Everything You Need to Know About Getting Ordained

Consider this your ultimate guide.

Contributing Writer
hana olu wedding california ceremony
Photography by: Patrick Moyer

So you've been tapped to officiate your friend or family member's wedding. Congrats! It's clear you're very important to them. While the couple is most focused on getting an intimate experience at the altar, it's your job to nail the details. It's not quite as simple as just being asked, but it's not too tough either (as long as you follow the rules). Use this quick five-step guide to make sure you'll be an officiant extraordinaire.

 

15 Things Your Officiant Wished You Knew

Step 1: Find out the rules in your state.

Check with the county clerk's office to find out what your state's specific rules and paperwork requirements are for officiants. Some states have very strict regulations on who can perform a wedding. Nevada is a perfect yet surprising example. It may be known as Sin City and all about fun, but ordained ministers that live in Nevada and don't have an active congregation are prohibited from performing marriages. If you're from a state other than Nevada and wish to perform a wedding there, it can take up to six weeks to be approved.  

 

Step 2: Choose your organization.

It's as easy as a quick internet search. A few of the most popular online options are the American Fellowship Church, Universal Life Church, and United National Ministry. Once you've picked an organization, call up the county clerk's office to make sure your choice fits their rules.

 

Step 3: Fill out the online forms, pay any fees, and obtain credentials.

It's best not to leave this step until last minute. While some organizations, like the Universal Life Church, will let you fill out the online forms and immediately access your ID card and license in PDF format. Others aren't as quick. The United National Ministry ordination form only takes about five minutes to fill out online, but it takes another one to two weeks to get your ordination packet with your credentials in the mail. And have your credit card handy. Many of these organizations won't charge you to be ordained, but they do require fees for the credentials. The American Fellowship Church fees range from $30 for a one-year minister license ID card and membership up to $260 for a lifetime membership.

 

Step 4: Gather your paperwork.

When you checked in with the county clerk's office, they should have also provided you with information about applications, credentials, and fees related to performing a wedding. Some states may require nothing more than you becoming ordained with an organization, while others will require you to register your credentials. For example, if you're ordained through the American Fellowship Church and performing a wedding in Hawaii, New York, or Ohio, you'll need a special letter of authorization you can acquire for $10 from the church's website. And the fees don't stop there. In Massachusetts, you'll pay a $20 fee to apply online (takes five business days) or $25 in person (takes four to six weeks) for a one-day designation certificate.

 

Step 5: Perform the ceremony and file the marriage license.

After the ceremony, complete the marriage license. You’ll need two witnesses and the happily married couple with you to complete it. Now all you have to do is mail it. Be sure to pay close attention to your state’s rules on how soon it must be mailed so that you don’t miss the window.

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About the Author

Tia Albright

Tia's love affair with weddings started with 16 sweet little words, "Dad, I met a man in Rome, and he's wonderful and brilliant, and we're getting married." That was all it took. Now she's married and writing about cakes, dresses, and décor to her heart's content, and she still watches Father of the Bride at least once a year (OK, maybe more like three or four times).

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