Want to get married in D.C.? It’s not hard. First, find a willing partner. Second, get a marriage license from D.C. Superior Court. Finally, have a religious figure or court officer officiate. Easy, right?
Well, it depends. The fact that D.C. limits officiants to religious figures or court officers bedevils secular-minded residents, who have to get hitched in the court’s Marriage Bureau — they even have a little altar for those purposes — or be a close friend to a judge willing to do the honors. (Seem outdated? Well, it wasn’t long ago that both parties had to submit to a syphilis test.)
While the court does allow non-traditional religious officiants to register to perform ceremonies — think Internet-based churches — the application process is somewhat cumbersome and the results not assured. If you’ve got a best friend that you want certified as a minister of the Universal Life Church for the purposes of marrying you, there’s no certainty that D.C. will recognize them.
Today Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) introduced a bill that would make it easier for couples to call upon any officiant they want for their weddings. The bill would create a one-day officiant permit that would allow the holder to solemnize a wedding without having to prove any religious affiliation. Similar bills have been introduced in the past which would have allowed notaries public to serve in such a role, but Wells — who is backed by many of his colleagues — opted not to do that.
When I got married almost two years ago, I had to jump through the officiant loophole. Not being particularly religious and not knowing any judges, we were forced to pick an officiant who had gone through the registration process from a list provided by the Marriage Bureau. It turned out well enough, but it also added needless stress to a process that can already be stressful enough.