If you’ve found this article, you may be interested in becoming an ordained wedding officiant. But how do you become an ordained wedding officiant? And who can officiate a wedding?
Simply put, a wedding officiant is someone who has legal jurisdiction to lead a wedding ceremony and officially marry two people.
The wedding officiant also signs the marriage license, which indicates that the two individuals are legally allowed to get married. A wedding officiant may be part of a religious tradition like a chaplain or a minister, or they may be secular and independent.
Anyone can become ordained, and the process may be easier than you think! Read on for more information on the process to become ordained and the requirements to perform a wedding ceremony.
What You'll Learn...
- 1 Want To Become Ordained?
- 2 The Process for Becoming an Ordained Wedding Officiant
- 3 Performing The Ceremony
- 4 Other Considerations
- 5 Wedding Officiant Finder
- 6 Final Thoughts
Want To Become Ordained?
Do you have a friend or family member who is getting married and wants you to be the wedding officiant? Officiating a friend’s wedding can be a very special way to be a part of their big day. But it can be a lot of responsibility too.
In the last few decades, there has been a bit of a change in how couples choose to have their wedding ceremony officiated. While the majority of couples still tend to go the traditional route of a religious officiant, these days, many people are opting instead to have their friends or family members unite them in holy matrimony.
This new trend is taking off because modern couples want the important people in their lives to play an integral role in their union. So if you have been called upon by a good friend or family member to help officiate their marriage, here is how you can go about becoming an ordained wedding officiant.
The Process for Becoming an Ordained Wedding Officiant
1) Check Local & State Laws
In the United States, laws for wedding officiation vary from state to state as well as at the county level. Specifics like residency requirements and minimum age are different in every state.
Don’t assume that rules in one state will be the same as in another. You can check rules and regulations in your area here.
2) Get Ordained Online
The easiest way to get ordained is by going online. There are many popular ministries online where you can put in an application to get ordained as a non-denominational wedding officiant.
Once you have chosen your ministry, simply fill out the required forms and pay the online ordination fee if there is one. Once you’ve done this, be sure to check your email for a confirmation of this process being completed.
A few of the most popular ordination websites are detailed below:
Open Ministry’s non-denominational free ordinations are recognized in all 50 U.S. states. This ordination lasts for a lifetime with no need to ever renew. A standard ordination certificate package begins at just $19.99.
A letter of good standing can also be purchased. Once ordained, your information will also be listed in Open Ministry’s Minister Directory, fulfilling the requirement by some states for you to be listed in a published directory.
The Universal Life Church is open to individuals of any faith background to join and become ordained. The ULC has millions of members worldwide and is non-denominational.
ULC ministers can preside over weddings, funerals, baptisms, and a host of other religious and spiritual events. Ordination is free, but official credential certificates and accessories can be purchased in the store.
The Classic Wedding Set comes with a full size and wallet credential document for $39.99.
This secular option based around the 1998 film The Big Lebowski offers free, fast ordination that is recognized in most U.S. states to perform both wedding and burial ceremonies.
Although a bit of a parody on religion, officiants are called Dudeist priests in the Church of the Latter-Day Dude. Once you have filled out the form, you can simply print off a copy yourself at home, or order a more official-looking embossed certificate from the Dudeism store for just $10. A letter of good standing (required by most counties) is also available for an additional $5.
3) Wait For Your Documents
Depending on which website you use, you will most likely have to wait a couple of weeks to receive official documents as an ordained minister. Because of this delay, you’ll want to be sure to submit your application and all other relevant information with plenty of time to spare before the wedding.
Some websites may be able to send a digital certification right away, so if you are in a rush to get ordained, be sure to check with each ministry about their transfer process before applying.
4) Verify Your Ordination
Once you’ve received your wedding officiant license, you will need to verify with the local county clerk to ensure that your appointment as a wedding officiant is recognized and legal before the wedding day.
If it so happens that you are turned down by this county clerk, immediately contact the ministry that gave the ordination. Many counties required what is called a Letter of Good Standing from the ministry who ordained you in order to perform a wedding ceremony.
