I believe everyone has a reason for their actions. They might be silly reasons or they might be serious reasons. A great story is made up of a little of each.
A chance email leads to becoming an ordained minister
Becoming a wedding officiant, for me, started with becoming ordained. I received this email one very slow Saturday morning at a work back in 2002. It said something along the lines of “You Too! Can be an Ordained Minister! You can marry people! You can bury people! You can perform naming ceremonies!” I thought it was hysterical! Just the way it sounded. I kept saying it out loud and laughing. I soon had just about everyone around me laughing too.
Google was alive and well in 2002 but online transactions, not so much. I had to print out the application, fill it out by hand, write a check for $19.95 and mail it to the Progressive Universal Life Church. A few weeks later, I received a certificate that that states I was ordained as of March 29, 2002. I also received all sorts of information as to how I could pay for other “certificates.” I was rather content with just being an ordained minister, and still, am.
So, Why did that email make me want to be a wedding officiant?
A priest made me do it. And the story begins.....
It started with a Green Card
My husband was born in Germany. He came to the US on a student visa for 18 months. We worked in the same hotel. He is a chef and I was a pastry chef at the time. (He’s still a chef.) I always say his visa expired but we didn’t. I moved to Germany with him and a month later we got engaged. A few months later it was pretty clear we would be moving back to the US. We made plans to get married in Germany, apply for a Green Card, move back to the US and have a formal wedding in the church I grew up in.
Separation of Church and State
In Germany, EVERYONE has to be married by a state official. They have a complete separation of Church and State. Being married is a legal procedure and it’s overseen by the State. If you want to get married in a church, that’s your business. Priests and ministers in Germany are not authorized to perform legal marriages. Many couples will get legally married on a Friday and then in their church on Saturday. It’s very logical.
Throw logic out the window!
Fast forward 6 months after our German wedding. We are back in the US and planning our formal wedding The church was reserved, we were printing invitations, the venue was booked, menu chosen. Everything was running smoothly. Then, we went to meet with the priest. Not a Catholic priest. An Episcopal priest. You know, the really, really, open, liberal, Episcopal church… Well, this priest was their conservative black-sheep poster child. He had a love for power and was always looking for ways he could flex it.
The priest explained to us that he understood that separation of Church and State in Germany. If we had been in Germany, we would have had a wedding. BUT, since the US does not have a separation of Church and State the Episcopal Church in the US recognizes our legal marriage, no church wedding was necessary. He said we would have a “blessing of the marriage.” He went on to say that I was not allowed to wear white, because I was no longer a virgin, and that my dad was not allowed to walk me down the aisle. He insisted on proof-reading our invitations to make sure they said “marriage blessing” and even went so far as to insist on approving the translation of our wedding vows into German. Not that he was fluent in German, he took some classes in College. He also insisted we have pre-marital counseling - which made no sense.
Yes, that happened. Interestingly enough, a friend wore a white wedding dress when she and her husband renewed their vows with the same priest for their 50th wedding anniversary. I’m thinking she wasn’t a virgin either.
A month after our wedding, my mom hosted a priest from out of town in her home who went on and on how her brother married a German woman and she performed their church wedding in the US and just how common it is. So, yes, our Priest was just being misusing his power.
I remember going to the nursery in that church. I remember every Sunday School class growing up. I sang in the choir for years. I was an acolyte. I was the head acolyte. I went to church several times a week. When I grew up and got a job I tithed my own money to that church. The praise band was providing the music. The acolyte leader from my childhood was a photographer and he was taking the pictures. Half the guest list was church members. It wasn’t like I could just go someplace else.
Well, I’m a practical person. So is my dad. It wasn’t the end of the world. I had already purchased an off-white dress because white really is not my color. Everything was already in place. We bowed down to the priest's ego and just went with it.
And then he did what?
