, and whether he or she is ordained by a religious body. Also, consider humanitarian “societies” like the Unitarian Universalist Association (uua.org) and the Society for Ethical Culture (nysec.org). Both will perform interfaith marriages and same-sex spiritual unions for couples who don’t belong to their denomination. They can also co-officiate with clergy or family members. Don’t be alarmed if UUs call their sanctuaries “churches”—it’s a misnomer. Especially beautiful is the Fourth Universalist Society on Central Park West (212-595-1658).

Co-Officiating Members of the Clergy
You can try calling the office of the Archdiocese of New York (212-371-1000, ext. 2929; ny-archdiocese.org) for help on locating a priest, but they aren’t very useful: There is nothing that says priests can’t co-officiate but there isn’t an official list of those who do. A quicker way is to find a Reform rabbi and ask him to recommend a priest he’s worked with in the past. The Rabbinic Center for Research and Counseling also sells a monthly updated comprehensive list of Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish rabbis who officiate at interfaith marriages without requiring conversion ($30; rcrconline.org). Remember that if you have your nuptials outside the church, the priest will need a canonical dispensation and special permission, and only one clergy member may be the official signatory on legal documents.

College Chaplains
Call the Office of the University Chaplain at Columbia University. Chaplain Jewelnel Davis and members of Columbia’s United Campus Ministries (212-854-1487; www.columbia.edu/cu/earl/weddings.html) can officiate interfaith, nondenominational weddings as well as same-sex commitment ceremonies in the campus’s St. Paul’s Chapel; they’ll also travel. For half-Catholic couples, there’s a church on Fordham University’s campus, where liberal-minded priests have presided over mixed marriages.

From The Fall 2005 New York Wedding Guide

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