‘Spiritual minister’ allegedly performed dozens of weddings without authority

I don’t get it. How could someone knowingly ruin people’s marriage by fraudulently performing illegal weddings. Every year we get a story of wedding fraud as reported below by CBC. This guy allegedly copied another officiant’s name and number.

Buyer beware. Check your officiant or celebrant credentials in two ways:

  1. look them up on the appropriate government website, or
  2. ask to see a copy of their license when meeting them.



Toronto Police are asking couples who were married by a man named Paul Cogan to contact them immediately … because they may not be married after all.

The 69 year old, who also sometimes goes by the name Paul Martin, is facing five charges including solemnizing a marriage without authority, fraud and forgery. He was released on bail after appearing in court Wednesday morning.

Det. Const. John Ozols says police were tipped off by the Ontario government, which believes at least 48 couples were defrauded.

Cogan was authorized to perform weddings at one point. He was stripped of that authority for unknown reasons several years ago by the religious body he was working for, the Clergy Support Memorial Church.

Police are asking anyone married by Cogan between Aug. 28, 2013 and July 14, 2016 to get in touch.

Authorities heard from several people Wednesday, and the question they all asked: are they actually married?

The short answer: it’s not clear.

paul cogan website prideful weddings
A screengrab from Paul Cogan’s website, Prideful Weddings.

The ministry of government and consumer services says that even if an individual conducting a ceremony is working under false pretenses, that doesn’t necessarily invalidate the marriage, because the officiant is just one part of the process. They are recommending that any affected couples seek legal advice.

Ozols also told CBC News that the ministry has said it will honour these marriages, but couples may have to jump through some legal hoops to make them official.

Cogan advertised his services through a website called Prideful Weddings, which begins: “Throughout your life there will be many great, memorable moments. Your wedding day will definitely be one of them and that is why the details are so important.”

Under a section describing Cogan as an officiant, the site reads: “Paul is a Spiritual Minister. As a Ontario Licensed Wedding Officiant, he has performed over 2,000 wedding ceremonies across Ontario, serving people of all faiths and cultures.”

The ministry advises anyone wanting to be married in a religious ceremony to visit its website, where it maintains a database of authorized officiants that is updated monthly.