|Newlyweds Casey and Jessica O'Donnell|
An investigation by CBC News's Go Public has revealed that ministers from a group called the United National Church have been performing marriages that aren't necessarily recognized in some Canadian provinces.
Newlyweds Casey and Jessica O'Donnell at first thought they just had a terrible wedding ceremony with awkward pauses and errors. But upon learning more about the man who officiated their ceremony, they're wondering if it was all a bad joke.
"It was brutal. The ceremony anyways. It was painful," said O'Donnell, who lives with his wife in a community just north of Peterborough, Ont..
After setting their wedding date, they were having trouble finding a minister who wasn't already booked for the busy August weekend this year.
Eventually they turned to online listings site Kijiji out of desperation. That's where they say they found the man they thought was an ordained minister.
"He started out half decent and then kind of started dropping the ball. He dropped the rings. He stumbled over our names — he just drew a blank for a good chunk of it," said O'Donnell.
"I could not believe what was happening. It felt just surreal. And, I mean, of course it was embarrassing," his wife added.
You can watch the O'Donnells' best man introduce a YouTube clip of their wedding ceremony below.
But if that seemed surreal, what the O'Donnells didn't know is that they were in for a much bigger shock.
After a call from ServiceOntario, the couple discovered that the wedding ceremony wasn't just badly done — it also wasn't official.
The man who performed their ceremony was not a legally ordained minister in Canada and was not legally allowed to marry them.
"The woman on the other end of the phone, you could tell, she really felt bad that she had to be the one to inform us … and I have to say it didn't come as a complete shock considering the way the ceremony had gone," said Jessica O'Donnell.
The O'Donnells said the man told them via text message he was certified by the United National Church.
On its website, the United National Church claims anyone can become an ordained minister in Canada and "lawfully perform marriages for your family, friends, or anyone in your community."
The website also states, "Our Minister’s Licence is Valid across Canada."
The problem is, that's just not true, according to Cynthia Vukets with the media relations department at ServiceOntario.
"United National Church is not recognized as a religious organization in Ontario … so people who receive a minister's licence from this organization are not permitted to perform marriages," she told Go Public.
Other provinces including Alberta and B.C. said the same thing. So-called ministers ordained by United National Church cannot legally perform marriage in those provinces either.