It's easy to forget that a marriage is also a matter of state, and there are laws and regulations to be followed. In Tennessee, there are laws in place that govern who can perform, or solemnize, a wedding ceremony. For example, Tennessee is one of only four states that does not recognize marriages solemnized by people who are ordained only for the purpose of performing a ceremony. Clergy, some state and local politicians and some judges can legally perform a wedding ceremony in Tennessee.
The law in Tennessee states that "all regular ministers, preachers, pastors, priests, rabbis and other spiritual leaders of every religious belief, more than eighteen (18) years of age, having the care of souls" can solemnize a marriage. "Having the care of souls" became an issue in 2006 due to a rise in websites that will ordain applicants as ministers in a variety of different churches for a nominal fee. Tennessee chose not to recognize those ministers and require anyone solemnizing a wedding to have a congregation.
There are a number of politicians on the local level who can legally perform a wedding ceremony in Tennessee. Current and former members of county legislative bodies, any county clerk, current or former county executives and the mayors of towns and municipalities may solemnize weddings in Tennessee. These politicians used to be bound by law not to officiate ceremonies outside their jurisdiction, but a 1997 law allowed for local politicians to legally solemnize any ceremony in the state.
Tennessee also allows for a number of politicians who serve on the state level to solemnize wedding ceremonies. The governor, current and former speakers of the state house and state senate and current and former state chancellors are allowed to solemnize a wedding ceremony. The law also states that any compensation paid to a current government official, state or local, is viewed as personal income and does not get deposited into the general fund for the state.
Judges who serve on the local level, such as state judges and judges in general sessions courts, are allowed to solemnize a wedding ceremony under Tennessee state law. Federal judges, such as those who preside over bankruptcy courts and the U.S. Circuit Courts and Court of Appeals, can also solemnize a wedding if they are a resident of the state of Tennessee. Judges are not allowed to accept any compensation for performing the ceremony, unless it is a check made to a charitable organization of the judge's choosing. Judges are prohibited from claiming that donation on their personal income taxes.