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Category: Ordination Information (page 1 of 2)

Information on becoming ordained as a ceremonial minister. Licensed and ordained ministers are legally permitted to perform wedding ceremonies and solemnize marriage vow, and may also serve as an Officiant for baby blessings, welcoming ceremonies, engagements, graduations, vow renewals, commitment ceremonies, funerals and other life celebrations.

Getting Married This Year? Here’s What You Need To Know…

Did you get engaged to be married (Photo)

You were engaged over the holidays? Congratulations!

Now the fun begins — the planning, the worrying, the “sweating the details.” Okay, “fun” may be a relative term, but there’s no reason for one of the biggest days in your life to be daunting.

The first thing to know is that you have options, even if you are planning everything on your own. Gather your resources — The Knot, Brides Magazine and Bridal Guide are excellent places to start.

And, now that you know who you will be marrying, it’s time to figure out who will marry the two of you!

If you belong to a church, check with your pastor as soon as possible to make sure that he or she — and the church itself — will be available on the date you want to be married.

Of course, if you don’t belong to a church, your choice for the person who will perform your wedding ceremony is wide open. There are numerous guides available online to help you find a ceremonial minister (or Officiant, or Celebrant) in your area; most will perform a religious or non-religious ceremony, depending on your personal beliefs. (Both types of ceremonies are legal in all fifty states.)

However, to make your ceremony even more personal and special, keep in mind that you are permitted to select a friend or family member to perform your ceremony. The process to have someone ordained (legally authorized to perform marriages) is very simple, it usually only takes a day or so to get done, and it’s valid and accepted throughout the United States.

If you are considering asking one of your parents, a brother or sister or a friend to perform your marriage ceremony, make sure that you work closely with him or her throughout the process — confirm that they have received ordination, that they have registered with the state or county (if required), that you’ve planned out the various stages of the ceremony (including your vows), and that you have gone over the signing of your marriage license together.

Why is this last element so important? First of all, if you don’t properly sign the marriage license after the ceremony and return it on time to the issuing clerk’s office, then your marriage may not be certified as legal. Please make sure that you review your marriage license with your Officiant before the ceremony so that everyone is familiar with it.

There are usually several boxes on the form that must be filled in by you and your Officiant (including the date and location of the ceremony), each of you must sign it before sticking back in the envelope and mailing it in. Most states will provide you with a set of simple-to-follow instructions, so make sure you read them carefully and follow them to the letter.

(Additionally, some states don’t require witnesses, but some do — usually one or two, who must be adults over the age of 18. While the witnesses can be related to you, the Officiant cannot be one of the witnesses, since he or she is acting officially in a different capacity.)

If you decide to choose a friend or family member to serve as your Wedding Officiant, click here to get started. You’ll need to know where you are getting married, since the laws in that state might be a bit different, and the Officiant’s ordination must comply with that state’s rules and regulations — for example, if you live in Michigan, but you’re getting married in California, then you must obtain your marriage license in California and your Officiant’s ordination must comply with California’s laws.

And if you have any questions or concerns, don’t worry! Get in touch with us, and we’ll provide you with detailed but simple information to guide you through the process!


Choose Your Wedding Dress, Flowers, Bridesmaids … and Your Officiant!

So you were recently engaged to get married — congratulations! Now the fun part — planning your wedding — begins in earnest.

On your long list of things that need to get done, you probably know who your bridesmaids will be, and you have an idea what your wedding dress will look like, and where your marriage ceremony will take place.

But do you know who will perform your wedding ceremony, the person who will guide you through your “I do’s” and pronounce you as husband and wife?

If you belong to a church, your pastor or minister will probably be your first choice as your Wedding Officiant. But what if you don’t belong to a church, which is the growing trend among more and more people?

Your first and best option is to have a friend or family member serve as your Officiant. It’s actually a very simple, inexpensive and quick process to have the person of your choice perform your marriage ceremony, and it’s 100% legal!

What’s The Process?

Depending on which state you are getting married in — click here if you already know — the person who will serve as your Officiant (or Minister, or Celebrant; the terms are interchangeable) must be legally ordained in compliance with that state’s laws.

Get Ordained To Perform Weddings (Happily Ever After Photo)

Heading toward “happily ever after!” (Photo by Ben Rosett)

But don’t worry — even if you live in one state (let’s say, for example, Oregon) but you’re getting married in another (California, for example), then your Officiant’s ordination must comply with the laws of the state you are getting married in. Yes, your marriage will be legal in all fifty states … but your Officiant must be ordained in compliance with the laws of the state where the ceremony is taking place.

