Minister Licensing Requirements in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
No Minister Registration Required * Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes 1503
Minimum Minister Age: 18 Years
Minister's Residency: Irrelevant
Same-Sex Marriage Recognized: Yes
* There are no state laws requiring the registration of ministers, but county registrars have asked AMM Ministers to present proof of ordination in the past.
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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania.
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.
Although there is no legal requirement for ministers to register with the Pennsylvania government, in the past certain Register of Wills or Orphans Court's offices have asked our ministers to produce documentation verifying their ordination.
We encourage you to speak with your local government registrar and you can find their contact information below:
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 Pennsylvania Minister Licensing Package. Your Minister Licensing Package contains everything you could possibly be asked to produce by any Register of Wills or Orphans Court in Pennsylvania, including your Ordination Certificate and Letter of Good Standing.
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. 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 Pennsylvania, 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 Pennsylvania must file for a marriage license with the Register of Wills or Orphans Court's office before their wedding day. The state will not recognize a marriage without a marriage license.
Pennsylvania Marriage License Info:
Issuing Office: Register of Wills or Orphans Court
Statewide License Cost: $45 - 85
Waiting Period: 3 days to receive
Expiration: 60 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 August 23rd, 2017, American Marriage Ministries has ordained 6,250 AMM Ministers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, who have registered 1,935 weddings. What's This?Top
Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes
1503 Persons qualified to solemnize marriages
(a) General rule.--The following are authorized to solemnize marriages between persons that produce a marriage license issued under this part:
(1) A justice, judge or magisterial district judge of this Commonwealth.
(2) A former or retired justice, judge or magisterial district judge of this Commonwealth who is serving as a senior judge or senior magisterial district judge as provided or prescribed by law; or not serving as a senior judge or senior magisterial district judge but meets the following criteria:
(i) has served as a magisterial district judge, judge or justice, whether or not continuously or on the same court, by election or appointment for an aggregate period equaling a full term of office;
(ii) has not been defeated for reelection or retention;
(iii) has not been convicted of, pleaded nolo contendere to or agreed to an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or other probation without verdict program relative to any misdemeanor or felony offense under the laws of this Commonwealth or an equivalent offense under the laws of the United States or one of its territories or possessions, another state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or a foreign nation;
(iv) has not resigned a judicial commission to avoid having charges filed or to avoid prosecution by Federal, State or local law enforcement agencies or by the Judicial Conduct Board;
(v) has not been removed from office by the Court of Judicial Discipline; and
(vi) is a resident of this Commonwealth.
(3) An active or senior judge or full-time magistrate of the District Courts of the United States for the Eastern, Middle or Western District of Pennsylvania.
(3.1) An active, retired or senior bankruptcy judge of the United States Bankruptcy Courts for the Eastern, Middle or Western District of Pennsylvania who is a resident of this Commonwealth.
(4) An active, retired or senior judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit who is a resident of this Commonwealth.
(5) A mayor of any city or borough of this Commonwealth.
(5.1) A former mayor of a city or borough of this Commonwealth who:
(i) has not been defeated for reelection;
(ii) has not been convicted of, pleaded nolo contendere to or agreed to an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or other probation without verdict program relative to a misdemeanor or felony offense under the laws of this Commonwealth or an equivalent offense under the laws of the United States or any one of its possessions, another state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or a foreign nation;
(iii) has not resigned the position of mayor to avoid having charges filed or to avoid prosecution by Federal, State or local law enforcement agencies;
(iv) has served as a mayor, whether continuously or not, by election for an aggregate of a full term in office; and
(v) is a resident of this Commonwealth.
(6) A minister, priest or rabbi of any regularly established church or congregation.
(b) Religious organizations.--Every religious society, religious institution or religious organization in this Commonwealth may join persons together in marriage when at least one of the persons is a member of the society, institution or organization, according to the rules and customs of the society, institution or organization.
(c) Marriage license needed to officiate.--No person or religious organization qualified to perform marriages shall officiate at a marriage ceremony without the parties having obtained a marriage license issued under this part.
Title 23: Domestic Relations - Part 2: Marriage - Chapter 15: Marriage Ceremony
(June 22, 2000, P.L.443, No.59, eff. imd.; Nov. 30, 2004, P.L.1618, No.207, eff. 60 days; Dec. 1, 2004, P.L.1777, No.232, eff. 60 days; July 14, 2009, P.L.81, No.18, eff. imd.)