Published: Friday, Mar. 26th, 2021

How to Officiate a Wedding For the First Time

This is a simplified look at the steps you’ll need to take to perform a wedding for the very first time -- from becoming an ordained minister to signing the marriage license!  


In each step, we've linked to additional resources offering detailed information to help you thoroughly understand what comes next, no matter where you are in the process. 




1. Get Ordained! 


This first step is simpler than it might seem. You can become ordained right now with AMM by completing an ordination form online.


Our ordinations are legal, recognized in every state, and we don’t require you to hold any particular spiritual belief. As an inclusive, interfaith, nondenominational organization, we welcome people of all faiths, spiritual backgrounds, and beliefs! Yes, this includes atheists or agnostics, too!



2. Check your state’s minister registration requirements.


Next, find out if you need to register as a minister in your state or county in order to perform marriage. Not all states or counties require registration, but many do. Order your minister credentials early, and register with enough time before the wedding date to avoid unexpected delays or stress.





3. Talk to your couple! 


Take the time to find out more about your couple’s relationship, including details like how they met, and what makes them so perfect together, as well as what components they want to include or avoid in their ceremony. 


Talk to them about sensitive topics -- especially the things they don’t want in their wedding -- and practical topics -- such as what they’d like you to wear or how they want to be referred to in the pronouncement. You’ll also want to ask how big the wedding will be, who’s on the guest list, and what the overall tone or feel of the day will be. 





4. Research what makes a great ceremony.


All officiants start at the same place… the beginning! Get off to a solid start. Read more about the parts of the ceremony and browse a few sample scripts to get familiar with what happens at a typical wedding, and what you're expected to say and do. If you’re writing the ceremony from scratch, make sure it includes a welcome, a declaration of intent, and a pronouncement (at the very least).


Research all the details:


AMM also offers hundreds of articles written for (and by!) wedding officiants to make learning fun. Our “first time officiant” tag will help you find articles written just for you! 



image of a couple during a wedding ceremony, only showing their torsos and clasped hands. The woman is in a white dress and the man is wearing a suit, with a blurred green background behind them to show the wedding is outdoors.

Ask your couple which elements they most want to include in the ceremony,

and which they want to avoid.



5. Practice.


Read your script out loud until it feels familiar and natural. Time it! Then show the couple your script to get their feedback, and make any needed changes. Practice any special unity rituals included in the ceremony. 


You can find instructions on performing customs like handfasting and sand ceremonies on our Blog (just enter the term you want to find in the search bar), along with tips on holding a rehearsal with your couple, getting over stage fright, and more. Practice, practice, practice!





6. Perform the ceremony. 


The wedding day! The most important job of the officiant on the wedding day (besides signing the marriage license) is to make things as calm and joyful for the couple as possible.


Show up early, talk to any special guests involved in the ceremony to make sure they have everything they need, and keep your energy and focus on the stars of the day -- the couple! 


If you have your script with you and show up early, all of your preparation and excitement will pay off. Don’t forget to have fun and create wonderful memories! 



7. Complete the marriage license.


It’s the couple’s responsibility to bring the marriage license to the ceremony, and it’s your responsibility to complete and sign it following the ceremony! You can read all about filling out the marriage license on our Officiant Training pages


Some states require the wedding officiant to file the license with the county, while others encourage the couple to return it themselves. And all states have a deadline for when the license must be returned! Find out the rules for your county and state, and file as directed.





8. Take things (and yourself) lightly!  


Lastly, remember to have fun and enjoy the process. Marrying two people is a big responsibility, and performing a ceremony in front of guests can be stressful, but it’s also an amazing opportunity. 


Give yourself permission to enjoy it! Keep things light, stay positive, and revise and practice your ceremony script until you’re comfortable. Just remember that at the end of the day, it’s all going to work out perfectly... Two people who love each other are going to be married! 



Check out: 





Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!