How to Officiate Weddings in Madison
A guide to officiating weddings and planning ceremonies for ministers and couples in Madtown WI
There’s no place better to get married in America’s Heartland than good old Madison, Wisconsin. This college town’s got it all -- an abundance of trendy restaurants, a flourishing art and music scene, and the four beautiful lakes just outside the city. And although the city has grown in popularity in recent years, it’s managed to maintain it’s lowkey, Midwest vibes.
Whether you’re a Wisconsonian or you’re marrying one, we think that Madison is the perfect spot to host a quaint Midwestern gathering, or an elaborate affair to remember -- whatever your style!
But before you delve into planning the fun stuff, let us help you with the technical details, starting with getting your minister of choice ordained.
STEP 1: Get ordained with American Marriage Ministries
According to Dane County Clerk’s website, wedding officiants must be ordained through a religious organization or meet other requirements such as being a judge. If you’re not affiliated with a religious organization, you’re in luck. You can get ordained with AMM -- the process is free and takes just a few minutes. Once you’ve got that box checked, we’ll get to the good stuff.
STEP 2: Prepare for the Ceremony in Dane County
Now that you’ve got your credentials taken care of, we can help you prepare for the wedding ceremony itself. Being asked to officiate a ceremony is a true honor, but requires a bit of preparation. 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.
STEP 3: Officiate the Wedding and Complete the Marriage License
When it comes time to sign the marriage license, it’s the couple’s responsibility to obtain and complete the marriage license, but just be sure to double check that they have a valid marriage license before the ceremony.
Once you have performed the ceremony and signed the marriage license, you have successfully performed all of your functions as the wedding officiant. Reward yourself with a nice cold Spotted Cow brewsky. But first, make sure to remind the couple to return the signed and completed marriage license to the county clerk’s office after the ceremony.▲ TOP
File for the Marriage License from the Dane County Clerk's Office
To get your marriage license, both members of the couple will have to visit the County Clerk’s office at 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
If you or your partner live in Wisconsin, you must apply in one of the counties where either or both of you live. Then, you can use the license to marry in any county in Wisconsin. But if both of you live out of state, you’re required to apply in the county where the ceremony will take place.
When you go, remember to bring the following:
- $120 cash
- Photo IDs
- Social Security Numbers
- A printed document proving where each member of the couple has lived for the 30 days prior to the application, e.g. a driver’s license with a current address on it, a lease, utility bill or bank statement
- A certified copy of a birth certificate issued by the state or county where you were born
- Your officiant's information (first and last name, address and phone number)
Once you’ve completed your marriage application, there is a six-day waiting period before you can use it -- so make sure you complete this process a week before the ceremony.
Below is the fast info pertaining to marriage licenses issued in Dane County for reference.
Issuance Office: 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Waiting Period: 6 days
Expiration: 30 days
Return: by Couple
The Basics -- Madison is a classic college town, so the calendar is sprinkled with events throughout the year, even during the winter! If you want to avoid traffic jams and higher hotel prices, be sure that your wedding date doesn’t fall on one of the more major annual events, like the Madison Marathon in November, or the World Music Fest in September.
Just check the city’s event pages before you pick your wedding date. It’s also a good idea to check the university’s calendar if your venue is in close proximity to campus so you don’t wind up fighting the crowds flocking in to see a Badgers game.
Speaking of venues, Madison has its fair share of traditional spaces, like the Monona Terrace or the Eastside Club, but if you want to break the mold, there are some other unexpected options to check out, as well. The Baraboo Arts Center is a unique and sophisticated place to tie the knot, less than an hour outside of Madison. The building itself was built in 1909 and was used by the Ringling Brothers traveling circus to make their wagons and store their equipment and costumes. Now, it’s a popular place to throw an extravagant party.
If you’d rather have your wedding closer in the city, you might be interested in the Orpheum theater, another interesting alternative to a traditional venue space that oozes historical charm. The options are endless! Make sure to do plenty of research so you don’t miss any of the hidden gems.
Transportation -- It’s easy to get around downtown Madison on foot or by bike. The bus system is also well-liked by residents, providing easy access to the downtown area and the UW campus and the south side. However, those who live outside of the city center and the university area usually prefer to navigate the area by car. Cabs are not as prevalent in Madison as other major U.S. cities, but rideshares are available if you’re trying to avoid spending extra money on renting a car.
Weather -- It goes without saying: winters are rough in Wisconsin. It snows regularly from about November to April and temperatures average in the 20s and 30s during the day. So, it’s not usually the chosen season to plan a wedding. During the summer, temperatures usually stay in the 70s and 80s. Although, be warned if you’re planning an outdoor wedding -- Madison is known for its killer mosquitos. Most Madisonians say the best time to visit is during the fall, when it’s still warm, but the humidity (and bugs) have subsided.