Galef Seeks to Personalize Marriage Ceremonies

February 21, 2006

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef is introducing legislation to allow any person aged eighteen or older to solemnize a marriage for a day. For a fee of $75.00, a certificate of limited authorization would be issued. This certificate would clearly state that the person has the ability to officiate the marriage of the two listed on the same document, on the date specified.

The bill was drafted in response to a personal experience Galef had when attending a wedding in California, where this legislation does exist, as well as in Massachusetts. In this ceremony, the sister-in-law was able to officiate and added so many personal touches to the nuptials. “The ceremony was so very special,” recalled Galef. “I must admit, I have been to several weddings where the unknown officiant made the wedding ceremony less than desirable.”

If passed, a new section would be added to the domestic relations law, allowing any individual 18 years of age or older to sanctify a marriage for a fee of $75.00. State residency is not mandatory. The certificate of limited authorization would only be valid for the date of the ceremony, with the individuals listed, and in the town or city specified.

Currently, under New York State law, there are eight different individuals that are allowed to perform a marriage ceremony. These range from the mayor of a city, a member of the clergy, or a county justice. Galef’s bill would add a section to the law to incorporate of age individuals as well.

This legislation would be a creative option to nondenominational or spiritual couples and possibly provide a solution to conflicting couples coming from different religious backgrounds. “Having a family member solemnize the marriage added to the ceremony a sense of personal reflection and family love,” said Galef, referencing her experience in California. “I believe this option should be available to New Yorkers as well.”