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Are there legal wording requirements in a wedding ceremony?

Published Friday, Jul. 31st, 2020

Este articulo en español

Two wedding rings in ring boxes are placed on top of a printed wedding ceremony script.

What wording is required in wedding ceremony? This is what the officiant needs to know... and say! 



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AMM Audio Articles · Are There Legal Wording Requirements in a Wedding Ceremony?




With couples opting for more unique and personalized wedding ceremonies these days, many AMM Ministers want to know if there are any special wording requirements to make sure things are legal. This is a pretty valid question since, after all, marriage is a legally binding contract.


En español: ¿Existen requerimientos legales de redacción para una ceremonia de bodas?


The short answer, though, is no. Believe it or not, a legal marriage ceremony is simply comprised of:


  • an exchange of vows or promises (facilitated by an authorized officiant, unless the ceremony is self-solemnizing)


  • a pronouncement from the officiant


  • a valid, state-issued marriage license that has been completed and signed


…and that’s it!


While no specific words or phrases are legally required to be used in the wedding ceremony, couples still must make / exchange their Declaration of Intent, and the officiant must make the Pronouncement.



The Declaration of Intent is the part of the ceremony where the couple verbally declares that they wish to enter into the marriage contract and intend to legally commit to one another.


This is often heard in the form of, “Do you take ______ as your lawful/wedded _______?” and “I do,” but can be worded any way the couple prefers.



The Pronouncement or Proclamation is the part of the ceremony where the officiant pronounces the couple as officially and legally wed. 


This is often heard as, “And now, with the power vested in me by American Marriage Ministries, I pronounce you…”  Again, this official proclamation can be made in any way the couple wishes.


After the ceremony, the couple's marriage license must be completed, signed, and returned, so that the marriage can be officially recorded. (Visit Completing the Marriage License to learn more.)




A woman in a white wedding dress clasps hands with her new spouse, who is wearing a maroon colored wedding suit. The couple are making their declaration of intent, followed by their wedding vows! In the photo, only the couple's torso, arms, and hands are visible. There is a plain white background.



This means that ultimately, couples and officiants have the freedom to create an entirely customized wedding ceremony from scratch. As long as the Declaration of Intent and Pronouncement are included, the wedding ceremony can incorporate heartfelt readings from friends and family, the exchange of personalized vows, songs, skits, special unity rituals, and be as long -- or short -- as desired.


That said, we cannot stress enough the importance of preparation when it comes to writing the ceremony. Whether you’re on your own for the majority of the ceremony or working with the couple’s detailed vision and instruction, our popular officiant guidebook Asked to Officiate is an invaluable resource when it comes to crafting meaningful wedding ceremonies.



Order Asked to Officiate 


A copy of AMM's step by step guide to officiating a wedding and planning a marriage ceremony is sitting on a desk next to a cup of coffee and a few other wedding books, including a book on custom vows. The book, Asked to Officiate, is blue with white lettering on the cover. The coffee cup is full, but not full enough!



Couples planning a unique wedding can order a copy of Navigating Your Wedding Ceremony -- a one-of-a-kind ceremony guide written with engaged couples in mind, with insight from a professional wedding officiant! 


Article updated April 2022



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