On Your Side Alert: Online ordination not recognized in VA

On Your Side Alert: Online ordination not recognized in VA

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you're looking to take the trip down the aisle soon, the Better Business Bureau says be careful about who's officiating your wedding.

For a fee, some websites offer a ministry license to perform weddings. Legal experts say you're wasting your money if you plan on using an online certificate in Virginia.

Lauren Colombo has all the paper work to prove she's a minister. "I had to pay $39 and some change and answer about five questions. Pretty similar to 'Are you a felon?' and 'Are you a Christian?' and 'Do you believe in a specific faith?'" she said. Despite the official looking documentation, Holcomb is not ordained.

"Parking pass, decal, press pass, I have a badge just everything you can think of, they put in the packet," she said.

Holcomb, who works with the BBB. signed up on a website that promised to provide her with a license to perform weddings. She did it as part of the BBB's investigation about online ordinations. "On the websites, they embrace you in by saying you can marry your loved ones, you can marry your best friends, but here in Virginia that is not the case," she said. "There have been consumers who have gone to the courts to perform these marriages and have been turned around."

NBC12 legal expert Steve Benjamin says online ordinations are not recognized by the state, and only people with approval from the courts can perform weddings. What about couples already married by someone holding one of those certificates? "If the people are married, truly believes that the person was authorized to perform the marriage rights, then that marriage is still good," Benjamin said.

The marriage may be good, but Benjamin says it's not a good idea to perform weddings without being legally authorized. "This should not encourage people to go out and get these certificates because unlawfully performing these ceremonies is crime in Virginia and carries up to a year in jail and up to a $500 fine," he said.

As for those websites offering, the the ordination packets, the BBB says most have disclaimers alerting consumers whether or not their state recognizes online ordinations. and it's up to you to read before you pay. You can find information about Virginia's marriage requirements on Virginia.gov. If you questions about a marriage license, you can also contact the clerk of court in your county.


Copyright 2015 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.