ULC Ordination Status in Tennessee

 Update: March, 2018 -- We've heard reports that some county clerks in Tennessee are rejecting the ordinations of Universal Life Church ministers. If you have personally encountered any difficulties with a county clerk in Tennessee, we would urge you to contact us at legal@themonastery.org

The ULC Monastery staff has learned that the Tennessee Attorney General has forbidden county clerks in that state from banning Universal Life Church ministers from performing wedding ceremonies there. In the State of Tennessee, it doesn't matter how a wedding officiant has received their ordination as long as they have one.

This crucial piece of information was learned through the ULC Monastery's correspondence with the Davidson County Clerk's office after one of our minister's attempts to register as a wedding officiant there were rejected by them. In addition to informing our staff that Davidson County does not have a policy against allowing ULC ministers to perform wedding ceremonies there, Robyn Norman of the Davidson County Clerk's office's Marriage and Notary Department told us that this stance was in fact based on Tennessee law.

"We are unaware of anyone being turned away from our office on [the basis of being Universal Life Church ministers]," said Norman. "Per Op. Tenn. Attorney General 87-151, 'The county clerk cannot require proof that an officiant is, in fact, a minister or other authorized person.'"

Davidson County is the third in Tennessee to inform the ULC Monastery that our ordination is accepted within its borders in recent months, after Knox and Williamson counties. These developments, combined with the above attorney general opinion, has convinced the Universal Life Church staff that our ordination is now legally recognized in the State of Tennessee. The number of states that accepts the Universal Life Church's online ordination has thus grown to 48; with the exception of one county apiece, both Virginia and Pennsylvania still will not allow ULC ministers to officiate weddings inside them.

How to Perform A Wedding in Tennessee

How to perform a wedding in Tennessee While we can confidently say that ULC ministers are legally able to perform weddings in Tennessee, it is still possible that they will be rejected by county clerks if they do not follow the correct course of action when attempting to file for a marriage license there. Even as of yesterday, misinformed Tennessee county clerks are still telling Universal Life Church Monastery ministers that their ordination is not accepted by the State of Tennessee.

It appears as if the primary reason our ministers get rejected by Tennessee county clerks, in spite of the attorney general opinion that explicitly states that the clerks are not allowed to do so, is that the ministers who get rejected ASK the clerks whether or not they can perform wedding ceremonies there instead of TELLING them that they were planning on performing a wedding ceremony or had already done so. Clerks unaware of Tennessee laws will occasionally claim that our ordination is not valid there if they are asked about its legality, but will not raise any objections if our ministers make it clear that they know that our ordination is recognized in Tennessee without explicitly stating as much.

If you are interested in performing a wedding in Tennessee, please do the following:

1) Contact the county clerk of the county where the marriage license is going to be filed and TELL them that you are going to perform a wedding in their county.

2) Ask what forms of ministerial documentation (ordination credential certificates, letters of good standing, affidavits of authority, etc) you will need to show to them in order to file for a marriage license. From as much as the ULC staff can tell from its correspondence with Tennessee county clerks, it appears as if Universal Life Church ministers might not even need to possess any form of ministerial documentation in order to file for a marriage license there. Please do not count on not needing to have any forms of documentation, however.

3) At no point when you are communicating with the county clerk should you ask about the validity of the Universal Life Church Monastery's ordination as doing so will only cause you difficulties.

Contact the ULC Monastery if a Tennessee county clerk refuses to let you file for a marriage license.


  1. Julia's Avatar Julia

    Thank you for the information I am in TN and proud to be Ordained with the ULC , since seeing the postings about losing our rights to perform weddings It's been a little upsetting. I live in upper east TN within one hour I can be in NC , KY , I can be in VA within 5 minutes from my home so I could perform a lot of weddings for couples that in our area that other wise may have trouble finding someone besides a court official to perform the ceremony.

    1. Mark's Avatar Mark

      Can you marry a couple in Tennessee

      1. Laura's Avatar Laura

        I can marry couples in Tennessee

        1. Alegra Hahn's Avatar Alegra Hahn

          Laura, My fiancée are in need of someone to marry us.

          1. Clyde Benson's Avatar Clyde Benson

            Have you found anyone yet? I'm located in Franklin County.

          2. Laura's Avatar Laura

            I'm in Hamblin County

        2. Alicia Tolbert's Avatar Alicia Tolbert

          Have you performed any ceremonies lately? hoping to have a friend ordained from ULC marry us in two months in Tennessee. Just trying to get feedback about recent experiences using ULC credentials in Tennessee. Thanks in advance

      2. Jolie Runyan's Avatar Jolie Runyan

        Also wonder if I can officiate my daughter's wedding in Hamilton County TN in September 2019. Any info?

  1. Rodney M's Avatar Rodney M

    As of Aug 20th 2015, is it still legal to marry under ULC monasteryin Tennessee state, specifically Ripley? If someone could tell me that would be extremely helpful, our court house told me that ULC is not recognized .

    1. Dar's Avatar Dar

      I can. I am in Crockett county

  1. Mark's Avatar Mark

    I also was told my the court house it is recognized

  1. Kate's Avatar Kate

    Does anyone know if the Tennessee marriage license has a space on it to write down the denomination of the minister? Otherwise, it seems like it wouldn't mattter. I am not filing for the marriage license, the people who I'm marrying are going to go get it.

