How to become a marriage officiant

Updated July 20, 2017

Becoming a marriage officiant is more popular today than ever before and offers you the chance to start your own marriage business either full or part time. Often, a bride and groom choose to use an officiant because neither belong to any organised religion but they want more than a ceremony performed by a Justice of the Peace. Although most officiants are members of an organised religious group with an established congregation, some officiants receive an online ordination to qualify as an officiant under state law.

Research the law regarding officiants in your home state. In some instances, this may require you to register at a county clerk's office, be ordained by a church, have a degree in religion or complete various studies. Because laws vary by state, it's critical to know what's required in your state for the marriage ceremony to be official. As an example, in California, Native American medicine men can perform as an officiant.

Become a minister in an organised church. In virtually every instance, an ordained minister of an organised religious group can become an officiant.

Complete your application at an o-line site such as Universal Life Church to become an ordained minister. Again, check with laws in your state--some states require ministers to be associated with a physical congregation while others do not recognise the legitimacy of an online ordination. In Maryland, for example, any adult can sign as clergy, as long as the couple who is getting married agree that he is a clergy. In addition, the officiant doesn't have to be a resident of the state.

Check your state's official website regarding marriages (often found under departments such as Health and Human Services) to see if the state offers a 24-hour officiant license. Some states will permit a family member or close friend to perform the wedding ceremony because the bride and groom may want the ceremony to be performed by someone close to them. The Marriage Laws website (see Resources) can help you make this determination.

Check to see if boat captains qualify. Some ship captains are authorised to perform weddings, but this is not always true. Some states will allow a ship's captain to be an officiant but only if the person meets the same requirements as any other officiant. Skippering a ship doesn't automatically qualify you to perform weddings.


Keep good records of the ceremonies you perform. Many states require officiants to file notification of a marriage within a certain number of days after performing a ceremony. Keep good financial records of expenses and revenue if you are starting an officiant business.


Make sure your officiant duties fall within state law--after all, you don't want to put the legitimacy of the marriage at risk.

Things You'll Need

  • Appropriate ordination or other licensure as required by state law
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About the Author

Nancy Hendrickson is the author of five books and more than 1,000 magazine and web articles. Her credits include articles for Laptop, Family Tree Magazine, History, I.D., eBay, Tech Edge, Mobile Computing, Personal Journaling, and Today's Collector. She is a graduate of Missouri Western University, and a member of Western Writers of America.