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.
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:
- 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.
- Most (but not all) states, including California and Texas, recognize and accept basic-level ordination, which is valid for performing a single ceremony only.
- 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.
- 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:
- New York City
- Washington DC
- West Virginia
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.