September 12, 2002
Digest: A judge may ethically perform two wedding ceremonies for the same couple within a period of a few days where the first is official and the second is unofficial and is being held at a reception where the guests are likely to be unaware of the earlier ceremony.
Rules: 22 NYCRR Part 100.
A full-time judge who is friendly with the family of an engaged couple has been asked by them to perform the couple’s wedding ceremony twice: first, officially and privately, in the judge’s chambers in New York State; and, second, unofficially, at the couple’s wedding reception a few days later in another state. The second ceremony, to be held during the reception, is merely duplicative of the first, and the guests attending will likely be unaware of the earlier official ceremony.
The judge inquires whether it is ethically permissible to participate in this arrangement and, if so, whether there is any language he/she must avoid using. In particular, the judge intends to say “I now pronounce that you are husband and wife.”
This Committee is of the opinion that this arrangement violates no ethics rule or principle under these circumstances. The scenario the judge describes is not uncommon and is not prohibited by any provision of Part 100 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts or the Code of Judicial Conduct. Moreover, the fictional aspect of the second ceremony harms no one in any conceivable way, as it does nothing more than repeat what the judge did officially a few days before.
We further opine that the suggested language is appropriate, since, as the judge notes “it will certainly be true by reason of the earlier New York ceremony.”