Minister Licensing Requirements in the Commonwealth of Virginia

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.

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 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:

  1. Complying with any applicable government regulations.
  2. 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

* Please Read *

Since May 24th, 2010, many County Clerks in Virginia have systematically denied ministers ordained by way of the internet the right to perform marriage. Many clerks cite a letter written by an Opinions Counsel of the Attorney General's Office as justification to refuse the review of applications from ministers ordained online.

While some County Clerks may agree with the opinions expressed within the Opinions Counsel letter, it is not settled case law and as defined by Virginia Code § 2.2-505, it carries no legal weight. County Clerks do not have the authority to judge the validity of your credentials or implement their interpretation of the law.

It is our position that all ministers have the right to perform marriage in Virginia. Officiant registration can be complicated, but there are County Clerks that do not discriminate and will happily process the applications of AMM Ministers.

American Marriage Ministries has instituted a policy of providing ministers with all the appropriate documents for registration at no cost. Contact us if you would like to attempt to register to perform a marriage in Virginia.

It is important to note:

You do not need to register with your local County Clerk's office or the office that issues the couple's the marriage license. Authorization from any county grants you the authority to perform marriage throughout 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:

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. 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 Virginia, completed marriage licenses must be returned within 5 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 Virginia 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.

Virginia Marriage License Info:

Issuing Office: County Clerk

Statewide License Cost: $30

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 February 23rd, 2018, American Marriage Ministries has ordained 2,001 AMM Ministers in the Commonwealth of Virginia, who have registered 1,913 weddings. What's This?


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: