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Ordination vs. Government License: Do You Need to Register to Officiate Weddings in Your State?

Published Thursday, Feb. 6th, 2020

Learn the difference between ordination and minister licensing, and what steps you need to take to start officiating weddings in your state



If this is your first time officiating a wedding, your first concern might be, “How do I make sure the wedding is legal?”


The good news is, it’s actually pretty easy to do. But you’ll need to figure out the following:


Do you need a government minister license, or is your online ordination sufficient?
Let’s start by breaking down the difference, and then learn about which states require a government license or some other form of registration.





An ordination is the first, and often only requirement to officiate weddings in all 50 states.


Ordination grants someone the authority to perform certain acts as a “minister” or religious authority, sanctioned by a religious institution.


When you get ordained by American Marriage Ministries, it empowers you to legally join couples in marriage and sign the marriage license as an AMM minister. You don’t need to hold any specific beliefs. All that is required is a desire to help the couple celebrate a truly meaningful religious ceremony.


For better or worse, some states require an extra step.


Related: What Does it Mean to be an Ordained Minister?





That’s where the government registration or a license to solemnize marriage comes in. States that license ministers to officiate weddings do so in order to keep track of who is performing this task, and to regulate who officiates.
The process is different in every state, but generally it involves filling out a registration form, proving that you are an ordained minister, and paying a fee.
While it’s always a good idea to have your ordination credentials in hand, many states and/or counties actually require them. If you are planning on performing a wedding, click here to get your official documents.


Here’s a list of states that require registration:


  1. Arkansas
  2. Delaware
  3. District of Columbia
  4. Hawaii
  5. Louisiana
  6. Massachusetts
  7. Minnesota
  8. Nevada
  9. New Hampshire
  10. New York
  11. Ohio
  12. Puerto Rico
  13. Vermont
  14. Virginia
  15. West Virginia


If you live in one of these states or are performing a wedding in one, we’ve got step-by-step instructions on how to register and get your minister license. (If you’re in a non-registration state - such as Oregon - all you need is your ordination.) 



Head to our Weddings by State: Officiant Registration By State page and select your state to get started. 


Do you have more questions?


Check out our state minister registration pages. We provide details down to the city level to help you get ordained, file your paperwork, and create an amazing wedding ceremony!



Updated July 12, 2022



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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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