• Jethro

    Wow — lots of generalizations here, except that job opportunities for traditional clerics are on the decline.

    I was asked by our daughter and her husband-to-be to officiate their wedding along with the groom’s father. Over a period of several weeks we wrote a brief ceremony reflecting the bride and groom’s values and preferences. It was a terrific experience for all concerned.

    Characterizing individuals as “fake” and “instant” ministers is nonsense. I have a state-issued license to marry individuals and it’s the very same license as the author.

    I guess the ceremony went pretty well — a couple who attended asked if I would marry them too.

  • Stephanie Russell-Kraft

    What about those people who aren’t religious but who don’t want to get married in a courthouse? You’re making an outrageous assumption that couples married by friends or loved ones would choose a member of the clergy to marry them if the former option didn’t exist.

  • Mel

    Salkin doesn’t seem to see that (big generalizations coming) it just flat out doesn’t matter to these people that wedding is religious or not. Some of them are actively NOT seeking religion. “Real religion” has no attraction for them. They do not think it validates their wedding in any way to have “religion” involved. They are fine with making vows in front of their community (family, friends) without the help of a trained ritualist or someone who has studied five years at seminary. (I am actively involved in a seminary that trains ministers for five years, so I am fully aware of the training in counseling, ritual, etc. and I have utmost respect for that kind of training.) However, much respect an agnostic or atheist has for this kind of training, they will not want it (likely) at their wedding, and for the nothing in particulars (see pew report, 36% of Younger Millennials are in unaffiliated category), they just will not care. Salkin and I can believe it matters, but these…

  • Brian J.

    The religious beliefs of others are no more and no less real than your own, so those “fake ministers” are no more and no less fake than yourself.

    Five years of postgraduate study of judeism, flying spaghettiism, invisible pink unicornism, odinism, zeusism, osirisism, carnivorous grilled cheeseism, , etc.. So what? It does not make your beliefs any more real.

    You want ancient religious wisdom, worship Enkidu, Inana, or any of the othe countless ancient gods. Because by your standards, the older a religious belief gets, the more wise it becomes.

  • Larry

    If it were much easier for obtaining a license for being a secular officiate, this would never be an issue. The religious folk have appropriated the civil laws concerning qualification for private marriage officiate in a way which now rankles within our society.

    If you don’t like “phony religion” officiates, and want to do something about it, then lobby for secular qualifications for it. Make it easier to drop such pretenses and just have a secular wedding without use of a government official. Many don’t look for such a simple solution is because they welcome the untoward entanglement of church and state.

    “Would you hire an attorney who attended a one day online law school?
    Would you let an online-trained physician take out your kid’s tonsils?
    You wouldn’t even have an uncertified plumber unclog your toilet.”

    Are there any ramifications if those people are not experts? Yes.
    Is there any for an officiate? Nope.
    What a poor analogy!

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  • David G.

    Perhaps the most flawed of the many assumptions and generalizations made here is that “instant ministers” bring no challenges, no spiritual depth, and no ‘pushing and pulling’ to the couple getting married. I have now performed three marriages, and in each case I did my best to provide those opportunities. I performed weddings for people of Jewish descent getting married to non-Jews, and provided Jewish wisdom and elements of Jewish tradition that otherwise would have been entirely lacking (for the couples would not have been willing to be married by a rabbi). For many couples today, what will help them “make their life journey meaningful” is not the hidebound but the heartfelt. Perhaps, in this way, for these couples, the traditions can be seen from a new perspective, and begin to hold a meaning that for them has already been lost.

  • Tony

    This is all about turf and territory. The writer is losing market share while the world moves forward with less superstition.

    It certainly doesn’t seem very gracious to characterize other clerics as “fake” and it surely does no one any good to make weddings more difficult and costly.

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  • Hello, from The Church of Latter-Day Dude.

    While we appreciate that everyone is entitled to an opinion, we do think being characterized as a ‘fake’ religion is rather harsh and inaccurate. It is known that the church’s founding myth is a movie, a known fiction, but how different is that form other founding myths? The character the Dude merely illuminated an understanding the was longing to be brought into the modern western consciousness. An ancient understanding of reason, compassion, and taking it easy.

    It could be said that our tradition existed for far longer than any movie, as we are deeply rooted in the wisdom of Taoism. Some say we are very much in philosophical agreement with Buddhism as well. We do have a very real, defined, and ancient philosophy at the heart of our world view. True, we are secular, taking no stance on the possible existence of any god or gods, but so are many people who would like to get married, we are here for them.

