A little-known Santa Clara County service offers wedding couples the option of choosing anyone they desire as an officiant for their ceremony.
A friend or relative of the couple may apply for a one-day deputy commissioner appointment that would be good for the day of the wedding. A $15 fee allows the applicant to officially preside over the wedding anywhere within the state. The officiant need not be a U.S. citizen or a resident of the state.
"Our staff recommends this for couples unsure of what they would like to do (for an officiant)," said Mary Ann Barrous, a supervisor in the marriage division of the county's clerk-recorder's office. "It's a really wonderful alternative."
The service may prove ideal for couples with conflicting religious denominations or nonreligious philosophies.
The prospective officiant must apply in person to the county clerk-recorder's office and carefully fill out an application that verifies that the person knows the bride and groom.
The applicant must provide a driver's license or passport as valid identification.
Barrous said no specific wording need be performed by the officiant at the ceremony although regulations note that at some point, the bride and groom agree to take each other as husband and wife.
"With some religious denominations, they don't have wording. It's an assumption," she said.
Not all counties offer this service. Monterey County, for instance, does not. However, Barrous noted those opting for weddings in the Carmel Valley wine country could have a friend deputized in Santa Clara for the ceremony in Monterey - even if the marriage license was secured in Monterey.
The service has been in effect for several years, Barrous said, and the clerk-recorder's office took over the service in 1999. So far, word-of-mouth has been virtually the only way couples have heard of this option. Even the clerk-recorder's Web site does not show the service.
For fiscal year 2000-01, 214 one-day deputy commissioners were appointed. That number rose to 245 for the 2001-02 fiscal year.
For more information about the one-day deputy commissioner appointments, call the county's marriage division at (408) 299-5664.