Is a marriage in front of a Justice of the Peace valid in God's sight?


Good afternoon,

I have been praying for several weeks for the Lord's guidance.  The questions that I have led to more questions.  One day I came across one of your articles and I read.  I started to cry.  The article I read was: Can my girlfriend and I get married after committing fornication?  Shortly after I had my boyfriend read the article.  We do not know where to start.  Besides that we have many questions.  We think we may know some of the answers but need assurance I am on the right track.

I got pregnant when I was a teenager.  The father did not want to be part of our lives.  So I raised my child as a single parent mother. 

My boyfriend and I started to get to know one another a few years ago.  We sat down with our pastor and my parents to talk about dating. Our Pastor told us to get to know one another first to see if we were compatible and to stay pure and while we dated. Just recently we decided to get married and set a date. 

We fornicated.  We went before God and repented and we forgave one another.  I know it's no one business besides between my boyfriend, myself and God, but we told my parents.  My parents are both Christians.  They gave some counsel to us, some Scriptures to help us and prayed for us.

The reason why we decided to tell them was because our pastor asked us questions, such as if we had our first kiss and if we fornicated.  He indicated that there's a chance we would be kicked out of our church and a wedding could not be performed.

We then told our pastor.  He told us to continue to stay pure, and if we fornicated he could not marry us.  But we interrupted him.  My boyfriend told him that we had fornicated.  Our pastor said he could not marry us because of the sin we committed.  Our pastor told us to go to the justice of peace. We were not entitled to a wedding ceremony because of our sin.  He said that the rules the church has in place is to make us to feel the weight of our.  Because we already experience the sin, we should just get married before the state and make it legal, but that we cannot make vows before God.  If we do have a wedding; it has to be a low key wedding -- meaning we cannot have an extravagant wedding because of our sin; no decorations, no bridesmaid, no ring bearer, no music, no flower girl, no family.  This ceremony includes just the Pastor, the bride, the groom, and two witness -- that is it. The family waits at the reception place.  Then he said he can do the low key wedding. He wants us to feel the weight of our sin that we committed, that is why this is an option.  Out of curiosity, my boyfriend asked if we can get married in another church by a different pastor?  Our pastor said we would be slapping our church and the congregation in the face because we were not sincerely holding to the church's values.  He said we could, but he doesn't want us having an extravagant wedding. 

He also said because of what we did. We will face so many trails and struggles in our marriage.  Things will be happen to us because of our sin. The only time there's an extravagant wedding is if we stay pure and have a Sunday wedding; that means as a couple we stayed pure, at the altar is the first kiss, and we will be fully bless. But because of our sin that has taken from us because the pastor wants the people who commit fornication to feel the weight of their sin.  And then our pastor said to let him know what we will be doing, but by the end of the week we must be legally married before the state. He said there's another wedding he could do: We can get married legally and have an actual wedding later. Because we fornicated, we can start living with one another after we are legally married.  

  • With a Justice of the Peace wedding: Is that man's vows and not God's vows of marriage?  Is that even okay?  Because we wanted to get married before God and have our vows before God.
  • Can we have a wedding with bridesmaid, groomsmen, flower girl, ring bearer and decorations? Or is it true we have to have a low key wedding that is strictly the pastor, bride and groom and two witness, and the family waits at the reception?
  • Is it even right to get married legally, live with one another within this week and do our marriage vows before God later?
  • Are church rules supposed to be followed or God's word?  And if so, does that corresponds to a biblical point in everything we were told?
  • Can we find another church and get married there?  Even though our pastor said we are slapping our church and congregation in the face?
  • I thought we were forgiven by God because we repented. The Pastor wants us to carry the weight of our sin, but the Lord says He wants us to cast our burdens on Him. Is that the same as here?

We are confused. We do not know what to do. We do not know where to go besides to continue to pray and have His answers revealed.

Your response is greatly appreciated.


What you and your boyfriend did was wrong. "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4). If the two of you could not wait to have sex, then the proper thing to have done was to have gotten married first (I Corinthians 7:8-9). Formal weddings are nice, but they are not worth waiting for if it means you end up sinning.

As long as a marriage follows the rules for covenants, they are recognized by God. See: Marriage Covenants. A marriage before a Justice of the Peace is just as valid as a marriage officiated by some church official. There is no difference. There is no requirement for a fancy wedding. How you want to celebrate your wedding is up to you.

The preacher at your church is making up rules that are not found in the Bible. "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:8-9). If he doesn't want to marry someone who has committed fornication, that is his personal choice, but it isn't something God requires. It is not his duty to make people "feel the burden of their sins." Rather, what he is doing is refusing to forgive when God has forgiven. "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).

It seems that the church you are attending isn't strongly interested in following God. Their own traditions are taking precedence or the Scriptures. Perhaps it is time to find a church that puts God first.