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There has been major confusion surrounding  our state's new laws governing  who solemnizes (performs) marriages in Tennessee. Just what IS the law, and who is legally authorized to perform your marriage ceremony in our state? This page will cut through the confusion and help you decide which type of ceremony is right for you,  Civil or Religious. 
Even though a local county official recently  stated "you can not require ordainment to do a service," It wasn't clear to the public, that this applied to the civil ceremony only,  NOT the religious ceremony.  According to our state's attorney general, our law requires  that any minister, preacher, pastor, priest, rabbi or other spiritual leader (acting in a spiritual role),  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.   "
Same sex" marriages are not legal in our state and carry a jail or prison sentence for any county court clerk convicted of granting the license.
Civil ceremonies are typically performed by judges, city or county officials or others duly appointed by the city or county to solemnize marriages. We do not have issues with this method because an ordained minister is NOT needed for the proceedings. Our constitution provides this means of legalizing the marriages for persons such as atheists, or others who may find it offensive to have God or religion mentioned in their ceremony.. It's the perfect way to go if all you want to do, is "make it quick, cheap and legal." and don't require any of the religious aspects. If you'll be choosing the civil ceremony, read no further. Go find a qualified city/county/state official to tie the knot, and best of luck to you in your new lives together!
(The remainder of this page will only pertain to the couples wishing their marriage ceremony be "religious" in nature and want it performed by a qualified minister)

If you choose the religious ceremony, you may want to be informed of some new (and very defined) guidelines regarding the religious ceremony and just "who" is qualified to solemnize your ceremony in Tennessee. If you are choosing this option, our state requires that the person performing the marriage be duly ordained by a church body, and or otherwise designated in conformity with the customs of a church, temple or other religious group or organization. As you will see in the following collection of news articles and state statutes, there are certain ordination credentials (such as the Universal Life Church, based in California) which are NOT LEGAL in our state and your wedding may not be legal if performed by a person possessing these type certificates. This page is dedicated to helping you make the right decisions in choosing your minister.--One who is duly ordained by God and qualified to perform your marriage in our state.

Your Wedding in Tennessee may not be legal !

According to Tennessee State House Bill #2079, passed  by the 71st Legislature (voted 94 to 0), religious ceremonies must be performed by a church-ordained minister having the care of souls (or a civil service by a county official).  Mail order or internet obtained ordination papers do not permit a person to perform legal marriages according to our state Attorney General.
(see article from the News-Sentinel to above right)

Here is a recent excerpt from the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Nashville Bureau) The State Attorney General  has cast doubt on the legality of some marriages.  The opinion was prompted by reports that ceremonies were performed in some Gatlinburg "wedding chapels" by men whose only claim to status as a minister is a mail-order certificate.  The Attorney General  said that this is not enough to qualify a person to perform marriages as a minister under state law. 
     The bill approved 94-0 and sent to the Senate declares that for all  marriages performed, a person wishing to be recognized as a minister for marriage purposes must have participated in an ordination ceremony or other "considered, deliberated and responsible act."The bill was sponsored by Reps. Beth Halteman Harwell, R-Nashville and Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville 
Just to see if there was any screening process involved in getting one of these mail-order/online licenses, here's an example of an ordination certificate obtained online by Rev. Dr. Taylor for his pet dog "Tiny". Wouldn't you find it unacceptable if your minister carried the same credentials that can be obtained for a family pet, (no questions asked)? Many of the ministers that perform marriages here in this state, have been doing so with fraudulent credentials like this. A person was recently arrested in TN (see article below) for using these same type documents to validate their ministerial status.  Bottom line, these marriages are not legal in Tennessee!
All of our ministers are church-ordained pastors, ordained by a church body, and set apart for the purpose of full time ministry. 
For more info, call Smoky Mountain Ministerial Alliance  (865) 436-0990

Here is an excerpt from USA Today, Dated January 3, 2003
Olivia Barker reporting...

