Evidence in the claims file indicates that on August 1, 1986 the wage earner, Fred
W. S~ and Candace J. W~ (S~), an applicant for wife's insurance benefits on Mr. S~
account, obtained an Arizona marriage license. On August 12, 1986 Mr. S~ performed
the marriage ceremony himself in his capacity as a credentialed minister in the First
Church of God the Father. In connection with Ms. application for spousal benefits,
you asked whether this marriage is legal in view of the fact that Mr. S~ rather than
a third party, was the officiating clergyman.
Arizona law provides simply that
[a] valid marriage is contracted by a male person and a female person with a proper
marriage license in the presence of an official and two witnesses who participate
in a ceremony conducted:
1. By a person authorized to solemnize marriages who signs and files the marriage
license with the clerk of the superior court.
2. In the presence of at least two witnesses of lawful age who sign the marriage license.
Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 25-125. There is nothing in this statute to prohibit
an individual "authorized to solemnize marriages" from conducting his or her own ceremony.
1_/ It has been held that "[t]he two principal objectives of the requirement of formal
solemnization, apparently, are to insure the public interests in publicity and certainty."
U.S., 191 F.2d 92, 96 (9th Cir. 1951). Achievement of neither of these goals depends upon
the officiating clergyman or officer being someone other than the parties to the marriage.
Thus, Mr. S~ dual role at the ceremony did not render the S~ marriage illegal or invalid.
Even if Mr. S~ was not authorized to officiate at his own marriage, the marriage would
still be valid under Arizona law if, as it appears, he purported to have such authority
and if either party believed in good faith that he was empowered to solemnize the
marriage. A.R.S. § 25-111(B) (2). 2_/
1_/ As a clergyman, Mr. S~ is authorized to solemnize marriages. A.R.S. § 25-124.
2_/ In the absence of authoritative case law on point, we consulted with Arizona's
Attorney General to confirm our reading of the state law.