You can also purchase this upfront, so there are no issues later on down the road.
Once you have sorted out these steps, you are all set to officiate weddings as an ordained officiant!
Performing The Ceremony
Now that you’ve learned how to obtain the proper documentation to perform a wedding, you’ll want to consider how you’ll run the actual ceremony. Wedding officiants are actually in charge of a great deal of the wedding ceremony process.
So if you’ve never done this before, there will be a bit of a learning curve to deal with. Here are some of the basic responsibilities you will need to fulfill as the wedding officiant:
1) Meet With The Couple
For a marriage ceremony to be legal, the ceremony needs to include a Declaration of Intent and a Pronouncement. All other aspects of the wedding ceremony are optional.
Most couples have a pretty good idea of what they want their ceremony to look and feel like. A good officiant will meet with the couple one-on-one to go over these wishes.
Even if one of the parties getting married is your friend or family member, this step is still crucial to ensuring the success of the couple’s big day.
During this meeting, you’ll want to find out about specific religious requirements, family traditions, and other special considerations.
There are many elements that can take place during a wedding ceremony, and every couple will have their own preferences on which ones to include.
Some things to discuss at this meeting include wedding venue, ceremony length, and the desired tone of the wedding (formal vs. casual). Some couples may desire an hour-long religious ceremony, while others are simply looking for quick 10-minute nuptials in the park.
Once you have a better idea of what the couple requires of you, you can begin to prepare for the big day.
In order to ensure the big day goes off without a hitch, you’ll probably want to run through the ceremony at least once. This is the opportunity for everyone involved in the wedding ceremony to go over specifics like timeline, placement of the wedding party at the venue, and other details that often can’t be arranged until you are physically all together in the space that will be used for the ceremony.
The more attention you give to this important rehearsal opportunity, the more likely it will be for the wedding day to go off without a hitch. No one wants any surprises on the big day!
3) The Big Day!
When the big day arrives, it is time for the official ceremony that will make everything legal. You will perform the official Declaration of Intent (wedding vows) and the Pronouncement (“I now pronounce you husband and wife…”) as well as any other elements of the ceremony the couple desires.
This is also when you will collect the wedding party and witness signatures on the marriage license as needed. (Again, every state’s marriage license will look a little bit different, so be sure you know who needs to sign where and when.)
Afterward, the happy couple will ride off into the sunset while you worry about step #4.
4) Submit All Paperwork
With the ceremony officially performed and the wedding day over, you will have one final obligation to fulfill. Your last (and most important) duty as the wedding officiant will be submitting the completed and signed marriage license to the state or county clerk’s office.
Remember, a couple’s marriage is NOT entirely official until it is signed off by the appropriate government office – so don’t forget this crucial step!
There is usually a deadline to have this documentation sent off within a certain amount of time, so be sure to check your local state regulations for this information as well.
If you are planning on performing wedding ceremonies on a regular basis as a part of your business or even a hobby, you’ll want to obtain a certification that is valid in all of the areas you wish to practice in.
For example, if you are a traveling wedding performer who also wants to add ordination to your list of services, your ordination should be legal in all 50 states.
You will also want to find out if your ordination will expire or if it is a lifetime wedding officiant certification. Some ministries require for ordinations to be renewed after a certain amount of time.
However, if you never plan on using your certification again, this won’t apply to you.
Wedding Officiant Finder
Reading this article in preparation for your own upcoming wedding and need to find an officiant near you? Visit a wedding vendor search engine like Wedding Wire or The Knot to read reviews and check out officiant services near you.
Pricing usually ranges from $100-300 depending on the length of the ceremony, where you are located, and what type of officiant you are looking for.
Whether you’re looking to expand your wedding services business, provide a meaningful ceremony to friends and family, or simply take on a fun new hobby – getting ordained to become a wedding officiant has never been easier! Not to mention how rewarding it is. Getting to be a part of a couple’s happiest moments is sure to put a smile on your face!