The rising web ordinations

After our engagement, my husband suggested we put on a Google wedding: send out Google invitations through Gmail connected through Google Calendar, plan the wedding through Google Documents and then post wedding photos on Google's Picasa and video on Google's YouTube. I quickly nixed the idea, but I briefly wondered if we could've hired a Google pastor to perform the ceremony.

We were discussing recent trend stories on the rise of people being ordained online so they could perform at wedding ceremonies when the idea of a GetReligion wedding came up. Bobby was ordained by the Universal Life Church in 2001. Here's the gist of our e-mail thread:

(MZ) Pretty sure my husband got ordained in that church in college as well.

Should his services be needed . . .

Glad the NYT has hopped on this recent trend.

(Bobby) I am trying not to be so easily offended, but you sound a bit flippant about my ordination. :-)

(MZ) You're right. I'm sorry. Do you prefer Parson? Reverend? Father? Most Excellent Ordained Scribe?

So if you're looking for a religion-filled wedding, you now know where to turn. In all seriousness, the New York Times and the Associated Press published similar stories on the trend of online ordinations. The Times focuses on the increasing number of the ordination of celebrities.

[Kevin] Smith's credentials come courtesy of an application to the Universal Life Church, which has been around since 1959 and has grown in influence since the advent of the Web. According to its Web site, the church has 20 million ordained ministers, a long list of well-known ones including Glenn Beck and Doris Day. Weddings by the group's ministers are legally binding in all states, though some require additional documentation.

"I had my assistant spend 10 minutes filling out a form online," said the comedian Kathy Griffin, another Universal Life minister. "It's really hard. It's a lot of dedication to the Lord and a commitment to spirituality."

Religion is mentioned briefly but the trend is seen as something you might consider if you didn't really care for religious traditions. Take this quote, for instance:

"We have our marriage license, signed by Jason Segel and Jay Leno, who was our witness," Mrs. Wood said. (Mr. Segel was ordained online through the same church as Mr. Smith and Ms. Griffin.)

"It was important to us to make this our experience," said Mrs. Wood, who dated her husband for eight years and doesn't put much stock in religion. "We thought, What would make us happy? That's how we've always been as a couple. We don't do crazy things, but we're on our own adventure, and that's what this was. It was just part of that adventure."

I wonder, though, if couples are going this route because they have the chance to be married by a friend, an idea that the AP focuses on in their piece. One anecdote highlighted an interfaith marriage.

Kirsten Nichols, whose October wedding was performed by her husband's cousin, asked a co-worker who is an ordained minister to be on hand at the service - just in case.

"If you find out after the fact that you are not legally married, it can definitely put a damper on things," said Nichols, who lives in Montgomery County, Md.

Nichols, who is Christian, and her husband, who was raised Muslim, wanted a spiritual ceremony that would "focus on us coming together under God, not on the fact that we are of two different faiths."

This is an interesting motivation that still stems from religion. I wonder if more Protestants (who might be less tied to a specific church or denomination) might be more inclined to have a mutual friend perform the ceremony.

Perhaps some people might prefer a certain level of ordination for the pastor who marries them. For instance, would someone who is more religious (attends church, prays regularly, etc.) want someone who is ordained by something more substantial than a website? No offense to Bobby or anything. I also wonder whether some ministers could have been quoted to gauge their reaction to the trend. Do they feel thwarted at all? Is anything lost by not having a minister perform the wedding (I'm guessing, for instance, that the average friend doesn't request the couple go through premarital counseling)?

These are interesting trends, but I wonder if there's more to the story than celebrities and friends offering to pose for the wedding album. Art: I have no idea if the minister in the "JK Wedding Entrance Dance" video is a celebrity or friend of the couple, but it's one of those viral videos worth watching again.

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