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Online marriage group ordains hundreds ahead of Tennessee law change

A ministry group from Seattle is helping hundreds of people get ordained in person as Tennessee soon stops recognizing online ordinations.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Starting Monday, Tennessee will no longer recognize marriage officiants who get ordained online. 

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But one online ministry group from Seattle is helping hundreds of people get ordained so that Tennessee does recognize them.

American Marriage Ministries is touring Tennessee to help people get ordained. Earlier they were in Chattanooga and Memphis. 

On Wednesday, they were in Knoxville before heading to Nashville. 

At Southern Railway Station, event planner Nicole Threadgill sees dozens of weddings throughout the year. 

"I have a whole bunch of couples that I've been working with over a year now planning their weddings, and then the new law kind of took everybody by surprise," Threadgill said. 

It was signed in June, and Rep. Ron Travis (R-Dayton) told 10News he introduced the bill to clear up confusion and allow lawmakers, city leaders, and police chaplains to officiate. 

The change has given couples a lot of stress -- including Threadgill, who is online-ordained herself and is getting married next year. The plan was to have a friend officiate. 

"People who did go to seminary school, they're like, my base price was $300, and like, oh, it was going to be free for me," Threadgill said. 

That's where American Marriage Ministries stepped in for Threadgill and many others. 

The Seattle-based company is touring the state to mass-ordain people specifically so that they will be in compliance with new state law. 

"This is the first time we're doing in-person ordinations like this because this is a Tennessee-specific situation," executive director Lewis King said. 

King said his group has ordained hundreds in the past few days, including here at Southern Railway in Knoxville on Wednesday. 

Wedding planner Lindsay Barrows Ruggieri was there making sure her ordination was up to law.

"So if anything happens, I want to make sure that the most important thing on their wedding day -- them actually getting married, is something that takes place," Barrows Ruggieri said. 

Wedding planners say if you are unsure about your officiant, contact your county clerk's office, and they should be able to help you.

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