Minister Licensing Requirements in the Commonwealth of Virginia

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 Commonwealth of Virginia as an AMM minister.

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Minister Licensing Summary

Minister Required to Register with County Code of Virginia 20-23

Minimum Minister Age: 18 Years

Minister's Residency: Irrelevant

Same-Sex Marriage Recognized: Yes

Minister Licensing OfficeCounty Clerk

All minister must register with the local County Clerk. Registration requirements may vary by office.

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Please select a county to view their specific contact information.

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:

  1. All people, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, have the right to marry.
  2. It is the right of every couple to choose who will solemnize their marriage.
  3. 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:

  1. Complying with any applicable government regulations.
  2. 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

* Please Read *

As of May 24th, 2010 all ministers ordained by way of the internet have been systematically denied the right to perform marriage in Virginia due to a letter issued by the office of the Attorney General. The letter is not an Official Opinion of the Attorney General but only an informal opinion of one of the Attorney General's counsel.

Though this letter carries no legal weight as defined by the Virginia Code § 2.2-505, it references the 1974 Virginia Supreme Court Case Cramer vs Commonwealth that is often referred to by County Clerk's offices when denying our ministers the right to perform marriage.

We believe that you should have the right to perform marriage in Virginia as well as anywhere else in the country if asked to by a friend or family member.

As such, American Marriage Ministries has instituted a policy of providing our ministers with all the paperwork required of them by any County Clerk in Virginia at no charge. Contact us if you would like to attempt to register to perform a marriage in Virginia.

Note

You do not need to register with the same County Clerk's office that issues the marriage license to the couple. Successfully registering in any county grants you the authority to perform marriage anywhere in Virginia.

All ministers in Virginia are required to register with the County Clerk's office before performing marriage. You do not need to register with the same office that issues the marriage license to the couple - successful registration with one County Clerk's office grants you the authority to perform marriage anywhere in Virginia.

You do not need to be a Virginia resident though you must be at least 18 years of age to qualify to perform marriage. Same-sex marriages are recognized in Virginia.

Application Instructions

As ministerial registration is done at the county level, the application fee and registration requirements vary. We recommend that you contact the County Clerk's office to find out what their exact licensing steps are:

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Please select a county to view their specific contact information.

Once you are clear what is required of you, Contact us and we will provide you with a free Virginia Minister Licensing Package, including all the documents that we can provide in assisting with your application. Don't hesitate to contact us if have questions on any of the forms provided by the County Clerk's office.

If your application is denied by the County Clerk's office you can still conduct the wedding ceremony. The only thing you will not legally be able to do is sign the marriage license. The Virginia government has no authority over the ceremony, only the marriage license. The marriage license can be completed at the courthouse, separating that from the wedding celebration, which you can still conduct.

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 Virginia the completed marriage license must be returned within 5 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.


Virginia Marriage License Info:

Issuing Office: County Clerk

Cost: $30-50

Waiting Period: None

Expiration: 60 Days

Return: 5 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 April 1st, 2015, American Marriage Ministries has ordained 1,997 AMM Ministers in the Commonwealth of Virginia, who have registered 422 weddings. What's This?

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Code of Virginia

Minister LicensingSolemnization Of Marriage

20-23 Order authorizing ministers to perform ceremony

When a minister of any religious denomination shall produce before the circuit court of any county or city in this Commonwealth, or before the judge of such court or before the clerk of such court at any time, proof of his ordination and of his being in regular communion with the religious society of which he is a reputed member, or proof that he holds a local minister's license and is serving as a regularly appointed pastor in his denomination, such court, or the judge thereof, or the clerk of such court at any time, may make an order authorizing such minister to celebrate the rites of matrimony in this Commonwealth. Any order made under this section may be rescinded at any time by the court or by the judge thereof.

Title 20: Domestic Relations - Chapter 2: Marriage Generally

(Code 1919, §§ 5079, 5080; 1962, c. 362; 1980, c. 154; 1981, c. 295.)

Minister Licensing

20-26 Marriage between members of religious society having no minister

Marriages between persons belonging to any religious society which has no ordained minister, may be solemnized by the persons and in the manner prescribed by and practiced in any such society. One person chosen by the society shall be responsible for completing the certification of marriage in the same manner as a minister or other person authorized to perform marriages; such person chosen by the society for this purpose shall be required to execute a bond in the penalty of $500, with surety.

Title 20: Domestic Relations - Chapter 2: Marriage Generally

(Code 1919, § 5081; 1968, c. 318; 1981, c. 295.)

Minister Licensing Requirements in:

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