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How to Become a Wedding Celebrant & Officiate a Wedding for the First Time

Published Thursday, Nov. 3rd, 2022

Cover image by Carsten Vollrath

It only takes a few simple steps to become a wedding celebrant, beginning with online ordination through American Marriage Ministries



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AMM Audio Articles · How to Become a Wedding Celebrant & Officiate a Wedding for the First Time




A wedding celebrant, also commonly known as a marriage officiant or wedding officiant in the U.S., is the person who performs a wedding ceremony and signs a couple’s marriage license – making their marriage legal. 
To become a wedding celebrant and perform a wedding for the first time, follow the simple steps listed below. 
These steps cover everything that’s required to serve as first-time marriage celebrant, from getting ordained to signing the marriage license!
In each step, we've linked to additional resources that offer detailed information to help you thoroughly understand what comes next, no matter where you are in the process. 

What’s the difference between an Officiant and a Celebrant? 

Marriage ‘officiants’ and ‘celebrants’ serve the same purpose, they just go by different names. ‘Wedding officiant’ is most common in the U.S., while ‘celebrant’ is more common in the U.K., Australia, and elsewhere. However, popularity of the term ‘celebrant’ is rising in the U.S., as more people embrace secular, non-religious, non-denominational and non-traditional spiritual ceremonies to celebrate milestones like marriage. ‘Celebrant’ can refer to any ordained officiant when used generally, or to Humanist Celebrants in specific.  

Learn the basics here : ...So What Does a Wedding Officiant Really Do?



1. Get Ordained! 


This first step is simpler than it might seem. You can get ordained online right now with American Marriage Ministries by completing an ordination form online for free.
AMM’s ordinations are legal, recognized in every state, and we don’t require you to hold any particular spiritual belief. As an inclusive, interfaith, nondenominational church, we welcome people of all faiths, backgrounds, and beliefs. Yes, this includes atheists, agnostics, humanists, pagans, and many others!




2. Check your state’s minister registration requirements.


Next, find out if you need to register as a minister in your state or county in order to perform marriage. Not all states or counties require minister registration, but many do. Order your minister credentials early, and register with enough time before the wedding date to avoid unexpected delays or stress.



Once you’ve successfully completed these first two steps, you’re legally authorized to marry couples in your state.



Close up photo of a bride and groom holding hands during an outdoor wedding ceremony

Get ready for the big day...



Now it’s time to perform your first wedding ceremony!



3. Talk to your couple! 


Take the time to find out more about the relationship between the couple you’ve been asked to marry, including details like how they met, and what makes them so perfect together, as well as what components they want to include or avoid in their ceremony. 


Talk to them about sensitive topics (especially the things they don’t want in their wedding) and practical topics, such as what they’d like you to wear or how they want to be referred to in the pronouncement. 

You’ll also want to ask how big the wedding will be, who’s on the guest list, and what the overall tone or feel of the day will be. 





4. Research what makes a great ceremony.


All marriage celebrants start at the same place… the beginning! 


Get off to a solid start. Read more about the parts of a wedding ceremony and browse a few sample wedding ceremony scripts to get familiar with what happens at a typical wedding, and what you're expected to say and do. If you’re writing the ceremony from scratch, make sure it includes a welcome, a declaration of intent, and a pronouncement (at the very least).


Research all the details:



AMM also offers hundreds of articles on our blog, written for (and by!) wedding officiants and celebrants to make learning fun. Start by browsing Articles for First Time Officiants or dive right in:




Two young brides embrace while friends and family look on after the wedding ceremony

Ask your couple which elements they most want to include in the ceremony, and which they want to avoid.



5. Practice.


Read your wedding script out loud until it feels familiar and natural. Don’t forget to time it to make sure it’s not too long or too short. Then show the couple your script to get their feedback, and make any needed changes. Practice any special unity rituals included in the ceremony. 


You can find instructions on performing customs like handfasting and sand ceremonies on our Blog (just enter the term you want to find in the search bar), along with tips on holding a rehearsal with your couple, getting over stage fright, and more. Practice, practice, practice!





6. Perform the ceremony. 


The wedding day! The most important job of the officiant on the wedding day (besides signing the marriage license) is to make things as calm and joyful for the couple as possible.


Show up early, talk to any special guests involved in the ceremony to make sure they have everything they need, and keep your energy and focus on the stars of the day -- the couple! 


If you have your script with you and show up early, all of your preparation and excitement will pay off. Don’t forget to have fun and create wonderful memories! 





A young wedding officiant looks down at his wedding ceremony script while laughing happily, behind him are green leaves

Looking good! 



7. Complete the marriage license.


It’s the couple’s responsibility to bring the marriage license to the ceremony, and it’s your responsibility to complete and sign it following the ceremony! You can read all about filling out the marriage license on our Wedding Officiant Training pages. 
Some states require the celebrant to file the license with the county, while others encourage the couple to return it themselves. And all states have a deadline for when the license must be returned! Find out the rules for your county and state, and file as directed.




8. Remember to have fun! 


Lastly, remember to have fun and enjoy the process. Marrying two people is a big responsibility, and performing a ceremony in front of guests can be stressful, but it’s also an amazing opportunity. 
Give yourself permission to enjoy it! Keep things light, stay positive, and revise and practice your ceremony script until you’re comfortable. Just remember that at the end of the day, it’s all going to work out perfectly... Two people who love each other are going to be married! 



You might also like: 



Photo of a flower arrangement and colorful wooden cutouts of letters spelling out 'wedding'


Take note: There are 5 questions every great marriage officiant should ask during a first meeting or early planning session. Learn more. 



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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

Lewis King
Lewis King

Staff Writer

Lewis loves exploring the space between power, discourse, and material reality where institutions like marriage are defined. He also wears other hats at AMM, like taking out the recycling and restocking the sparkling water.

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