Minister Licensing Requirements in the State of California
A guide to performing marriage.
You have been asked to perform a wedding and you want to learn more about the process. Continue reading to learn the steps that you must take to perform marriage in the State of California as an AMM minister.
Minister Licensing Summary
No Minister Registration Required California Law 400
Minimum Minister Age: 18 Years
Minister's Residency: Irrelevant
Same-Sex Marriage Recognized: Yes
How to Perform Marriage
1. Become an Ordained Minister
American Marriage Ministries is a non-profit, interfaith and non-denominational church, with the mission to ensure that all people have the right to perform marriage. We offer ordination to all people, regardless of religious background or spiritual philosophy, that agree with our three tenets:
- All people, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, have the right to marry.
- It is the right of every couple to choose who will solemnize their marriage.
- All people have the right to solemnize marriage.
Applying to become an AMM Minister is not a declaration of exclusive faith, it is an act of allowing our tenets to coexist with personal beliefs. We encourage people of all backgrounds to find community within the simple tenets of our faith.
About Our Ordination
The AMM Ordination is free, requires no special course of study, and takes only a moment. Our goal is to help people on their path to performing marriage for friends and family.
A wedding is a momentus spiritual event, but the legal act of solemnizing marriage involves nothing more than signing a piece of paper. We believe that completion of this legal act does not necessitate the time, expense, and academia of a traditional seminarial degree. The act of solemnizing marriage historically belonged exclusively to the people; it is only recently that marriage has become the domain of the state.
Our ordination is informed by these facts - we exist to protect the right of all people to solemnize marriage. If you have been asked by people close to you to solemnize their marriage, we believe you have the right to.
2. Prepare for Performing Marriage
Preparing to officiate a wedding involves two major steps:
- Complying with any applicable government regulations.
- Preparing what you will say for the ceremony.
We will discuss both steps in more detail below, but to fully utilize our resources we recommend you register the wedding using the AMM Wedding Helper - a free tool AMM Ministers can use to prepare for performing marriage.
a. Minister Licensing Requirements
In California no laws exist requiring ministers to register with any government office in order to perform marriage though all wedding officiants must be at least 18 years of age. Same-sex marriages are recognized in California.
The only step you need to take to have the legal authority to perform marriage is to become an AMM minister. Our ordination is free and does not expire. You do not need prior ministerial experience and we welcome people of all beliefs and backgrounds.
If you would like to confirm for yourself that you do not need to register with the California State Government, you can contact the in the locality where the marriage is taking place:
Please select a county to view their specific contact information.
Please be aware that government workers are prohibited from giving anything that may be construed as legal advice. As such they may provide indirect answers if asked pointed questions. Regarding the legality of performing marriage, the most important question to ask is "I am an AMM minister. Will you dutifully record the completed marriage license if I officiate the wedding and the marriage license has been properly completed and returned within the timeframe specified by the State?".
Though not required, we encourage you to order your California Minister Licensing Package. The minister licensing package includes your Ordination Certificate and Letter of Good Standing and is good to keep for your own records.
Standard shipping for all orders is 3-10 business days, depending on where in the country your package is being shipped. We also offer expedited shipping methods in case you are on a tighter timeline.
b. Preparing the Ceremony
Many AMM Ministers get ordained to perform their first marriage and are often unsure of the process. Aside from legal concerns, the biggest fear most people have is public speaking. Hakuna Matata! Plan ahead, practice, and you will do a great job.
A typical wedding ceremony is only 10-20 minutes long, and follows a time tested format. Remember that you have been personally chosen by the couple, so when you go to speak the most important two people already have faith in your ability. Weddings are a celebration with friends and family – the best audience anyone could ask for.
If you have never conducted a wedding or are simply looking to refresh your knowledge, visit the Wedding Training section of our site.
Our Wedding Training resources will walk you through a wedding ceremony discussing the structure, providing a sample, and more.
Every wedding is unique, and the couple will want to personalize the format of their ceremony. Since you already know them, you should have no trouble collaborating and choosing your words for the ceremony.
Once the script is set, we highly recommend that you rehearse the ceremony by yourself and in front of friends. Setting aside the time to practice is invaluable. With enough practice, you will be fully prepared to confidently officiate your first wedding.
3. Officiate the Wedding
By this point you should be fully prepared to officiate the wedding. This part is all up to you. Have fun!
Handling the Marriage License
This is the legal component, filling out a form and signing your name. In the eyes of the state, solemnizing marriage is simply acting as a third party administering a contract (the marriage license) between two people.
On the wedding day, either before or after the ceremony, the couple will present you with their marriage license. Your job is to look over the information, confirm that it is accurate, and complete your portion of the license.
Marriage Licenses can vary dramatically in appearance, but they all ask for a similar set of information. Once the license is in front of you it should be clear. Our Handling the Marriage License page explains all of the forms that may appear on a marriage license.
Once completed, you or the couple return the license to its issuing office (usually by mail). In California the completed marriage license must be returned within 10 days of the wedding. The Marriage License is then recorded and forwarded to a state office, that state office records it, and the marriage becomes a legal binding contract.
About the Marriage License (FOR THE COUPLE)
* The information in this box is not for the minister, but for the couple. Regardless we have included this information here for reference.
The marriage license is the legal document of marriage filed for by the couple from the County Clerk before the wedding day. The marriage license is the document absolutely required for the marriage to be legal in the eyes of the State.
California Marriage License Info:
Issuing Office: County Clerk
Waiting Period: None
Expiration: 90 Days
Return: 10 Days from Wedding
Waiting Period: The minimum amount of time the couple must wait to get married from the date that they are granted their marriage license.
Expiration: The amount of time that the marriage license is valid from its issuance date.
Return: The amount of time that the completed marriage license must be returned after the wedding.
That’s all there is to it!
As of March 1st, 2015, American Marriage Ministries has ordained 26,225 AMM Ministers in the State of California, who have registered 4,841 weddings. What's This?Top
400 Persons Authorized to Solemnize Marriage
Although marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil, and not a religious, contract, a marriage may be solemnized by any of the following who is 18 years of age or older:
(a) A priest, minister, rabbi, or authorized person of any religious denomination. A person authorized by this subdivision shall not be required to solemnize a marriage that is contrary to the tenets of his or her faith. Any refusal to solemnize a marriage under this subdivision, either by an individual or by a religious denomination, shall not affect the tax-exempt status of any entity.
(b) A judge or retired judge, commissioner of civil marriages or retired commissioner of civil marriages, commissioner or retired commissioner, or assistant commissioner of a court of record in this state.
(c) A judge or magistrate who has resigned from office.
(d) Any of the following judges or magistrates of the United States:
(1) A justice or retired justice of the United States Supreme Court.
(2) A judge or retired judge of a court of appeals, a district court, or a court created by an act of Congress the judges of which are entitled to hold office during good behavior.
(3) A judge or retired judge of a bankruptcy court or a tax court.
(4) A United States magistrate or retired magistrate.
(e) A legislator or constitutional officer of this state or a Member of Congress who represents a district within this state, while that person holds office.
Family Code - Division 3: Marriage - Part 3: Solemnization of Marriage - Chapter 1: Persons Authorized to Solemnize Marriage