(If you are getting married outside of your home state, you must obtain your marriage license in the state where you are getting married — but that’s a different subject. If you have questions about this, ask us!)

Ordination, quite simply, is the process of having a person certified to legally perform marriage ceremonies and other rites, such as vow renewals, funerals and baptisms. Once a person is ordained, he or she receives a minister’s license — usually as part of the same process, for the same low fee — and then can proceed with performing your ceremony.

As we mentioned, the process of ordination is simple, and it doesn’t take much time to accomplish. Only one state — Nevada — has a strict educational requirement; all other states only require that your Officiant is legally ordained and licensed, is of legal age (usually 18 years old) and is competent to perform the ceremony, which includes making sure that your marriage license is properly completed, signed and returned to the issuing clerk’s office following your ceremony.

To check your state’s specific rules and regulations for getting ordained to perform weddings, please click here.

You can actually submit the request for ordination yourself on behalf of the person you’ve chosen to perform your marriage ceremony. It adds one more item to your long wedding checklist, but if you want to make sure it gets done, you can do it yourself!

Important To Keep In Mind…

One of the biggest positives in this is that you get to include one more person in your wedding party — perhaps you wanted to include your Uncle Otto or your Cousin Carla in the ceremony, but couldn’t find a place for them.

The simple solution: select Otto or Carla to perform your marriage ceremony! Get them legally ordained right now, and you can cross that item off your list today!

Are there any potential problems? Well, to be certain, you should feel confident that Otto or Carla aren’t shy or afraid to be “up on stage.” Do they have big personalities? Are they good around large groups of people?

If you answered “yes” to those questions, that’s great!

On the other hand, if you’re concerned that Uncle Otto might have a few too many cocktails before the ceremony begins, or that Cousin Carla has a tendency to be late and flakes out from time to time, then you may want to move on to Plan B and select someone else as your Wedding Officiant.

Finally, if you didn’t request your Officiant’s ordination yourself, or if he or she says they are already ordained … trust, but verify! Demand that they provide you with a copy of their credentials — either their certificate of ordination or letter of good standing from the ordaining organization — and file that copy away with your important papers. The Officiant’s credentials should have his or her name printed on the documents, not just hand-written in by themselves.

You can (and should) contact the ordaining organization to make sure that your Officiant is listed in their database, and that his or her status is current, active and valid in your state. Your Officiant must provide you with the contact information for the organization that granted their ordination. (Our contact information is right here, in case you need it. Drop us a line!)

The bottom line: without a copy of their credentials, there is no proof that the person is legally authorized to perform marriage ceremonies in your state! Without proof, the status of your marriage could be in jeopardy.

For more information on ordination and a simple guide to your state’s rules and regulations, please click here.

Wedding Flower Arrangement (Photo)

Feature photo by Annie Gray on Unsplash.

Can A Nun Become Ordained?

We are often asked: are Catholic nuns allowed to become ordained? Our answer is yes. And no.

Nuns Ordained As Priests Praying (Photo)

Nuns may be ordained to serve as wedding officiants, in accordance with state laws.

We’ll start with the “no.” Current canon law and the church’s catechism directs that “only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination” to serve as a priest — and only male priests can lead a parish of Catholic Christians, celebrate Mass, and bring new members into the church through Baptism.

However, while they are not permitted to celebrate Mass, nuns may become ordained in compliance with state law, which does not restrict sisters from performing marriage ceremonies as an Officiant.

Ordination through First Nation Ministry complies with all state laws, and is respectful of church law as well. Your title when ordained is “Officiant,” so you are not treading in territory reserved solely for priests within the Catholic church.

…Assuming that there are no obvious impediments to marriage, a lay Catholic who is qualified by the state to preside at civil marriages may do so for non-Catholics who are not bound by Catholic marital law.

— Catholic Answers

In nearly all cases, nuns ordained as Marriage Officiants are not permitted by the Catholic church to perform wedding ceremonies within a parish-owned church building, but they can perform marriages in other facilities, such as public halls, parks, restaurants or private homes.

(Most convents do not permit marriage ceremonies to be performed on site under any circumstances.)

While it is still not common for nuns and sisters to serve as ordained Wedding Officiants — we know of only a dozen or so currently in the United States — there are no legal impediments to serving, although you should discuss the situation with your convent’s superior prior to seeking ordination.

