Tennessee Wedding Laws
Written and reviewed by the wedding law liaison team at the Universal Life Church.
Welcome to the Tennessee marriage laws guide. Performing a wedding ceremony can be a great honor, but being an officiant also comes with important duties. For this reason we've created this guide for both the minister and the couple. So that you are sure everything goes smoothly on the big day, we recommend following this guide. You will read about how to become a wedding minister, how to marry someone, and what needs to be done to ensure that the ceremony is legal in Tennessee.
Here are the basic steps one must follow to officiate a wedding:
How Do I Become Ordained to Marry in Tennessee
Becoming a marriage officiant with the ULC is simpler than you might think. The online ordination process is quick and cost free to all those who feel so-called to ministry. Legally licensed ministers ordained by the ULC officiate many weddings and other ceremonies each year. After you've received your minister license, officiating a wedding is just a few steps away! Click the button below to get started.
How Do You Perform a Wedding in Tennessee
Your first step is to contact the office that is issuing the marriage license, which is typically the county clerk. Once in contact with this office you need to ask what is required for a minister to legally perform a marriage in this jurisdiction. You may be asked to present several different items to confirm you are an ordained minister. Each county can have their own requirements, so it's always a good idea to contact the office before you perform any wedding, even when there are two within the same state.
The current political climate in Tennessee could lead to you encountering problems at the county clerk's office. If you find that your ordination is rejected, please feel free to reach out to the ULC with your story. Should the ordination be accepted, any documents or materials you might require are available in the Minister Store here on our site.
Select a county to see contact information for each office:
What Do You Need to Officiate a Wedding in Tennessee
Once you've spoken with the office issuing the license and determined what you need then you are ready to log in to your account and visit the store catalog to purchase the documents. Based on feedback from our ministers in Tennessee, we recommend picking up a Classic Wedding Set.
Ministers are generally not required to register in Tennessee, but even if there isn't a legal necessity the couple might like to see them. If you do decide to order any documents or supplies, please order these well in advance of the ceremony.
How to Get a Tennessee Marriage License
Marriage licenses are issued by the county clerk's office in Tennessee. The couple will pick up the license, but the minister should still research and understand the rules for marriage licenses in Tennessee and its counties. For example, if the couple is getting a license from Knox County then make sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of Knox County to help make sure the couple is doing everything correctly according to the law.
In Tennessee, marriage licenses are valid for 30 days. Note that there is not a mandatory waiting period - this means that the couple can immediately get married after receiving their license. Once the ceremony has been completed, the signed marriage license must be returned within 3 days.
Tennessee's Top Wedding Venue
The Red House
How Do You Officiate a Wedding?
Once you have all your documents in hand and you've checked to make sure your online ordination is recognized, you're ready to perform the wedding! Don't hesitate to utilize the tools found below to help prepare yourself for the ceremony. These carefully curated resources will give you helpful tips and provide insight on all facets of performing a wedding ceremony. Created specifically for our Universal Life Church wedding officiants, these guides and tools contain all that you'll need to create and perform the perfect ceremony.
Many ULC ministers have used these same resources for guidance when becoming professional officiants!
Finalizing the Marriage
Now there's just one final step - but it's an important one! After performing the wedding, you must sign the marriage license (along with the couple). Your official title will be "Minister"; for ceremony type, put "Religious", and for denomination, write "Non-Denominational". No license number is required. The name of the church is "Universal Life Church".
If the document asks for the church's address then you should use your personal ministry or home address. Lastly, remember that the signed license must be turned in to the marriage office before the deadline passes!
Tennessee Marriage Laws
Tennessee marriage laws are governed by Chapter 3 of Title 36 of the code of Tennessee. This section explains who is legally authorized to officiate weddings in the State of Tennessee. This does not typically include ministers of the Universal Life Church. The relevant section is displayed below:
36-3-301. Persons who may solemnize marriages.
(a) (1) All regular ministers, preachers, pastors, priests, rabbis and other spiritual leaders of every religious belief, more than eighteen (18) years of age, having the care of souls, and all members of the county legislative bodies, county mayors, judges, chancellors, former chancellors and former judges of this state, former county executives or county mayors of this state, former members of quarterly county courts or county commissions, the governor, the speaker of the senate and former speakers of the senate, the speaker of the house of representatives and former speakers of the house of representatives, the county clerk of each county, former county clerks of this state who occupied the office of county clerk on or after July 1, 2014, and the mayor of any municipality in the state may solemnize the rite of matrimony. For the purposes of this section, the several judges of the United States courts, including United States magistrates and United States bankruptcy judges, who are citizens of Tennessee are deemed to be judges of this state. The amendments to this section by Acts 1987, ch. 336, which applied provisions of this section to certain former judges, do not apply to any judge who has been convicted of a felony or who has been removed from office.
(2) In order to solemnize the rite of matrimony, any such minister, preacher, pastor, priest, rabbi or other spiritual leader must be ordained or otherwise designated in conformity with the customs of a church, temple or other religious group or organization; and such customs must provide for such ordination or designation by a considered, deliberate, and responsible act.
(3) If any marriage has been entered into by license issued pursuant to this chapter at which any minister officiated before June 1, 1999, such marriage shall not be invalid because the requirements of the preceding subdivision (2) have not been met.
(b) The traditional marriage rite of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), whereby the parties simply pledge their vows one to another in the presence of the congregation, constitutes an equally effective solemnization.
(c) Any gratuity received by a county mayor, county clerk or municipal mayor for the solemnization of a marriage, whether performed during or after such person's regular working hours, shall be retained by such person as personal remuneration for such services, in addition to any other sources of compensation such person might receive, and such gratuity shall not be paid into the county general fund or the treasury of such municipality.
(d) If any marriage has been entered into by license regularly issued at which a county executive officiated prior to April 24, 1981, such marriage shall be valid and is hereby declared to be in full compliance with the laws of this state.
(e) For the purposes of this section, "retired judges of this state" is construed to include persons who served as judges of any municipal or county court in any county that has adopted a metropolitan form of government and persons who served as county judges (judges of the quarterly county court) prior to the 1978 constitutional amendments.
(f) If any marriage has been entered into by license regularly issued at which a retired judge of this state officiated prior to April 13, 1984, such marriage shall be valid and is hereby declared to be in full compliance with the laws of this state.
(g) If any marriage has been entered into by license issued pursuant to this chapter at which a judicial commissioner officiated prior to March 28, 1991, such marriage is valid and is declared to be in full compliance with the laws of this state.
(h) The judge of the general sessions court of any county, and any former judge of any general sessions court, may solemnize the rite of matrimony in any county of this state. Any marriage performed by any judge of the general sessions court in any county of this state before March 16, 1994, shall be valid and declared to be in full compliance with the laws of this state.
(i) All elected officials and former officials, who are authorized to solemnize the rite of matrimony pursuant to the provisions of subsection (a), may solemnize the rite of matrimony in any county of this state.
(j) If any marriage has been entered into by license issued pursuant to this chapter at which a county mayor officiated outside such mayor's county prior to May 29, 1997, such marriage is valid and is declared to be in full compliance with the laws of this state.
(k) The judge of the municipal court of any municipality, whether elected or appointed, shall have the authority to solemnize the rite of matrimony in any county of the state.