The day of the wedding, while we were all lined up for the receiving line, the priest actually took the dagger and dug it in deeper. He looked at me with fire in his eyes and said “Gee, it could have all been proper if we had just done all of this in Germany!” Like, he somehow thought that we were going to do all of this in Germany? He even insinuated that we should have had HIM come to Germany to perform the wedding! LOL!!! Like we had deprived him of an all-expenses-paid trip to Germany. My parents weren’t even at our German wedding. It really seemed more practical to have them come and visit when we could actually vacation together as well. After all, we were having a big church wedding in our own church!
The priest went on to become incredibly intoxicated at the reception. Like, embarrassingly drunk. 6 months later, a friend was having a wedding at the church. A different priest performed her ceremony and it was a simple reception in the church hall. The priest walked through the reception (uninvited) and stopped and said to me “ Well, Victoria, we haven’t seen you here since your marriage blessing! Too bad you couldn't have had a proper wedding!”
Yes, that happened.
I'm done. And so is he.
I never did go back to that church for anything more than a funeral or a wedding. That priest moved on. His hunger for power took him all the way to becoming a bishop. When the Episcopal church started allowing homosexuals to have leadership roles in the church he protested. He tried to lead a separation of the church. He was eventually asked to leave the church. They fired him. They finally fired him after he had destroyed so much in his megalomaniac quest for power.
How can I make this better?
So, I decided that I would become a wedding officiant that will marry anyone anyway they want to be married. I’ve had some 9-month-pregnant brides absolutely glowing in their white wedding dresses. Gay and want to be married? Step right up! I was performing commitment ceremonies before gay marriage was legal in Indiana. The very first bride that hired me to perform her wedding chose me because she has a gay brother in San Francisco and I’m LGBTQ friendly. I think I may have married one or two virgins over the years.
I now have the power to help couples have the wedding ceremony they want. That makes me happy.
More interesting powers an online ordination can give you.
When I received that email about ordination it touched more than just my funny bone that morning. It was actually a rather deep moment on many levels.
I spent most of my life up until that moment in search of God and spirituality. I had spent my childhood and young adulthood extremely active in a church. My interest in church sort of fizzled out in my early 20’s but my search for God and spirituality continued. One of my favorite subjects, even to this day, is how each individual relates to God. Even atheists interest me. I’ve attended many different churches, attended different spiritual groups, learned to channel, explored past lives, all sorts of things. What I really liked that particular day, and still like about the idea of this random “online ordination,” is that it gives that randomness something legitimate.
Freedom of Religion
Churches that ordain ministers online are the epitome of the practice of freedom of religion in America. People decided that they would create a church that basically allows you to do anything in the name of religion. Instead of having to jump through hoops and having to adhere to generations of rules followed by large religious organizations, online ordinations give you the power to write your own rules and create your own church or religion and be legitimately recognized by the State. That’s really powerful, and I like that power.
A brief interlude here about being ordained online...
I was moved by the ability to get ordained online originally in 2002. The leading online church - The Universal Life Church - is still quite dedicated to the freedom of religion. The fact that just about every state allows online-ordained ministers to legally perform a wedding ceremony has turned online ordination into big business. There are online churches that have been formed for the sole purpose of ordaining ministers to perform marriages. There are other churches that ordain ministers and also profit from those seeking to simply perform marriages. You can’t fault them for that. (Geeze, if the market wasn’t saturated, I’d be looking into it!) I was actually ordained twice online.The first church folded. They said I was ordained for life... But just in case, I did it again.
To all the people who were raised in churches and have outgrown them but don’t exactly know how to get married in a way that truly expresses who you are: I want to marry you. I want you to have the wedding you want - even if you don’t know what that is yet. I want to help you find your happy medium. To make you and your religious families happy.
To all the couples that don’t “Fit” into wedding traditions: I want to be your Wedding Officiant. One thing we know, on your wedding day, the two of you fit together. That’s all that matters. I want you to know that as you exchange vows and go through the ceremonial act of marriage, you are doing it exactly as you wish.
I’ve got the ordination. Now what?
I’ve got the ordination. Now what? Is it really possible to perform wedding ceremonies?