Are you ready to become ordained as a Wedding Officiant?

Please click here to begin the ordination process.


Minister Ordination Across State Lines

C., who serves as an executive assistant for a thriving Christian church in North Carolina, recently wrote us with the following inquiry:

We are hiring a pastor from Oklahoma who is a licensed minister by the church he is leaving. We have ordained pastors in our church. In North Carolina, does he have to be ordained or would his Oklahoma license be legal in this state?

If your incoming pastor was ordained through his church in Oklahoma and that church is not affiliated with your church, then his ordination and license will probably be terminated by that church upon his departure.

In many (but not all) cases, a church that has set up its own ordination program does so based on legal language written into its bylaws. In many of those same cases, the ordination is contingent upon that person remaining in service to that church.

However, if his ordination and license remains valid with his church, then it is valid everywhere; there are no territorial limits on ordination in general, so his Oklahoma license would also be valid and accepted in North Carolina.

(Oklahoma requires ministers to register with a county court clerk only if they are performing marriage ceremonies within the state. North Carolina has no such requirement.)

You have a few options available to you in this case: does your church ordain its clergy? It’s perfectly legal in North Carolina — if you follow certain specific rules and write the legal language into your bylaws. (If you’re already doing this, excellent! If not, and if you can use some guidance on the subject, please contact us.)

Your other option is to have your incoming pastor receive his ordination through an ordaining organization … such as ours. We comply with all Federal and North Carolina laws, and a significant number of professional ministers serving churches such as yours were ordained, certified and licensed through First Nation.

He would still be subject to your church’s bylaws, and your church’s board would still have the power to have his ordination revoked or rescinded by simply notifying us.

Ready to become ordained?

Is A Religious Degree Also Considered “Ordination”?

Recently, D. asked us:

I have finished all but two classes in my ordination tract because of needing to perform ceremonies. My degree is my license, right?

Keep in mind that, unless it is specifically designated as such, a degree does not generally convey ordination on the degree holder.

Ordination, per se, is an action taken by a church board to designate certain persons as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. (A person’s license as a minister is also generally granted as part of the ordination process, not as part of the educational or training path.)

The degree recognizes that you’ve attained a certain specific level of training and education, but does not necessarily mean that you are ordained as clergy.

How To Become A Wedding Officiant

Minister and wedding officiant ordination (Photo)

Once you’re ordained and licensed as a minister, you can perform marriage ceremonies almost everywhere.

Let’s say that you’ve been asked to perform the marriage ceremony for your best friend or, perhaps, your favorite cousin. What’s the process you must go through to become ordained as a minister and wedding officiant?

Basically, the person performing a marriage ceremony must be legally ordained by a church or religious organization. Becoming ordained means that you are licensed to serve as an officiant (or celebrant, or ceremonial minister) and may perform weddings and other rites, such as funerals, baby blessings, and vow renewals.

You’re probably wondering how complicated the ordination process is, and how many years of education and on-the-job training you’ll have to undergo.

We’ll get those two questions out of the way immediately: the ordination process is actually quite simple, and there is no educational or training requirement — except one, which we’ll get to shortly.

Ordination simply means that we have confirmed who you are, made sure that you are of legal age to perform a marriage ceremony (in most states, it’s either 16 or 18 years old) and that you are capable of witnessing the bridal couple’s signatures on their marriage license, which you are generally required to return to the issuing agency (usually the County Clerk’s office) following the ceremony.

Photo of a wedding officiant performing a ceremony

You don’t have to be a priest or minister to become a wedding officiant!

Through First Nation, the ordination process typically takes only a few business days. Depending upon which state the ceremony is taking place in, you can often request what is known as Basic Ordination, which allows you to legally perform a single marriage ceremony during a one-year period.

Keep in mind that your ordination level must comply with the laws of the state that the ceremony is taking place in, regardless of where you live. For example, if you live in Ohio, but the ceremony is taking place in Kentucky, your ordination must comply with Kentucky’s laws. If, however, you live in Ohio and the ceremony is taking place in Ohio, your ordination must comply with Ohio’s laws.

Do you know which state the marriage ceremony will take place in? Click here to begin the ordination process.

