How To Become a Wedding Minister or Officiant
Updated: Aug 3
If you are anything like me, you will love diving into this honorable job for one wedding or a thousand. Let's say, for example, Cousin Kathy asked you to honor her and her fiancé by officiating their wedding. You gratefully and humbly accept. And then you think: okay, now where where do I start? You can skip all of these steps, of course, and simply reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org or see this site: Marquee Officiant Services.
In any case, no worries, this article will guide you! (Cheers and applause here!) There are a few steps that you must take before officiating for anyone: that is, if the requirement is that once the ceremony is complete, the nuptials are legal.
Choose a non-profit ministry or church. There are a handful, and I do mean a handful, of associations that claim they are legitimate, but do some basic research and discover if this particular church is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), organization with the IRS.
Decide on Religious or Non-Religious Affiliation. A simple search of non-profit ministries with free ordination online gives you a list. Topping that list is typically the all-inclusive ministries, that is to say, anyone who wants to legally commit to another is accepted, and in this officiant's opinion, that is how it should be. Love is love!
Complete the Requirements for Ordination. Locate a link on the site that allows you to become ordained FOR FREE. Be wary of any organization that requires you to pay for this, instead of kindly asking for donations. As you likely well know, a non-profit subsists on donations as a large percentage of their operating funds. And some may even sell you "Starter Kits." These are not required purchases to legally officiate a ceremony. But some of them are a nice little bag of goodies!
Locate the County Court Clerk Site. In the United States, you will need to locate the name of the county that is home to the location of the venue, and subsequently the county court clerk's contact information. Once again, this is a simple web search. For example, I am in Oklahoma*, and have registered with the Tulsa County Court Clerk's office. *Internationally, get with the local governing bodies and follow all instructions to complete registration.
Take Note of All Requirements. Specifically, locate a FAQ section, or a page that answers typical questions, and discover if the couple is required to establish residency within the state, if divorce decrees are required to obtain their marriage license, if there is a waiting period, and how long. Also, find out what the age limits might be, and if witnesses are required for that state. Typically, too, some specific language is required, such as the couple's statement that they truly intend to marry, and a pronouncement that the couple are "now married." You are the "go-to" person for all this information, so obviously, best that you know.
Become Ordained. Quick Note: This can become a huge debate, because there are those people that spend big dollars, years and therefore dedicate their life's work to become a minister in some capacity. This officiant does not wish to diminish that commitment one bit! In fact, if that is your calling, I applaud you wholeheartedly! (More applause, cheers here) I do not hope you read this as facetious, for I do mean every word. That said, if you fall into the first category mentioned in this article, that is: Cousin Kathy has asked you, her favorite relative, to officiate her "Special Day" and legalize the union of this sweet family, then you will most likely love the fact that you can become ordained for free online. Fill out the forms and submit!
Receive Your Ordination Credentials. Once you have completed your short and sweet ordination, you will receive, via USPS most likely, your ordination credentials. This consists of: 1) A "Letter of Good Standing" with the organization you chose, and 2) a signed and fancy embossed certificate, both providing evidence of your certified ordination. Keep them safe: scan and save these into your computer, or photograph them with your phone.
Provide All Requested Information to the Court Clerk. Provide your contact information to the court clerk and mail or email your credentials. Make sure you have this sent off in plenty of time to receive them back before the ceremony.
Receive Your Registration from the Court Clerk. Once your credentials have been processed, then you will receive them back with the registration details you will need for the ceremony. In Oklahoma, for example, that is a Book and Page number. This information will be required on the marriage license that you and the couple will sign, so have it with you on the day of the ceremony. I would also recommend that if not provided to you, request a "template" of the marriage license with instructions on how to complete it for that state. In other words, some diagram for you of "what goes where" on the license. These court clerks are picky! So be sure you know what is required of you, or you will be meeting up with the couple again to re-sign the license.
Officiate the Ceremony! There are typical parts to a ceremony, and that is another story and another article, but it is also the most fun part of your job! And although it is a job, it is truly an honor. Embrace the honor, and have fun with it, too.
Sign the Marriage License. Gather everyone, including a photographer, to sign the marriage license. You can offer to return the license for them, or the newly married couple may be required to return it in person for themselves: this has become standard so the court clerk can review and approve all information is present that is necessary to file the license as legal. The time frame is crucial, as well, but the standard can be anywhere from 10 days to 30 days.
Congratulate the Couple. Offer a final congratulations before you leave, that is, if not invited to stay. Note: the "staying over" etiquette dictates that you are invited first. But make sure this is the parting quip you provide before you go.
Of course, you can always just book Marquee Services and I am thrilled, as always to assist!
So, did you have fun? Was it all that you thought it would be? Do you have more questions? Feel free to reach out to me: email@example.com