An ordained minister is one who has been consecrated to carry out the ceremonies and rights of their religious denomination. In the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches, to become an ordained minister is to become a priest, bishop, or deacon. In other religions, ordained ministers are associated with different titles. In Buddhism, one can even be ordained posthumously. While different religions vary in their processes of ordination, the majority still share the common theology that prohibits women from this role. Exceptions include such churches as The United Church of Canada, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, The Lutheran Evangelical Protestant Church, and various denominations of Judaism.
Individuals who are in the process of becoming ordained are sometimes referred to as “ordinands,” while the ordination rituals or liturgy are referred to as an “ordinal.” Before the age of the Internet, studying at a seminary was most often required in order to become an ordained minister of any religion. Today, one can quickly get ordained via various websites, which offer ordination for a fee. For example, the nondenominational Universal Life Church (ULC) of Modesto, California sells ordinations among other products, and allows an individual to become an ordained relatively inexpensively.
Although the efficiency of online ordination may be ethically questionable, someone who has become ordained online can legally administer weddings and sign marriage licenses, just like any other religious official. As long as the person is in good standing with his or her church, he or she is legally entitled to solemnize a marriage in most U.S. States.
There are some U.S. states that require more than just online ordainment from individuals who wish to perform religious ceremonies. States such as Arkansas, Louisiana, Delaware, Oklahoma, and Virginia require ordained ministers to provide the state with a copy of his or her credentials and/or address prior to performing weddings. Rhode Island, Nevada, and Ohio all license their state’s ministers, while the state of Tennessee's requirement for ordination to be a “considered, deliberate, and responsible act” might implicitly restrict someone who has become an ordained minister online.