ALBANY — Anyone above the age of 18 will soon be eligible to officiate weddings in New York.
That’s the result of a new $25 application process for one-day marriage ceremony officiation recently approved by Gov. Kathy Hochul. The law, set to go into effect in March, is intended to expand service opportunities beyond traditional means.
Officiant applications must be received by the Department of State within 30 days and approved no later than seven days of the ceremony. Previously, the system only permitted a number of government and religiously-ordained officials to officiate such ceremonies.
“Quite frankly in this day and age, things are different and there’s a lot of changes going on in the church and I’m a practicing Catholic,” said Assemblyman John McDonald D-Cohoes. “I got married in a church, but not everybody chooses to do so, so I just thought it was a good idea.”
About 15 years ago, McDonald was allowed to officiate his brother-in-law’s wedding in Nantucket for one day as permitted under Massachusetts law.
The positive experience, he said, compelled him to co-sponsor a one-day reform bill proposed by Assemblywoman Sandy Galef D-Ossining. The upper chamber version of the bill was pushed by State Senator Alessandra Biaggi D-Bronx.
The proposal had repeatedly died in committee since it was first introduced by Galef in 2013. It wasn’t until the spring that the bill gained traction in the legislature.
Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, was a multi-sponsor of the lower chamber bill because he “didn’t think it was the most urgent thing in the world, but didn’t object to it.” Steck considers the act a means of modernizing legal martial procedures.
“Oftentimes couples would prefer a friend or relative perform this duty, but because of New York’s restrictive laws this choice has up to now been unavailable,” state Sen. Neil Breslin D-Delmar, who voted for the bill earlier this year, said in a statement. “By allowing people to become one-day marriage officiants, couples will now have more options available to them.”
State Sens. Daphne Jordan R-Halfmoon and James Tedisco R-Glenville were among 11 upper chamber lawmakers in opposition to the bill. Neither local Republican immediately responded to a request for comment.
Regulations on eloping have changed dramatically since the now-disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed off on same sex marriage in 2011. In 2015, the governor gained the authority to officiate weddings and in 2018, state legislators.
“I’ve had maybe one or two requests as a legislator so I can’t say there’s a lot of demand,” McDonald said. “What I do see, though, as a trend with the younger generation getting married is some are choosing to go through the traditional methods, their local church or minister, but there are a lot that are looking to do destinations.”
“And when they’re looking to do destinations, they usually don’t bring along their parish priest,” the 60-year-old Cohoes lawmaker added.
One day officiation also provides leeway for officials previously barred from performing ceremonies. Cuomo in 2019 rejected bipartisan legislation allowing federal judges to officiate weddings because, according to his veto message, he didn’t want to hand Trump-appointed judicial officials such a privilege.
Marriage regulations vary across the country. Couples can officiate their own weddings in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Colorado, Washington D.C, California, Maine, Nevada and Kansas.
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Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-527-7659 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil
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