With a few clicks of the mouse, just about anyone can become ordained to perform weddings just about anywhere.  The non-denominational Universal Life church has empowered more than 20 million people for free since 1959. Since 1995, the church has turned 676,000 men and women into people of a certain cloth via the web,  frequently to perform weddings. "It's a witness for the state, that's all ordination is," says Brother Daniel Zimmerman, spokesman for the Modesto California-based Universal Life Church....  

If you thought an ordination certificate like the one above is legal in Tennessee, You'd better read this news story!

Below is an article dated April 28, 2004, text copied verbatim from the

Kingsport Times News, Kingsport TN

Former owner of Wedding Loft arrested
Sunday, April 28, 17443
NET News Service

JONESBOROUGH - The former owner of the Wedding Loft in Jonesborough, who left couples wondering in the late 1990s whether their marriages were valid, was arrested last week on charges she was not properly credentialed.

Brenda Gorst, who is charged in Washington County Criminal Court with impersonating a licensed professional, faces a maximum of six years behind bars. She is accused of impersonating an ordained minister from May 3, 1993, until March 10, 1999, when she performed more than 600 weddings.

Her alleged actions led to an emergency bill being passed in the Tennessee General Assembly to validate marriages in the state that took place from April 15, 1998, to June 1, 1999. The law was designed to ease the minds of about 70 couples who had been married by Gorst.

An earlier bill addressed problems with earlier marriages after problems with other ministers and their qualifications came to light.

Gorst was indicted in 1999 but was not arrested until last week. District Attorney Joe Crumley said she was not making herself easy to find.

"We've had her sighted several times over the last couple of years, usually out of the country," Crumley said. "I think she was seen in Canada and then somewhere in the central part of the United States, but she would get back over the border before anybody was able to apprehend her. We knew sooner or later that she would probably come back."

Gorst is being housed in the Washington County Detention Center until she posts a $5,000 bond. She is scheduled to be arraigned June 29 in criminal court.

Crumley was glad to have Gorst in the court system, where she will have to face accusations she was not properly licensed to marry people even though she said she was.

"I hate to have any case just out there just left unsolved," he said. "I know when the case first broke, there were a lot of people who were affected by what she did. We did get a number of calls, usually people wanting to know whether or not they were legally married ... especially once they had children."

Crumley said one of the major issues in her case will be to repay the couples any money they lost through her actions. Another bill she might have to pay is the cost of the legislature having to pass the special act.

County Clerk Doyle Cloyd told the Associated Press in 1999 that his employees became suspicious of Gorst when she started writing "civil" on marriage licenses to indicate the type of wedding ceremony. Previously, she had written "religious" on the document.

Winnie Byrd, who got married at the Wedding Loft in 1993, said Gorst had held herself out to be an ordained Methodist minister, according to the AP. But others said Gorst told them that she received her credentials through a mail-order company in California.

Gorst sold the facility in February 1999. The new owner, Patti Lewis, said she used two ordained ministers for weddings there.


Discover the Difference 

Rev. Dr. Ed Taylor,
Senior Minister
D.D. - Th. D.

Reverend Ed Taylor came to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains in 1980 and soon discovered that a great need existed in the area for couples to be married by a duly ordained minister with the dignity and respect that they so deserved. He discovered that none of the local .churches in the area would consent to marry anyone that was not affiliated with their own church membership. Consequently anyone that wished to be married in the Smoky Mountains area would be forced to marry with the Justice of the Peace in a "seed and feed" store... So in 1980 Rev. Taylor established Gatlinburg Tourist Ministries, Inc. and since that humble beginning some 25 years ago, we have now ministered to and married over 85,000 Couples!

We sincerely believe that everyone should be married with dignity and respect, by a duly ordained minister and our motto has become

Find the Need and Fill it...
Find the Problem, and solve it...
Find the Hurt and Heal it...





We'd also like you to know that we are a real church attending to the needs of our married couples FAR BEYOND their initial wedding date!  Here  is a scan from the Sevier County Yellow Pages dated 1-31-05 clearly showing we have been here since 1979 in the Sevier County area. NO OTHER chapel facility in our area can boast this kind of longevity!

Trust the wedding professionals to make your wedding day a memory you'll treasure for a lifetime.


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