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By Whom a Marriage Must be Solemnized

In New York, before a marriage can be recognized by the law, it must be solemnized. This is commonly referred to as the “wedding.” It is the performance of a formal marriage ceremony by someone who is authorized to do so. A witness must be present. While marriages are commonly solemnized by a member of the clergy or justice of the peace, according to Dom. Rel. Law § 11, there are many people who have the authority to solemnize a marriage. It is important that the person you choose to perform your wedding ceremony is authorized to do so. If the person is not, then you marriage will be void. If you have concerns about a family legal matter such as the validity of your marriage, divorce, or child custody, contact an experienced New York family lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis. We have the skill and resources to help ensure that your interests are protected.

Authority to solemnizing marriages

New York law requires that in order for a marriage to be legally recognized, it must be followed by a solemnization. While no particular form of solemnization is required, the ceremony must include the parties declaring, in the presence of at least one witness, that they take each other as husband and wife. In addition, the person solemnizing the marriage must have the authority to do so. Generally, those who have the authority to solemnize a marriage in New York include a clergyperson, current or former governor, mayor, county executive, record, city magistrate, police justice, a member of the New York legislature, and certain state and federal judges.

The officiant does not have to be a resident of New York. However, if the person is to perform a marriage ceremony in New York City, he or she must be registered with New York City to do so.

Failure to follow the procedures for getting married, including obtain the proper licenses and having the marriage solemnized by an authorized person will result in your marriage being invalid.

Related Statutory Provisions
  1. Marriage officers: New York Domestic Relations Law, section 11-c
  2. Marriage, how solemnized: New York Domestic Relations Law, section 12
  3. Marriages licenses: New York Domestic Relations Law, section 13
Domestic Relations Law, section 11: By whom a marriage must be solemnized

1-a. A refusal by a clergyman or minister as defined in section two of the religious corporations law, or Society for Ethical Culture leader to solemnize any marriage under this subdivision shall not create a civil claim or cause of action or result in any state or local government action to penalize, withhold benefits or discriminate against such clergyman or minister.

2. The current or a former governor, a mayor of a village, a county executive of a county, or a mayor, recorder, city magistrate, police justice or police magistrate of a city, a former mayor or the city clerk of a city of the first class of over one million inhabitants or any of his or her deputies or not more than four regular clerks, designated by him or her for such purpose as provided in section eleven-a of this article, except that in cities which contain more than one hundred thousand and less than one million inhabitants, a marriage shall be solemnized by the mayor, or police justice, and by no other officer of such city, except as provided in subdivisions one and three of this section.

2-a. A member of the New York state legislature, provided that such person shall not charge or receive a fee.

3. A judge of the federal circuit court of appeals for the second circuit, a judge of a federal district court for the northern, southern, eastern or western district of New York, a judge of the United States court of international trade, a federal administrative law judge presiding in this state, a justice or judge of a court of the unified court system, a housing judge of the civil court of the city of New York, a retired justice or judge of the unified court system or a retired housing judge of the civil court of the city of New York certified pursuant to paragraph (k) of subdivision two of section two hundred twelve of the judiciary law, the clerk of the appellate division of the supreme court in each judicial department, a retired city clerk who served for more than ten years in such capacity in a city having a population of one million or more or a county clerk of a county wholly within cities having a population of one million or more; or,

3-a. A judge or peacemaker judge of any Indian tribal court, a chief, a headman, or any member of any tribal council or other governing body of any nation, tribe or band of Indians in this state duly designated by such body for the purpose of officiating at marriages, or any other persons duly designated by such body, in keeping with the culture and traditions of any such nation, tribe or band of Indians in this state, to officiate at marriages.

4. A written contract of marriage signed by both parties and at least two witnesses, all of whom shall subscribe the same within this state, stating the place of residence of each of the parties and witnesses and the date and place of marriage, and acknowledged before a judge of a court of record of this state by the parties and witnesses in the manner required for the acknowledgment of a conveyance of real estate to entitle the same to be recorded.

5. Notwithstanding any other provision of this article, where either or both of the parties is under the age of eighteen years a marriage shall be solemnized only by those authorized in subdivision one of this section or by (1) the mayor of a city or village, or county executive of a county, or by (2) a judge of the federal circuit court of appeals for the second circuit, a judge of a federal district court for the northern, southern, eastern or western district of New York, a judge of the United States court of international trade, or a justice or a judge of a court of the unified court system, or by (3) a housing judge of the civil court of the city of New York, or by (4) a former mayor or the clerk of a city of the first class of over one million inhabitants or any of his or her deputies designated by him or her for such purposes as provided in section eleven-a of this chapter.

6. Notwithstanding any other provisions of this article to the contrary no marriage shall be solemnized by a public officer specified in this section, other than a judge of a federal district court for the northern, southern, eastern or western district of New York, a judge of the United States court of international trade, a federal administrative law judge presiding in this state, a judge or justice of the unified court system of this state, a housing judge of the civil court of the city of New York, or a retired judge or justice of the unified court system or a retired housing judge of the civil court certified pursuant to paragraph (k) of subdivision two of section two hundred twelve of the judiciary law, nor by any of the persons specified in subdivision three-a of this section, outside the territorial jurisdiction in which he or she was elected, appointed or duly designated. Such a public officer, however, elected or appointed within the city of New York may solemnize a marriage anywhere within such city.

7. The term “clergyman” or “minister” when used in this article, shall include those defined in section two of the religious corporations law. The word “magistrate,” when so used, includes any person referred to in the second or third subdivision.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Whether you need an attorney for a matter related to the validity of your marriage, a divorce, child custody, child support, or any other family matter, it is important that you contact an experienced New York family lawyer. We at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have year of experience representing clients in complex matters related to high net worth divorce, divorce litigation, contentious child custody, and child support modification. We can help protect your interests. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Nassau County, Queens, Suffolk County, Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Westchester County.

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