If you've been asked to officiate, you will want to follow this officiant timeline to ensure you're allowing plenty of time to register, work with the couple, write the ceremony, and practice!
Here at American Marriage Ministries, we are frequently asked questions regarding timelines of ordination and performing marriage.
Like, How long does it take to get ordained? How long will it take to complete officiant registration in New York City? When will my paperwork and credentials arrive? When should I meet with the couple? When should I start practicing and rehearsing the ceremony? (Hint: Several of these are answered in our FAQs.)
We realize that many folks are asked to officiate at the last minute (which is totally awesome/fine, and we're still here to help you in a time crunch!) - but in order to deliver the best ceremony possible, this is what an ideal officiant timeline should look like:
Immediately review marriage laws and registration policies in the state where you will be performing marriage.
Consider ordering Asked to Officiate – our AMM exclusive, in-depth officiant guidebook – right away.
At least 9 Months Before the Wedding (or as soon as the date is set)
Meet with the couple and begin your discussions about ceremony expectations. Ask questions, take detailed notes, and gather as much information about the wedding and the couple as possible. This will help shape the ceremony and hone in on the details that will make it unique to them.
3-9 Months Before the Wedding
Order your credentials or registration materials 3-9 months before the wedding. Allow yourself enough time for your documentation to arrive in the mail, and then additional time to submit it to your county clerk’s office without worrying about rushing.
Note that if you order registration materials too early (more than a year in advance), the county clerk’s office may request a newer set of documents, which will mean you have to re-order some updated materials, potentially delaying your registration. But if you order them too late, you risk not being able to register in time.
Remember, regardless of where you live, you will want to order your credentials for the state (and/or county) where the wedding ceremony will be taking place.
3-6 Months Before the Wedding
If you have not yet begun, it is time to officially draft the ceremony script. Check in with the couple as needed to ensure you are all still on the same page (quite literally) with the desired ceremony components.
Finalize the ceremony with the couple, and get their approval on the finished version of the ceremony you have created.
Confirm that the couple already has or will pick up their marriage license.
Practice, practice, practice the ceremony!
Day Before the Wedding
Typically, this is when couples hold their wedding rehearsal. While it’s not always possible to attend, it is highly recommended. (Note that many professional officiants will offer to be at the rehearsal for an additional fee. Some officiants absolutely insist on attending the rehearsal, and automatically include the rehearsal + fee in their pricing.)
Carefully review the couple’s marriage license policies and return information.
Marriage license return policies vary across the country, so important things to note are: how long you have to return the completed license, where it must be returned to, who must return it (the couple or the officiant), and whether it must be returned in-person or by mail.
Day of the Wedding!
Bring several copies of the ceremony script - including a digital copy (emailed to yourself or saved on a mobile device) and printed paper copies.