Here are a couple of fast facts to remember:

  1. Every state has a law that requires wedding officiants to be legally ordained prior to performing a marriage ceremony in their state. You cannot simply proclaim yourself to be “ordained” — it must be done legally through a church or religious organization.
  2. Most (but not all) states, including California and Texas, recognize and accept basic-level ordination, which is valid for performing a single ceremony only.
  3. Most (but not all) states do not have a local registration requirement. What this means is that if your ordination status is active and verifiable, then you do not have to register with any government agency in the state, although you must submit a copy of your credentials to any legal authority upon their request.
  4. Not a resident of the state where the ceremony is taking place? No problem! As long as you are legally ordained, non-resident marriage officiants are permitted to serve in any state, although a few states will require you to submit your credentials to them before performing the ceremony.

Again, most states accept Basic Ordination. Several states and local jurisdictions, however, do require you to register with them after being ordained but before performing a ceremony. Those locations include:

Note that we listed New York City above, but not New York State — that’s because if the ceremony is taking place in one of the five boroughs of New York City (Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island and The Bronx) then you must register with the city’s Marriage Bureau before the wedding takes place. (Click here to read more about the process in New York.)

If all this becoming ordained and licensed and registering is starting to sound like more of a hassle than it’s worth, please don’t worry! We do everything we can to make ordination simple and stress-free, and registration with your state or county is actually pretty easy — if you follow the instructions properly and submit your forms and documents to them in a timely manner. (And yes, we include all the forms and documents you’ll need as part of your ordination packet.)

Earlier, we mentioned that there’s one educational element that’s required, and it’s very important: you must rehearse the ceremony, and then rehearse it again and again, and again. If you’ve never performed a ceremony before, being prepared and paying attention to the details is more important than anything else — our article on this subject will help guide you through the process.

That’s it! You can begin the process of becoming ordained by clicking here, and if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to review the requirements for your state, or contact us directly for information about your specific situation by using the form below:


Ready to become a wedding officiant? Please click here now!


Feature photo by Christina Shin via Flickr Creative Commons.

Are You Qualified To Perform Premarital Counseling In Tennessee?

A First Nation clergy member recently asked if being ordained as a ceremonial minister qualified him to provide premarital counseling in Tennessee, which entitles the bridal couple to a discount off of the regular $100 marriage license fee:

Tennessee Code Annotated §36-6-413(b)(5) provides that couples who complete premarital preparation courses shall be exempt from the $60 fee otherwise imposed by that code section. The course must not be less than four (4) hours and completed no more than one year prior to the date of application for the license. Parties may attend separate classes. If they do, separate certificates must be filed.

Our reply:

Simply being ordained does not qualify a ceremonial minister to provide counseling, but Tennessee law does not restrict legally ordained ministers from doing so.

Tennessee Code Chapter 63-22-204 (a) states:

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as limiting the ministry, activities, or services of a rabbi, priest, minister of the gospel or others authorized by a regularly organized and functioning religious body in performing the ordinary duties or functions of the clergy; nor shall anything in this chapter apply to or be construed as limiting the activities or services of Christian Science practitioners. Nor shall any rabbi, priest, or minister who offers counseling services, even if fees are charged, be subject to the limitations of this chapter, as long as they do not hold themselves out as licensed pastoral therapists or licensed pastoral counselors and as long as they do not purport to provide the integration and professional application of resources and techniques from the religious community’s traditions of pastoral care and counsel along with recognized principles, methods and procedures of clinical psychotherapy.

We highly recommend that anyone planning to provide such counseling should undertake training specific to performing this role.

You may request Tennessee-based ordination at

Have any questions regarding this subject? Please let us know!

State Of The Union: Performing Marriage Ceremonies In Tennessee

Tennessee Marriage Law For Ministers

We recently received an inquiry from an out-of-state (non-resident) minister who was concerned about performing a marriage ceremony in Tennessee.

His concern was not only about not being a resident of the state, but whether the local court clerk — who would be issuing the marriage license to the bridal couple — would accept and recognize the validity of his ministerial credential.

The Tennessee attorney general has issued several opinions in the past about whether ministers or spiritual leaders of various religions (including imams, rabbis and other clerics and teachers) were authorized to perform marriage ceremonies in the state. Also addressed by the attorney general was his opinion regarding whether or not instant online ordination through the Universal Life Church or other religious organizations met the state’s standard for being performed as “a considered, deliberate, and responsible act.”

(Note that the attorney general issued opinions on the state’s law — these are his interpretations only and have no legal effect, although they are carefully and thoughtfully written, and are excellent guides for all concerned.)

