The $50 billion wedding industry is embracing a new trend courtesy of Universal Life Church (ULC), which has allowed individuals across the United States to become ordained ministers in a matter of minutes through its website. 

The New York Times' wedding section has increasingly reported on weddings that were officiated by a family member or friend who was legally ordained online through ULC. While the ordination is free, a small fee is required for would-be ministers to obtain official documentation.

But a few questions arise from the rising trend of ULC-officiated weddings: How does ULC profit off of this practice? And why, specifically, has this millennial wedding trend become so popular? 

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ULC doesn't hide the fact that the organization has expenses to cover, and obtaining official documentation comes at a small price. The company claimed in 2011 that "charging '$20 for a piece of paper' isn't a choice, it's a necessity; we would be forced to shut down and thousands of wedding ceremonies would not be able to be performed by our ministers as a result.'"

"Conventional churches like the Catholic church have the benefit of being able to pass around a collection plate and take in tax-free donations from their members; the ULC does not," ULC added. "The cost of the documentation we send out both reflects the cost to make and ship said documentation AND the other costs of staying in operation which we do not earn revenue from."

It costs $30 at most at present for ULC ministers to obtain the necessary essentials to officiate weddings, which includes an officiant package and a bundle of documents. Radio host Brian Noonan of Chicago's WGN Radio received his ordination in July while on-air — it only took him a few minutes to complete. He cited the various options and packages available in ULC's Minister Store available for prices that range from $8.99 to $75.99. 

A representative of ULC issued a statement Thursday to International Business Times regarding the reason behind the company's growth.

"The growth has been astounding even to us," ULC told IBT. "When individuals become ordained we don't solicit information from them asking why specifically they chose to get ordained, but certainly the ability to perform weddings for loved ones is a huge draw for people considering ordination."

ULC added, "We often hear nowadays that we are living in "Generation DIY", where people are striving to solve their own problems and answer their own questions, and that DIY spirit indeed seems to be stretching as far as religion and marriage. The ULC allows individuals to build their own faith and conduct their ceremonies to best fit their individual lives."

According to wedding news publication The Knot, "lots of couples are choosing to have a close friend or relative officiate their nuptials." The publication adds, "your officiant should be someone you care about (and who cares about you), and whom you trust to make your ceremony special." The Knot also cites ULC as a credible organization from which to obtain ordain credentials. 

Praise 107.9, a Philadelphia-based Radio One affiliate, wrote an article about this growing practice. The radio station found that engaged couples often turn to family or friends to officiate their weddings because it's "more personal, relatively stress-free and cheaper."

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ULC is a non-denominational online ministry. Ministers ordained through the internet church will be able to perform baptisms and perform funerals, among other services. The license will also allow ordained ministers the ability to legally start their own organization. However, ULC claims on its website that most people utilize the company to legally perform weddings.  

"Most of the people who come to us to get ordained online do so merely so that they can gain the privilege of performing legally-recognized wedding ceremonies," ULC wrote in a blog post on its website. "Being a professional minister might require years of study at a theological college, but becoming a wedding officiant should absolutely not."

Celebrities like Conan O'Brien, Sir Ian McKellen, Kathy Griffin and Wendy Williams are among a list of stars that have been ordained through ULC. O'Brien received his ordained license in 2011, three months after same-sex marriage was legalized in New York, according to  The Hollywood Reporter. He officiated his first same-sex wedding on "Conan" for the show's costume designer Scott Cronick and his partner David Gorshein.

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