Minister Licensing Requirements in the State of California
A guide to performing marriage.
Regulations vary throughout the country, and it is important for ministers and couples to be informed. Continue reading to learn about performing 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 fellowship, allowing our tenets to coexist with personal beliefs. We believe that people of all backgrounds can 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.
The act of solemnizing marriage historically belonged to the people, and only recently has it become the domain of the state. A marriage is a momentus spiritual event, but the legal act of solemnizing marriage is nothing more than signing a piece of paper; a task that does not necessitate the time, expense, and academia of a traditional seminarial degree.
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 below, but to fully utilize our resources we recommend that you register the wedding that you will perform with the AMM Wedding Helper - a free tool for AMM Ministers.
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 authority to perform marriage is to become an AMM Minister. You do not need prior ministerial experience.
If you would like to confirm for yourself that you do not need to register with the California State government, you can contact the local County Clerk office's where the couple will apply for their marriage license:
Please select a county to view their specific contact information.
Please be aware that non-attorney government workers are prohibited from giving legal advice. If you ask about legal issues, you will likely receive indirect answers. Regarding your rights as an AMM Minister, the most important question to ask is "I am a minister. If I officiate a wedding and the marriage license is been properly completed and returned within the timeframe specified by the State, will you dutifully record the license?".
Though not required, we encourage you to order a Minister Licensing Package. The Minister Licensing Package includes documentation of your ordination, materials to aid you in performing marriage, and an AMM Minister's manual. AMM is supported soley through the sale of books and packages.
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. Plan ahead, practice, and you will do a great job!
A typical wedding ceremony is only 10 - 20 minutes and follows a time tested format. When you speak, remember that you were personally chosen by the couple, and that 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 want to refresh your knowledge, visit the Wedding Training section.
Our resources are here to walk you through a wedding ceremony, discussing structure, providing samples, 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. 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. Perform the ceremony and have fun!
Handling the Marriage License
After the ceremony it is time for official recordkeeping. The couple will present their marriage license for you and the witnesses. The minister's job is to look over the license, confirm that the information is accurate, and complete the officiant's section.
In the eyes of the state, solemnizing marriage is the act of administering a contract (the marriage license) between two people.
Marriage licenses vary dramatically in appearance, but all ask for a similar set of information. Our How to Complete a Marriage License page explains all of the details that may be required on a marriage license.
Once completed, you or the couple must return the license to its office of issuance (usually by mail). In California, completed marriage licenses must be returned within 10 days of the wedding. The license is then recorded by the state and the marriage becomes a legal binding contract.
About the Marriage License (FOR THE COUPLE)
* This information is not for the minister but for the couple, and is included for reference.
Couples getting married in [state] must file for a marriage license with the County Clerk's office before their wedding day. The state will not recognize a marriage without a marriage license.
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 July 5th, 2015, American Marriage Ministries has ordained 26,221 AMM Ministers in the State of California, who have registered 5,611 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