I set out to find out if I could legally officiate weddings in Delaware, the state where I was living at the time. I found out I definitely could. Then I had to figure out the business end of it. Legally setting up a business seemed a little complicated at the time. My day job was slow at that moment but it picked up a few months after that and I didn’t think too much more about seriously starting a wedding officiant business. My day job involved working on Saturdays so there was no point.
What made me finally become a wedding officiant?
Between 2002 and 2009 I got pregnant, stopped working at that job, had a baby, moved out of that state, moved again to a different state, got pregnant again, moved yet again to another state, had another baby and found myself alone in a whole new state with two little kids, a husband working over 60 hours a week and we were at the end of our Visa credit limit.
Because my husband works so much, my older son only understood “working” as being away all the time. At that age, with his sleep schedule, my son went days without seeing his dad. When he heard I might go to work he, understandably, freaked out. We have no family where we live and had no realistic child care options at the time so I needed to find something to do where I could earn money and be a full-time mom too.
It came to me like in a dream….
Somehow, I remembered that I was ordained and I wondered if becoming a wedding officiant in Indiana was even possible. Indiana is a lot more conservative than Delaware. It’s the East Coast vs. the Bible Belt. Those two places are different in so many ways.
It took a little searching but I found the piece of paper that said I was ordained. I did an internet search and it looked like I could perform weddings in Indiana. I thought about it a little and found the courage to call the local county clerk’s office to ask if it was true, could I perform weddings?
It seemed waaaaay too easy...
When I asked the county clerk if my ordination was legal they said it was. It seemed waaayyyy too easy. I said, “I’m online ordained, not Baptist or Methodist.” They said that was fine. I asked if I needed to register with them. They said no. I asked if they needed to see the paper that said I was actually ordained? They said no. Finally, I asked, “are you sure?” The response was, “Oh honey, we don’t care who signs that paper, we just make sure all the lines are filled out.” And there it was. True story. I’ve performed over 3000 weddings and I’ve never been asked to prove I’m an ordained minister by anyone in authority. A few couples have asked me to prove it, but that’s it.
In Indiana, as a sole proprietorship, I didn’t have to form a formal business in the beginning. Even now, as an LLC I’m still a sole proprietorship. My husband and I file our taxes together. He pays taxes all year long and we generally equal each other out in the end. Maybe it was that easy 16 years ago in Delaware too but it’s like everything just worked out here in Indiana at exactly the right time to make this happen.
For ZERO dollars down!
Having zero dollars to invest, I created a free website and found a free online wedding vendor guide to place a free ad. You can still create a very minimal free website but the wedding business is now ENORMOUS! Free online ads are still available but they don’t do much in comparison to the paid listings. That first website I advertised on no longer exists. I don’t even remember what my first website was called. I went through a few changes before I finally settled on Marry Me In Indy! And it was a few more years before I became an LLC.
I have built a very successful business. I have paid off that Visa bill and paid for braces and a lot more dental work and health insurance among other things. Being a wedding officiant is a very good part-time job. For many years, it’s been my full-time job. You could consider it a “side-hustle” but I don’t really like that term. Yes, you can start a legitimate business making money as a wedding officiant. I just don’t like the word “hustle” when it comes to weddings. While weddings really are BIG business and millions of dollars are being spent each year on all sorts of weddings, I don’t really think of my business as a “Side-Hustle” or a “Full-Time Hustle.” I may be in the minority or a really bad business person, but it’s still a wedding ceremony. For many couples, the process of getting married has meaning and the person that marries them is important. It might not be in a church or be a religious or spiritual ceremony but it is a ceremony based on a promise of a life-long commitment. It might just be a 5-minute exchange with a signing of a marriage license but it is still meaningful to many people and it deserves to be treated that way.
If you would like to be a Wedding Officiant In Indiana. Here's an article to tell you how.
My name is Victoria Meyer. I'm the owner of Marry Me In Indy! LLC and I provide wedding officiant services in the greater Indianapolis area and throughout Indiana. Here is more information about me. If you are getting married and need a wedding officiant, I'd love to marry you! You can contact me here.