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Can a Wedding Officiant Also be a Witness on a Marriage License?

Published Friday, Apr. 7th, 2023

A marriage license is the most important thing any couple can bring to their wedding ceremony. It’s more important than wedding rings, an extra copy of the marriage vows, and even that gorgeous wedding suit that took weeks to pick out – because without a marriage license, the happy couple can’t get married! 


After the wedding ceremony, the marriage license is signed and returned to the appropriate office. The couple and the wedding officiant must sign the license, and some states also require one or two witness signatures. 




What happens if there’s no witness present to sign the marriage license? 


But what happens if there’s no witness (or witnesses) present to sign the marriage license after the ceremony?


This might happen during a small ‘just us’ elopement ceremony, if the couple doesn’t know they need to invite a witness (or two) to join them. It can also come up if a witness is late to the ceremony or can’t attend due to unexpected illness. 


In these cases, you might wonder if a wedding officiant sign the marriage license twice – once as the presiding clergy and a second time as a witness?

Ask AMM:


Can a wedding officiant sign the marriage license twice – 
Once as the presiding clergy and a second time as a witness?


The answer is: No. 


A wedding officiant cannot double as a witness for the purpose of signing your marriage license. 


If a marriage ceremony takes place in a state that requires one or two witnesses to sign a marriage license, the couple will need to invite at least one or two guests to join them. 


Couples can ask anyone to serve as a witness at their ceremony, as long as they meet the age requirements in that state. In most cases, a witness must be at least 18 years old, but this varies by state. 


What to do if you don’t have the required witness/es on the wedding day 


If you find yourself without a necessary witness when it’s time to sign a license, don’t panic.


Many couples choose to hold a second, short, ‘license signing ceremony’ following their symbolic ceremony in order to make things legal. These quick signing ceremonies are also called a ‘make it legal’ or ‘sign and go’ ceremony. 



If a ceremony is being held in public, such as a public park or cafe, consider asking a stranger to step in as a witness. A witness doesn’t have to be someone the couple knows (but they may need to provide their photo ID and a home address).


Once the license has been signed by the couple, the officiant, and any required witnesses, it can be returned to the appropriate office and filed. 


Click the link below to see a list of states that require witness signatures on a marriage license:




Illustrated image of a bride and groom with a wedding officiant, a marriage license, a pen, and a gavel

Did you know? Many states require a witness, or pair of witnesses, to sign the marriage license. The witnesses must complete their required fields & sign the document.



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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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