    1. Jennifer Rand's Avatar Jennifer Rand

      That was exactly my thinking - we are NOT obtaining the marriage license, we are officiating the ceremony. I called the Knox County clerk's office today and stated that I was in town to officiate a friends wedding and asked if there were any forms I needed to complete or documentation they needed to have on file before the ceremony. I even stated that in most places that is not necessary - I just normally complete the form and mail in and the clerk said that I was correct - noting is needed - just mail in the form after the ceremony within 3 days. Which makes sense - when I got married 5 years ago, we went and got the marriage license, then the minister and witnesses completed the form and then I mailed it in two days later. I think we should form a group of ULC ministers in TN to help each other out through this process. My email is: jenniferleerand@gmail,com and if you email me, I will gladly share my cell number.

      1. Clyde Benson's Avatar Clyde Benson

        I like the idea of forming a group. Have you done so yet?

        1. Laura's Avatar Laura

          I also like the idea of a group

          1. Debra clark's Avatar Debra clark

            So how about we form a Facebook group? We could use the support!

          2. Bambi Morgan's Avatar Bambi Morgan

            Has a group been made?

  1. Mark's Avatar Mark

    When will be able to in Tennessee

  1. Lyle Hill's Avatar Lyle Hill

    since there is currently legislation being considered to get Tennessee out of the business of marriage altogether this may become a mom issue in the coming years. The confusion seems to be a 1977 amended part 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.Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-301(a)(2) (emphasis added)

  1. John Michael's Avatar John Michael

    What about this statement from the TN ATTORNEY Generals office from 2015: http://attorneygeneral.tn.gov/op/2015/op15-14.pdf

    Since the applicable statute has been amended to explicitly impose additional requirements and the ordination process does not meet the statutory requirements, persons ordained by the Universal Life Church are not qualified under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-301 to solemnize a marriage. Accordingly, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-301 as amended does not invalidate or change Tenn. Att’y Gen. Op. U97-041

  1. Robin Aletras's Avatar Robin Aletras


    this makes it very clear that TN does NOT allow ULC ordinations.

  1. betty's Avatar betty

    I want to be married in Tennessee but we dont want a marriage licence

  1. Laura's Avatar Laura

    Where in Tennessee did you want to have the ceremony?

  1. William C. Nichols's Avatar William C. Nichols


    I am confused. Is ULC ordanation accepted in TN or not?

  1. Mary's Avatar Mary

    I am in Nashville, TN and have performed a few weddings and have on planned in October. I have had no issues marrying people here.

  1. Brandi's Avatar Brandi

    So does Shelby County honor an online ordained minister? I'm confused. and how long does it take to get this ordination? I'm wanting a friend to marry us in 2 weeks? Is that enough time for her to do it? but most importantly, will our marriage be legal??

  1. Elizabeth's Avatar Elizabeth

    I'm looking for someone can do a handfast wedding and right now I'm class to be training to be a New Age religion's Minister

  1. Dakota Lee Johnson's Avatar Dakota Lee Johnson

    Can someone please let me know if I can use my ULC Ordainment in Hamilton County TN. I am doing it in April 2018. I am unsure if i can use my ULC.

    1. Universal Life Church Ministries's Avatar Universal Life Church Ministries

      Hi Dakota,

      Please contact the support staff by emailing help@themonastery.org or calling (206) 285-1086.

    2. Tasha's Avatar Tasha

      Hi Dakota,

      I'm getting married in Hamilton County next year and We wanted a friend to become ordained and perform the ceremony but I was unsure if he would be allowed. How did it go for you in April?

      1. Dakota Lee Johnson's Avatar Dakota Lee Johnson

        Hey Tasha,

        I went ahead and did it. I was not questioned and it went fine! There were no problems at all!


  1. a's Avatar a

    called both Sevier county and Blount county Tennessee court house, they both said we could not use a minister ordinated online by the universal life church or any other online service. april 3 2018.

    1. Don Linville's Avatar Don Linville

      I’m a new ULC minister. Have been asked to officiate at a wedding in Townsend, TN (Blount Co). Sounds like that might be a problem. Any suggestions?

  1. Cheryl's Avatar Cheryl

    Does anyone know if Rutherford county allows weddings by ULC.

  1. Amiee Lillard's Avatar Amiee Lillard

    How about Bradley County TN

  1. Don Linville's Avatar Don Linville

    I’m on a road trip now and don’t have my notes, however there is a TN code that has an addendum that specifically names ULC and states rather specifically that on-line ordinations without any requirements are not permitted in TN, by Attny Gen for performing weddings. I have been looking at Blount Co. Previously I sent the reference code number. Don Linville

  1. JackiW's Avatar JackiW

    Game changer coming July 1 , 2019


  1. Don Linville's Avatar Don Linville

    I haven’t tried again since last fall in TN. Some kind of clarification document from TN Atty Gen would be helpful I think.

  1. Jennifer Towe's Avatar Jennifer Towe

    The new law that was enacted on July 1, 2019 states that Tennessee no longer recognizes online ordinations. You have to go through a recognized organization or institution to be ordained.

  1. Mark's Avatar Mark

    If we already are ordained are grandfathered in?

    1. Jennifer Towe's Avatar Jennifer Towe

      They took that too.

  1. Don Linville's Avatar Don Linville

    TN House Bill 0213 is clear in its language. It specifically prohibits online ordinations. This is a very conservative state. Looks like an uphill battle.

  1. Jolie Runyan's Avatar Jolie Runyan

    My client could get a $60 discount on their marriage license if they have 4 hours of premarital prep- do i qualify as an "official representative of a religious organization recognized under the TCA 63-22-204?"

  1. George Harrison Sutherland Jr's Avatar George Harrison Sutherland Jr

    With the documents in the Deluxe package, the officiating is legal in TN? The Good Standing letter and Certification is all that is needed to officiate?

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