The Difference Between a Justice of the Peace and a Minister
In my mind getting married in a courthouse is like making love in a lavatory — a last resort. Justice of the peace is another name for a county judge. To be married by a county judge, you have to go to the court house where the judge presides, usually in the county seat, make an appointment with a judge, buy a marriage license (currently $30 in Denver and surrounding counties), and show up when you’re told to. The “ceremony” takes place in the judge’s chamber, or office, where he or she recites a short, canned script before pronouncing you married.
The cost can vary from judge to judge. Expect to pay $80 or more, including the license plus parking. It’s a good way to make what you hope is a once in a lifetime special event forgettable. No warm ambiance, customization of the marriage ceremony, or blessing.
Typically ministers are ordained by churches. Different churches have different criteria for ordination. Most require a course of study, usually at a divinity school or seminary. People calling themselves “non-denominational” ministers may have sent money to the entity that calls itself the Universal Life Church. This church then sends them a certificate of ordination, making them mail order ministers. That doesn’t mean they don’t do a decent job of officiating, just that their ministerial credential is shaky.
Whoever your officiant is, he or she should be happy to help you have a unique wedding ceremony, as befits your uniqueness as a couple. The credentials that count are attitude and ability to engage your hearts and minds and those of your wedding guests. On your golden wedding anniversary, you want to recall your wedding ceremony and what made it joyous, fun and meaningful