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Couples stressed over law prohibiting online ordination for marriage ceremonies

Starting July 1, Tennessee will no longer recognize online-ordained ministers who officiate weddings.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A new state law may thwart wedding plans for couples this summer. 

Starting July 1, Tennessee will no longer recognize online-ordained ministers who officiate weddings.

That includes websites like Universal Life Church.

RELATED: TN will no longer recognize online ordained ministers to solemnize weddings 

It's raising questions, and one local couple experienced the confusion and stress first hand. 

Cheri and Kevin Burke are of two different faiths, but they didn't want a secular wedding. 

"And so finding someone that could be respectful of both of our religions we knew was going to be difficult so we had considered having a friend, someone that we knew and loved and trusted...get ordained and perform the ceremony for us," Cheri Burke said. 

But then they found that in 2015, the state Attorney General wrote that those who got certified online were not qualified to officiate weddings, and that scared the Burkes. 

"We just didn't want to take that risk," Cheri Burke said. 

So they searched for a minister up until the last minute. Thankfully, they found a minister they loved, but not without cost. 

"It was 10 percent of our wedding budget," Cheri Burke said.

Their story could become more common. 

Now, a new state law prohibits people with online ordinations from officiating a marriage ceremony. 

Rep. Ron Travis (R-Dayton) introduced the bill and says the online restriction was an amendment to help clear up the confusion. 

The bill also now allows lawmakers, city leaders, and police chaplains to officiate. 

Still, the Burkes worry about all the stress the other couples may experience. 

"I feel we shouldn't have had to fight so hard to find someone who's willing to help us out. It's a thing that people do every day. And just the fact that we're not of the same faith and we didn't want to choose one thing or the other means we get left out," Kevin Burke said.  

Rep.Travis said ask your clerk if you are unsure. 

Knox County Clerk Sherry Witt said the law does not nullify marriages before July 1.

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