Our correspondent received this reply from the Deputy Clerk of the Sumner County Clerk’s Office in Gallatin, which gets straight to the bottom line:

Pursuant to the Tennessee Attorney General, the County Clerk does not have the authority to examine the qualifications of persons who perform marriage ceremonies.

The first thing we will point out is that we do not provide instant online ordination as others do.

We meet and exceed all of Tennessee’s statutes and legal requirements — each ordination request is reviewed and vetted by our staff, and must be approved by a member of our board in compliance with Tennessee’s directive for the process to be “a considered, deliberate, and responsible act.” We have been legally and lawfully ordaining ceremonial ministers in Tennessee for decades, without a single challenge to our authority to do so, or to the authority of those in our service.

In addition, as noted by the Sumner County Clerk’s Office, no County Clerk or other official anywhere in Tennessee has the authority to examine or rule on the qualifications of persons who perform marriage ceremonies; however, any legal authority (including judges, district attorneys and certain state-appointed officials) can request you to present your active credentials, as can the bridal couple and their legal representatives.

Keep in mind that most of the challenges to the legal authority of a marriage officiant from any church or religious organization is not because of the officiant’s legal status — it’s generally because one or both of the parties to the marriage are looking for a way to annul their union. In a divorce, one party may be looking for an advantage (financially or otherwise) over the other. If the other can get the marriage annulled because of a technicality, such as the legal status of the officiant, or perhaps because a certain box wasn’t checked off on the marriage license application, then the financial or custodial advantage can be wiped out as well.

The bottom line is that if the couple is looking to dissolve their marriage, then they’ll use any method at their disposal. If they are happily married, then no legal challenge will be made to their union — the state isn’t going to come along and say that Bob Smith wasn’t legally ordained, so the marriage is null and void.

Keep in mind also that Title 36 of the Tennessee Code includes several statutes that state, in essence, that if the parties to the marriage believe that they are legally married, then such marriage is valid and is declared to be in full compliance with the laws of Tennessee.

Ready to become ordained to perform ceremonies in Tennessee? Please click here.

On a related subject, we discuss whether or not ordained ministers are permitted to perform premarital counseling in Tennessee. Why is this subject important? Read more…

First Nation Minister Kim Kirkley Celebrates Salik-Riffat Nuptials

Salik-Riffat Wedding

The entire First Nation family extends its congratulations and warmest wishes for a lifetime of joy and love to Dr. Irim Salik and Mahmud Riffat, who were married last weekend at Park Savoy Estate, with Kim Kirkley serving as their Celebrant.

Kim Kirkley, an ordained and licensed First Nation ceremonial minister, is one of the leading life-cycle Celebrants in the New York and New Jersey area. In addition to her service as a Celebrant, she serves on the faculty of the Celebrant Foundation and Institute, focusing on Fundamentals of Celebrancy, Weddings, Ceremony Across the Life Cycle Certifications, and Advanced Marketing Courses. She is the author of several books, including “Love Stories: A Celebrant’s Work,” which is considered essential reading for anyone aspiring to serve as a life-cycle celebrant.

Read the full story of Dr. Salik and Mr. Riffat’s wedding in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times.

Have you performed a ceremony recently? If so, please send us the details and a photograph (or two!) so that we may feature it here.

Thinking about becoming a Life Celebrant and ordained ceremonial minister? Stop thinking and start doing! Click here to begin the quick, simple process.

State of the Union: Serving As A Wedding Officiant In Virginia

PLEASE NOTE: As a result of the continued actions of Virginia circuit courts to obstruct legally-ordained ministers from performing their constitutionally-authorized duties in the Commonwealth, the church has temporarily discontinued granting new ordinations with the Virginia endorsement, effective 10 October 2016 and continuing until the situation is resolved. All currently-ordained ministers may continue to serve in Virginia without restriction.

Perhaps the most common question we get from our ministers regards the brick wall that is put up to block them from serving in some cities and counties in Virginia — but, frustratingly, not by all of them.

Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia - Marriage OfficiantOver the years, it has been very much hit-or-miss for ceremonial ministers serving in Virginia — not just for our church, but for many others as well.

Some states require ministers to register prior to performing a ceremony there, but it’s usually a simple, hassle-free procedure and, usually, the registering authority works with you to expedite the process.

And then there is the magnificent and sovereign Commonwealth of Virginia.

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