GET ORDAINED

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 13th, 2021

How to get a license to marry people - Officiating a wedding by the book

If you were asked to officiate a wedding ceremony recently, you probably thought, 

 

“Yes! But… How do I get a license to marry someone?” 

 

Turns out, it’s one of the most common questions we encounter from first-timers, and there’s a reason. You see, marriage is a legal contract, and like many other legal contracts, states tend to regulate who can, and can’t perform this act. 

 

The good news is, it’s actually pretty easy to become qualified to marry people. You might be surprised to learn that you don’t need a “license” to marry people -- at least not like the one that you need to drive a car on public roads, or go hunting at certain times of the year -- but you do need an ordination, and you might need to register with your state as an officiant. 

 


Here’s what you need to know:

 

1. The first step is to get ordained (and you can do it online)


2. States use the term ‘registration’ not ‘license’ for officiants


3. Some states require an officiant to register, some don’t 


4. Online ordination is all you’ll need to officiate legal weddings in most states


5. The people you marry will need a marriage license (but that’s their responsibility)

 


Let’s take these one at a time...

 

 

 

1. The first step is to get ordained (and you can do it online)

 

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. Get ordained online here.

 

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. Learn what it means to be an ordained minister here. 

 


2. States use the term ‘registration’ not ‘license’ for officiants

 

Instead of ‘licensing requirements’ for wedding officiants, some states have a process called ‘government registration.’ In these states, ordained ministers register with the government so that those governments can keep track of who’s performing marriage, 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. To prove that you’re ordained, they’ll ask you to submit copies of your ordination credentials (which include a Letter of Good Standing and Ordination Certificate). 

 


3. Some states require an officiant to register, some don’t 

 

Only some states require a wedding officiant to register with the state government before performing a marriage ceremony. 

 

States that require minister registration: 

 

Arkansas
District of Columbia
Hawaii, Louisiana
Massachusetts
Minnesota
Nevada
New Hampshire
New York
Ohio
Oklahoma
Puerto Rico
Virginia
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 minister ordination.

 


4. Online ordination is all you’ll need to officiate legal weddings in most states

 

Most states do not require a minister to register before conducting a wedding ceremony. If the wedding takes place in any state not listed above, all you’ll need is your online minister ordination. 

 

It’s still a good idea to have your ministry credentials on-hand, even in a non-registration state, in case you need to prove your ordination, or if you wish to marry people in another state. 

 


5. The people you marry will need a marriage license (but that’s their responsibility)

 

One license you’ll definitely need on the wedding day, no matter what, is the marriage license. A marriage license is a government issued document that makes the marriage a legally binding contract. It’s the form you’ll sign following the ceremony, along with the couple you’re marrying (and any witnesses), to confirm that the wedding took place. 

 

It’s the couple’s responsibility to apply for a marriage license, and to know how much time they have to use their license before it expires. 

 

After the marriage license has been signed on the day of the ceremony, it must be returned to the correct office promptly. This is done either by the couple, or by the officiant, depending on the state’s laws. 

 

 

 

Let’s recap…

 

You don’t need a license to marry people, but you do need an ordination, and you might need to register with your state as an officiant. 

 


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

 



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...So What Does a Wedding Officiant Really Do?
 

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