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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.

Advanced Training As A Celebrant For All Of Life’s Events

While most states have little or no educational or training requirements for those performing ceremonies, First Nation strongly encourages its clergy members seeking either basic or advanced training to consider the programs offered by the Celebrant Foundation and Institute.

Norman Rockwell "Marriage License" (1955)If you are pursuing a career as a Celebrant, or if you are considering a career as a ceremonial minister, the courses offered by CF&I provide the perfect fundamental education in all aspects of this vital work. Course training covers a wide spectrum of ceremonial duties, including weddings, funerals, vow renewal, baby welcoming, and coming-of-age celebrations, among others, toward certification as a Life-Cycle Celebrant™.

The Celebrant Institute’s faculty is highly regarded, with extensive real-world experience. (Several faculty members are notable First Nation ceremonial ministers.) Courses are held throughout the year.

To find out more about the Celebrant Institute’s training and certification courses, please click here.

In addition, First Nation extends a 20% discount on complete ordination and other services to Celebrant Institute alumni and students. Please enter CFI20 in the “Discount” field when completing your order at FirstNationMinistry.com.

Our inset image is Norman Rockwell’s “The Marriage License” (1954), which appeared on the cover of the The Saturday Evening Post’s June 11, 1955, edition. Did you know you can get married at a replica of this scene at the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts? You can!

Life-Cycle Celebrant™ is a trademark of the Celebrant Foundation and Institute. First Nation is not otherwise affiliated with the Celebrant Institute, but we certainly love and appreciate the work they do!

California Ordination, Marriage License and Ceremony Information

Adapted from information provided by the State of California Department of Public Health, this article covers the most common situations involving the state’s marriage laws, and some of the complexities as well. And if you are interested in becoming ordained as a wedding officiant to perform marriage ceremonies in California — a very uncomplicated process — please click here.

State Seal of CaliforniaThis article will provide you with general information regarding the requirements for the issuance and registration of both public and confidential marriage licenses in California, as well as answer many frequently asked questions regarding the laws pertaining to marriage licenses and ceremonies in California.

If you are getting married in California, for further information please contact the County Clerk/Recorder’s Office in the county where you will be applying for the marriage license. Information regarding contacting the County Clerk/Recorder may be obtained at:
http://1.usa.gov/JK7766

The registration of public and confidential marriages in California is a local and state function. The California Family Code provides for a continuous and permanent marriage registration system. The system depends upon the conscientious efforts of local officials, clergy and other officiants in preparing the original records and in certifying the information on these records.

“Laws are mutually accepted rules by which, together, we maintain a free society. Liberty itself is built on a foundation of law. That foundation provides an orderly process for changing laws. It also depends on our obeying laws once they have been freely adopted.”

— From the Freedoms Foundation’s “Bill of Responsibilities”

County Clerk

The County Clerk issues public and confidential marriage licenses. The County Clerk is the local registrar of confidential marriages (Family Code, Section 511). The County Clerk maintains a permanent index of all confidential marriages registered.

Marriage Officiant

The marriage officiant, e.g., clergyperson or authorized individual who performs the marriage ceremony, is required by law to complete the marriage license and return it to the County Recorder’s office within 10 days of the event for registration. For confidential marriages, the marriage license is returned to the County Clerk’s office for registration. The State of California does not certify persons who intend to perform marriage ceremonies, and does not maintain a registry of persons permitted to perform ceremonies in the state. Bridal couples should ask their minister or officiant to present his or her active ordination credentials prior to the marriage ceremony.

For information on becoming ordained to perform marriage ceremonies in California, please click here.

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Renewing Your Ordination Term: The Why and The How

Another question that we on the WedMinTeam at FNC are often asked is (1) why do I have to renew my ordination term as a wedding officiant, and (2) how do I renew my ordination term?

The simple answer to 1 (the “why”) is that ordination isn’t for life. While some churches (and we all know who we’re talking about here) offer “lifetime ordination,” no real church or religious order grants unconditional ordination as a ceremonial minister for eternity.

What happens if you change your mind about your beliefs or your calling twelve years from now? Should we still consider you ordained? What about your personal information in our incredibly secure and private database? Should we continue maintaining it twenty years from now?

(The answer to these questions: no.)

According to our legal team, it makes sense from a legal standpoint to put a term limit on ordination. It precludes a bevy of potential problems from happening in the future.

The even simpler answer to 2 (the “how”) is for you to click here to go directly to our ordination renewal information page.

Once there, you’ll be asked to enter your name, your license number (if you have it; if you don’t, no problem) and the preferred length of your extended ordination term. Yes, it’s that simple.

Our ministers occasionally ask about how long their terms are, because it’s not on their documents. Actually, it is: look on the bottom-left corner of your ordination certificate, or in the body of your letter of good standing.

And if that doesn’t work, contact us and we’ll let you know! (You can email us directly using the handy form at the bottom of this article.)

Oh, and if your ordination expired a while back and you were busy doing other things and forgot to renew, you do not have to start over from scratch. Drop us a line and we’ll walk you through the simple reactivation process.

Want to to send us a message? Here you go…

 

The wonderful image accompanying this post was taken by Chris Moncus. To view Chris’ work and to book him for your ceremony, please visit ChrisMoncusPhoto.com.

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