In Good Faith

In Good Faith | Whether you’re marrying with God’s law, man’s law, or both, keep your ceremony legal

I was raised Christian (my grandma Mitzi is an Episcopal priest). My brand-new husband, Josh, however, doesn’t come from a religious background. Not keen on having a stranger officiate our wedding, we agreed Grandma Mitzi was our best option, so we had her walk us through the Episcopal Prayer Book. Together, we organized a ceremony that fulfilled her vows (like blessing our union) but remained sensitive to our backgrounds. For example, according to Episcopal guidelines, Josh and I needed to choose at least one Biblical reading, but we opted for one that was more about love than religion, per se. Lucky for us, the Episcopal Church required only either Josh or me to be a baptized Christian, but some religions require both partners be of the same faith for church officials to perform the ceremony.

Charleston magazine’s marketing director Misty Lister Johnson encountered just that when she and her husband, Dean, planned their December 31, 2008 nuptials. Dean is a deacon in the Christian Orthodox Church, but church elders couldn’t marry the couple because Misty is not Orthodox. “So we decided our ceremony would be less a religious bond and more a celebration of our love and commitment to one another,” says Misty. “And as a part of that celebration, it made sense that one of my dearest friends marry us.” Their friend was ordained online, and the ceremony became utterly personal. If this sounds like the right path for you, visit, one of the most popular online ordination sites, for details.

Other Requirements Regardless of your religion (or lack thereof) certain legal requirements must be met to seal the deal. First, find the county clerk, recorder, or registrar (titles vary by county) in the county where you’ll marry by searching the county’s online governmental site. (Most have a wedding-specific page with all the information you need.) Contact this office to obtain a marriage license, and be sure not to leave this step for the last minute. Some counties, including Charleston, require a 24-hour waiting period before you may wed. Also confirm with the registrar that your officiant has registered with the state—you don’t want to go through the ceremony only to find that no court will recognize your union. After the ceremony, your officiant and up to two witnesses must sign your marriage certificate and it should be mailed to your registrar. For information on Charleston-area county registrars, religious officials, and houses of worship, visit the resource section on