  • ben in oakland

    Thanks, larry. you saved me the trouble. So, i’ll use my 1000 characters wisely.

    rabbi, we were married by a minister who is a friend of ours, though we are both atheists. We did it to honor our friendship, not his faith. At our request, he left out god. He thanked us for respecting HIS beliefs. We also did not require counseling from him prior to our marriage.

    If you are religious, by all means have “real” clergy perform your ceremony. But until it is easier and cheaper for someone to become a deputized marriage commissioner than it is to be “fake” clergy, this is how it will go.

  • aleta christopherson

    I am a UCC member who performs weddings. The county where I live in and do most of the weddings and thus file most of my marriage certificates is used to me putting in “certified officiant” – I know I am not a minister in any sense. A few times when I have filed certificates in other counties and I use this language, I get it sent back for a redo of my chosen title of “certified officiant”.

    A majority of these couples are seeking some sense of spirituality in their service – seeking to rejoice their relationship. I think God would like that.

    Coming from an open and affirming church, I am proud to be able to provide this service to gay couples who have a religion that does not support them – and also tell them about the UCC.

  • Done It Myself

    I am one who is both a notary AND online ordained by a church that has a seminary as well. I also have a religious degree.
    After following ministry for over 20 years, I guarantee you I am more of Cleric than many who have gone through all the Rabbi has outlined. Not everyone has the financial ability to not work and only go to school. Books don’t always teach you about compassion, common sense and real life.

    I respect your opinion, however, I’ll match my ministry to yours any day!

  • Jack

    Jethro, you failed to address what I see as one of Rabbi Salkin’s most important points — that non-clergy weddings cut off people from real access to the accumulated wisdom of the past. It’s just the latest example of how people today think they know more than prior generations and don’t have to listen to them. There isn’t enough space here to enumerate all that’s wrong with such a myopic view of reality and humanity.

  • Catherine

    NAILED IT!!!

  • There is an option for ceremonies for the “nones” other than your uncle, a clergy-person, and a civil servant. I am a Life-Cycle Celebrant trained to perform weddings, funerals, memorial services, and family rituals such as baby-naming, graduation, adoption and other life transitions. My course of study provided me with an historical overview of ritual, the fundamentals of creating a ceremony along with a client, and many practical and beautiful components for these ceremonies. My UCC minister sends clients to me who want a personalized service without religious components. Look into the Celebrant Foundation and Institute to find a celebrant near you.

  • rolland

    “non-clergy weddings cut off people from real access to the accumulated wisdom of the past”

    That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Do you mean to say that just because someone isn’t religious they have no access to the annals of history? Non-religious people can draw from multiple philosophies, multiple spiritual traditions, all of the greatest poets and thinkers. They are not stuck to one small tradition, but have access to all of history to learn from. It is not a myopic view, it is more expansive and historically informed than following a single religious tradition.

  • L

    My boyfriend ended up getting certified online and performing a wedding ceremony between his Jewish and Christian friends after the rabbi balked at the last minute at some very slightly nontraditional elements the couple wanted to incorporate (some readings by friends). I think part of the problem is that it can be tricky sometimes to find a clergy person open to the couple’s sense of spirituality or open to interfaith ceremonies.

  • Eli

    I appreciate the author’s passion and deep concern for the spiritual and sacred dimension with which many religious traditions hold marriages. I also want to step back for a minute and pose questions to some generalizations. Not all “instant ministers” are untrained. I for one, am both an “instant minister” but one that was trained as a clergy person and holds two advance degrees in religion. As a personal choice, I decided not to seek formal ordination. I have performed weddings of friends. In doing this, I have been very very clear to those whose wedding I am performing that I strongly recommend they seek pre-marital counciling and given them references to a few. I have even declined to performed weddings of which I had serious reserves, which had led to difficult conversations and lost of friendships. I may be an outliers in this regards, but doubtful the only one.

  • Meta

    I’m really glad that after reading this article I see plenty of people that make a lot more sense in the comments. Religion is not the pillar of history, knowledge and sanctity that the “devout” like to tell themselves, and people that want to have a religiously “open” wedding ceremony are no more or less “valid” than one done by the pope himself. There’s nothing wrong with having a loved one help you celebrate and share your choice with friends and family.