Want to officiate a wedding? Start here.


Thanks to the power vested in us by the Internet, almost anyone can become a minister these days. If you’re thinking about it, it’s likely because you want to perform a marriage.

We’re not about to tell you which Internet-hosted religion to pledge your allegiance to (and there are some interesting — and sometimes ridiculous — choices out there), but to help get you started, we can recommend the following course of action.

  • Step 1: Get a little background. Want to get a better understanding of the cavernous world of online churches? Start with Aaron Sankin’s story for The Kernel on the history of the Universal Life Church. It’s fascinating and weird (in the best way possible).
  • Step 2: Is this legal everywhere? The answer is “almost everywhere,” which also means you can’t skip this step. The best way to find out the local laws is to call the appropriate government office in the jurisdiction where marriage will be performed and ask. A few marriages have been challenged in courts (and declared invalid) over ministers who were ordained online. For a quick, unofficial check, try this map at themonastery.org. But nothing replaces going straight to the government source.

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Episode 2: An invisible girlfriend

Could it be true that in this fast-paced technological era, the best way to forge a real connection is by creating a fake girlfriend? We’re not entirely sure — but it turns out, there’s an app for that.

Hosted by Eric Brandner and Davin Coburn, the Underscore is a podcast exploring and explaining the quirky side of American culture. On this episode, we go behind the curtain of the Invisible Girlfriend phenomenon, speaking to the people who actually power a text-based imaginary-partner service — and looking at what keeps its users coming back.

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A look at Trudy Elizabeth Beckensale

Trudy Beckinsale

For Episode 2, I took the new online service Invisible Girlfriend for a test drive, creating an imaginary partner who texted me dozens of times over the course of a month, left voicemails and even sent a postcard.

The Invisible process requires choosing their name, age, location, personality (“witty and educated”? “lovingly nerdy”?), her interests, the origin story of how you met and even a headshot from the 16 photos offered. After giving the whole thing way too much thought and filling in the blanks, the site created the above infographic for Trudy Elizabeth Beckensale.

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Episode 1: Ruckus and how slang spreads

How does slang spread? And can the average person set out to make a term go viral? Oh, and we have a word in mind …

Hosted by Eric Brandner and Davin Coburn, the Underscore is a podcast exploring and explaining what makes American culture interesting. On this episode, we talk to a quartet of word experts and dig through the history of how exactly language moves from the street to Twitter and a lot of unexpected places in between (including the dictionary).

And if you could all start punctuating your happy tweets with #ruckus, that’d be really great. (Listen and we’ll explain.)

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How do you get a word in the dictionary? An editor explains


You have a word. It’s a great word. Your friends use it all the time on Twitter. You heard it on a podcast last month. You’ve been using the word forever. But it’s still not in the dictionary.

And you’re the type of person who really wants to change that.

It’s best to start with the idea that you aren’t getting a word in the dictionary on your own. Sure, you can call, tweet at or email the folks at Merriam-Webster. Someone may even read your plea. But even in a best-case scenario, your example is only going into a filing system with the other 15 million-plus citations of potential dictionary additions Merriam-Webster has on file. At some point during a dictionary update cycle, an editor pulls out those alphabetized citations for a sliver of the dictionary (let’s say the words between “boa” and “box”) as part of their evaluation.

Kory Stamper, a lexicographer who works for Merriam-Webster, spoke to us for our podcast episode about how slang spreads. With her guidance, here’s a look at how a word makes it into the dictionary.

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