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How to Get Ordained Online & Officiate a Friend’s Wedding Ceremony

Published Thursday, Mar. 30th, 2023

How to officiate a friend or family member’s wedding ceremony, from your ordination application to signing the marriage license


You’ve been asked to officiate a friend or family member’s wedding! This is fantastic news – for you and for the happy couple. 


This article explains everything you need to do to conduct a legal wedding ceremony, from how to get ordained to how to write an awesome speech and sign the marriage license. 




A wedding officiant performs a ceremony outdoors on the beach under an arch while the bride and groom laugh and smile

Asked to officiate a wedding for friends or relatives? Here's what to do next!


10 Simple Steps to Officiate a Friend’s Wedding Ceremony… Starting with Online Ordination  


1. Get Ordained Online! 


This first step is probably the easiest of all. You can get ordained online with AMM right now by completing this ordination application.

AMM's minister ordinations are legally recognized in every state (except Virginia). American Marriage Ministries is an inclusive, interfaith, nondenominational church. We ordain people from all backgrounds and walks of life, and we don’t require you to hold any particular spiritual beliefs (this goes for atheists and agnostics, too).

2. Check your state’s minister registration requirements


Next, click the link below to see if you’re required to register locally before performing a marriage ceremony. Not all states or counties require minister registration, but many do. 

If the wedding takes place somewhere that requires registration, you’ll need to provide proof that you’re ordained – these are your ‘minister credentials.’


You can order your minister credentials directly from AMM. Just be sure to leave enough time before the wedding date to file the necessary paperwork.




3. Understand the responsibilities of an officiant


Before you start planning what to say on the big day, it’s important to have a solid understanding of all your responsibilities as the officiant. Once you know what’s expected of you, you can sit down with your friends and map out their ceremony with confidence.

In simplest terms, as the wedding officiant, it’s your job to conduct the ceremony, confirm that your friends really want to marry each other, pronounce them married, and sign the marriage license. Depending on where you live, it might also be your responsibility to return the completed marriage license to the clerk’s or registrar’s office. 

Here’s a more detailed description of what an officiant does: 





Two grooms kiss following the ceremony, they stand outdoors on steps in front of the building while friends stand on either side, clapping and smiling


4. Learn the basic outline of a wedding ceremony 

If you’ve never been married (and even if you have), you might not know the usual order of a wedding ceremony. Before you sit down with your friends to work out the details, we suggest you read a few sample wedding ceremony scripts to learn the basics. 

(A ‘wedding ceremony script’ is just what it sounds like – it’s the written text of everything the officiant and couple will say and do during the wedding. Very helpful!)




 5. Meet with the couple & gather ideas for the ceremony


Now it’s time to sit down with your friends and plan their ceremony! 

First, ask your friends what they’d like the tone and feel of their wedding to be. Will it be casual or formal? Traditional or non-traditional? Is there a theme? How many people do they plan to invite, and what do they expect you to wear?

Next, ask if they’d like to include (or avoid) any special elements in the ceremony, such as a religious reading or a unity ceremony. Do they want to write their own wedding vows, or stick to the classics?

Then, ask questions about what makes their relationship unique, including how they met, what they admire most about each other, and what makes them perfect together. Even if you’ve been friends for a while, their answers might surprise you! You can sprinkle these sweet details and any stories they share into your ceremony script. 


For bonus points, make sure that the couple has applied for (or plans to apply for) their marriage license. It’s the couple’s responsibility to bring the marriage license with them to the ceremony for you to sign. 


6. Write a wedding ceremony script (or choose a template)


Now that you know the basic order of a wedding ceremony, and the feel and tone your friends are looking for, it’s time to write a wedding ceremony script. 

Use the sample wedding scripts in our library as a starting point, or check out this unique fill-in-the-blanks template – specially designed for friend officiants like you!


Include all the elements and details your friends talked about, and write from the heart. (If you don’t want to write your own script that’s ok! Just choose one you love from the script library.)


7. Practice, practice, practice!

Read your script out loud until it feels familiar and natural – but don’t try to memorize it. You’ll have a written copy with you on the wedding day to ensure you don’t miss anything! 

If there are special elements, like a handfasting ritual or unity candle lighting, rehearse them with the couple so everyone knows what to do during the ceremony. 




A wedding officiant performs a beautiful outdoor elopement ceremony for a bride and groom


8. Perform the ceremony


The wedding day! Bring at least two copies of your wedding script with you to the ceremony – and don’t forget to bring a pen to sign the marriage license. Perform the ceremony just like you practiced, and focus on keeping your friends calm and happy. Remember, you’re there to help them in any way you can! 

Show up early, greet the other wedding guests, and keep your energy and focus on the stars of the day -- the happy couple! If you have your script with you and arrive on time, all of your preparation and excitement will pay off. 

Don’t forget to have fun and create wonderful memories! 


9. Sign the marriage license


After the ceremony, you and your friends will sign the marriage license. We recommend you only use a black ink pen to ensure the license is accepted by the clerk. 

You can read all about filling out the marriage license (including what to write down as ‘title’ and ‘denomination’) on our Officiant Training pages. 


Depending on where you live, it might also be your responsibility to return the marriage license to the clerk’s office before the end of the return period. This information (who returns the license) is usually given to the couple when they apply for their license. 



10. Have fun!  


Lastly, remember to have fun and enjoy the process. Marrying two friends 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.


A group of friends laugh and smile posing together at the wedding ceremony

Congratulations on being asked to officiate! 

Have a fantastic wedding ceremony!





Watch now: The Officiant's Timeline






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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.

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