How to Officiate Weddings in Charleston
A Charleston South Carolina Guide for Couples and Wedding Ministers
Charleston is one of the most in-demand cities in the South (and in the entire United States, for that matter) to get married. There’s just something about this place that inspires the urge to take your lover (or find a lover, if necessary) and ride a white horse into the sunset.
The history of the town is felt everywhere, from the energy of the Charleston City Market, to the cobblestone streets of the English District, to the soft sands of Myrtle Beach. And the abundance of idyllic, romantic wedding venues in this Southern center is simply unparalleled. It’s no wonder it was chosen as the backdrop of two of our favorite love stories The Notebook and Dear John.
Holy City, as it is known by some, may be known for its historical roots, but it’s also a living, breathing, dynamic city with plenty to offer modern, mold-breaking mavericks, in addition to dreamy, traditionalist couples.
If you’re gearing up to plan your dream wedding in Charleston, we’re going to quote Noah here (from The Notebook, not the Bible) and say, “It's not gonna be easy. It's going to be really hard; we're gonna have to work at this everyday.”
Just kidding -- it’s going to be fine, we promise! We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about the legal to-dos of getting married in South Carolina and even some extra tips that will help you make sure your special day goes over smoothly. So without further ado, let’s jump into our Chucktown wedding guide.
Let’s start with the ordainment process. According to South Carolina’s judicial branch, “A wedding can be performed by a magistrate or by any minister who is ordained in a religious denomination or authorized by a church. Marriages can also be performed in the recognized manner of any religious denomination that does not use officiants, or in the recognized manner of any federally or state-recognized Native American tribe.”
You can get ordained with AMM to fall within the priest or minister category. The process is free and takes just a few minutes.
When it comes time to perform your duties as the officiant, Charleston County may ask you to present documentation, which AMM provides for a fee. (You can call the county clerk’s office before you perform the ceremony to ask if they will require you to bring the certificate in person.)
Now that the easy part is out of the way, we can help you prepare for the wedding ceremony itself. Being asked to officiate a ceremony is an honor, but can feel like a lot of pressure. You will appreciate our wedding training pages, which are a library of information to help you prepare for your first ceremony and ensure that it goes smoothly.
Here you can find everything from sample wedding ceremony scripts, to brainstorming prompts, tips for preparation, and more.
It’s the couple’s responsibility to obtain the marriage license, but be sure to double check they have it in their possession before performing the ceremony. It’s also a good idea to help them to fill it out and complete it correctly, as the Probate Court will send it back to you if there are any errors, which happens more often than you might think.
Once the ceremony has been performed and the license has been notarized, make sure that someone (either you, or one of the members of the couple) has been assigned to return the document to the Probate Court’s office. There is no strict expiration date of the license in Charleston, but you don’t want to forget to file it.
Once that’s taken care of, you have successfully performed all of your functions as the wedding officiant! Well done.
Now let’s turn our attention to the couple’s responsibilities. Both members of the couple must appear together to file a written application.
To obtain your marriage license, you both members of the couple will have to visit the Probate Court’s office at 100 Broad St. Suite 469.
When you go, just remember to bring:
- State issued ID (driver’s license, birth certificate, passport or military ID)
- Social security number
- $70 application fee
That’s it! Just remember, there is a twenty-four hour waiting period after the application is filed before the parties can be married.
Issuance Office: 100 Broad St. Suite 469
Waiting Period: 24 hours
Return: by Couple or Officiant
The Basics -- Choosing your wedding venue and the date of your big day can be a bit overwhelming. There are a few things that you may want to consider that will help you narrow it down. First and foremost, try to avoid booking your wedding on the same day as one of the largely attended annual events in Chucktown, like the Charleston Film Festival in the fall and the Spoleto Art Festival in the spring. Around these big events, there are usually higher prices for accommodations and heavier traffic because of the crowds they attract.
As far as venues go, there are so many to choose from in Charleston. South Carolina is perhaps most famous for its historic plantations, many of which are now being used as wedding venues. While there’s no denying that some of the properties are downright picturesque, many of them were once slave plantations. Consider how you’ll feel looking back at your romantic wedding photos and knowing that they were taken against a backdrop that was once the setting of some of our country’s most shameful atrocities. (Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ wedding would have been just as beautiful and less controversial if they’d chosen a different spot.)
Besides, there are so many incredible venues in Charleston, we think you’ll stumble upon more than a few that excite you just as much. If you’re looking for an outdoor venue that emanates the same grandeur as some of the former plantations, check out Pavilion at the Pepper Plantation. It’s just as grand as some of the older properties, but was constructed in 2009. The Stables at Boals Farm is another perfect setting for a country-chic affair -- beautiful old oaks and all -- with zero guilt factor. Or, for a couple that likes a more urban feel, you may like Poogan’s Courtyard, a new staple in downtown Charleston. It has a bit of an industrial vibe, but is decorated with Victorian furnishings that give it a feeling of Southern warmth and history.
Transportation -- Public transportation isn’t great here in Charleston. It's mostly useful for those commuting to work from the outer neighborhoods of the city. So, if you’re coming in from out of town for a Charleston wedding, you may consider renting a car to get around or relying on your trusty ridesharing apps like Lyft and Uber.
Weather -- Fall and spring in South Carolina are divine, but beware of the summers -- they get unbearably hot at their peak. Winters are fairly mild temperature-wise with frequent, short rain showers. Snow may fall every other year or so, but usually doesn’t stick to the ground. Ideally, spring or fall are ideal for weddings, but if you’re set on a summer or winter wedding, your best bet is to choose an indoor wedding venue (or a property that has an indoor back-up option in case of extreme heat or rain.)