Published: Monday, Apr. 20th, 2020
Altering wedding plans can be overwhelming, but the good news is that it’s still possible to get married right now, and being able to establish some security in a time of crisis can be comforting. Even if your ceremony won’t be what you envisioned, you still have options that are legal and meaningful. Here’s our action plan, which is comprised of three major components: The Marriage License, The Officiant, and The Ceremony.
First, you’ll need to have a valid marriage license in hand.
We don’t have our marriage license yet…
If you don’t already have your marriage license, you’ll need to contact your local marriage bureau or county clerk’s office. We recommend searching, "marriage bureau in [County Name]."
Try calling and speaking with someone first before visiting in person to check whether there are any changes to their operations or hours.
• If they're still issuing marriage licenses, ask how to quickly apply for and receive your marriage license, and what kind of timeline and delays to anticipate.
• If they're not issuing marriage licenses, politely ask for a referral to another office where you can get a marriage license.
- OR -
We already have our marriage license!
Once you're in possession of your marriage license (and honoring any waiting periods, if applicable), you may proceed with securing your wedding officiant and any necessary witness(es), and having your ceremony.
Designate a capable individual as your wedding officiant who's well-suited to your ceremony's needs. Whether your wedding officiant is a hired pro or – in a pinch – the ordained next-door neighbor, you need to make sure they’re fully authorized to perform your ceremony, and that they’ve completed any required officiant registration procedures beforehand.
I’ve already hired a wedding officiant to perform my ceremony.
Contact your hired wedding officiant to see if they can reschedule and make alternate ceremony plans with you. Be patient with your vendors, as they’re probably working overtime with other couples to accommodate their wedding plan changes, too.
• If your intended officiant is available to marry you on a different date – that’s wonderful!
• Otherwise, if your officiant is unable to assist you, or if you just never got around to choosing one (we’ll avoid wagging our fingers here) – keep reading.
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I need to find an officiant… like, right now…
Since the wedding ceremony is a legally binding contract, the couple and the wedding officiant will more than likely need to conduct the ceremony together in-person. Marriage laws vary across the country, so it's super important to make sure that you are in full compliance with your local policies.
• Option #1: Hire a Pro
Have a civil service at a local courthouse with a government official, or find a wedding officiant through referrals from other vendors or local listings. Be courteous, and keep in mind that a lot of professionals and government offices are experiencing unprecedented difficulties right now – so be mentally prepared for delayed responses, or to hear that you can’t be accommodated.
• Option #2: Ordain an Emergency Officiant
A quick and efficient solution is to have someone close by – a friend who lives down the street! a roommate or family member that you reside with! – get ordained online with us at theamm.org to be your wedding officiant.
Remember, some places have strict registration requirements for ministers and wedding officiants. However, many of these registration processes are easily completed by mail. As long as you're prompt and accurate in completing your paperwork via expedited mailing methods, you can achieve a quick turnaround time.
No matter who your officiant is, be certain they’re both willing and lawfully able to perform your ceremony. This means that they’ll be able to leave their home and practice safe social-distancing (this also goes for any required witnesses!) and legally qualified to perform your ceremony.
Important: Please read this if you are considering having a Skype or virtual wedding ceremony.
Once you’ve secured your marriage license and ensured that your officiant is in compliance with any local marriage laws and registration requirements, you may complete the in-person legal component of your ceremony! Determine your socially-distanced ceremony style:
The Private "Just to Make It Legal” Ceremony
If you wish, you can have a brief, private ceremony with your designated Emergency Officiant to take care of the formalities and legalities - and have your “big” celebratory ceremony with friends and family later on.
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Livestream Your Ceremony
Your intimate, socially-distanced ceremony can be as fancy or simple as you want it to be. If you want to share your ceremony with loved ones and make the day memorable, you can livestream your nuptials by inviting everyone to witness your "I Do's" via Skype or Zoom. (Remember, in most places, the officiant must be physically present for the legally binding ceremony.) Just make sure to coordinate all of the logistics and have a tripod ready to go, or ask the present-but-socially-distant witness to act as cameraman!
So, don't fear: there are still ways to get married right now and satisfy those legal and personal stipulations. When possible, you should continue to maintain a safe distance between the officiant and witness(es) during your ceremony. You can also use facemasks, use separate pens, sanitize your writing spaces – and do whatever else you can do to practice legal and social responsibility when getting married during a global pandemic!