How to Officiate Weddings in Milwaukee
A guide for officiating weddings and planning ceremonies in Milwaukee
If you’re planning a Milwaukee wedding, you’ve come to the right place. This midwest city is a Mecca for folks in search of all-American charm and unpretentious vibes. Not only is Milwaukee on the affordable end of the spectrum, it’s diversity of venues and professionals might make you think you’re in one of the large coastal cities -- at a fraction of the cost.
Thanks to Milwaukee's well-preserved old-European heritage (it was huge destination for German immigrants between 1846 and 1854) you’ll find a elegant churches that are perfect for a wholesome, traditional wedding celebration. If you’re more casual, explore the outdoor offerings and check out the many pristine parks, beaches and gardens along the shores of Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River.
In addition to those more traditional spaces, a number of urban wedding venues have cropped up, appealing to more modern couples. (Check out the brand new Saint Kate Arts Hotel, which has local couples counting down the days to reserve one of its highly anticipated event spaces!)
And let’s not forget Milwaukee's German-influenced food, beer and cheese scene, which you’ll want to take advantage of when planning festivities for your special day.
Yes, Milwaukee is truly a Midwestern gem. So, now that you’ve decided to tie the knot in Milwaukee, let’s review the nuts and bolts of what you’ll need to plan your wedding in “Cream City.”
STEP 1: Get Ordained with American Marriage Ministries
According to Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services, the following persons may perform wedding ceremonies:
(1) Ordained clergy or licentiate of a denominational body or appointee of any bishop (if officiant is a Wisconsin resident).
(2) Family court or other court commissioner or supplemental court commissioner in Wisconsin.
(3) Municipal judge, reserve judge or any judge of a court of record in Wisconsin or a Wisconsin tribal judge.
(4) The two parties themselves, by mutual declarations, in accordance with the customs, rules, and regulations of any religious society, denomination, or sect to which either of said parties belong (per statute 765.16, Wis. Stats.). At least one of the couple must belong to a religious organization that believes that the marriage ceremony should be performed without an officiant.
(5) An out-of-state clergy person, if that officiant has a letter of sponsorship from a clergy person in Wisconsin. The letter must state that the sponsor knows of this officiant and believes that the officiant is authorized to perform marriages by that religious organization.
If you do not fall into any of these four categories -- yet -- we are here to help. The first thing you need to do is get ordained with AMM. Our ordination is free, takes only a few minutes, and complies with Wisconsin’s statute §756.16, which details Milwaukee’s requirements for legitimate officiants.
Beyond completing the certification process for ordainment, you may be asked to present documentation, which AMM provides for a fee. In Milwaukee, you do not need to submit any other registration form prior to performing the ceremony.
STEP 2: Prepare for the Ceremony in Milwaukee
Getting ordained as an AMM minister is the easy part. Now, you’ll need to prepare for the wedding ceremony itself. First-time officiants will benefit from our wedding training pages, which are a comprehensive resource of everything you’ll need to know to perform your first wedding ceremony.
Here we cover everything from sample wedding ceremony scripts, to brainstorming prompts, to tips for preparation, and more.
In order for the couple to apply for their marriage license, they will need their officiants name, address and telephone number. Make sure you get that to them well ahead of time so that they can apply.
STEP 3: Officiate the Wedding and Complete the Marriage License
It’s the couple’s responsibility to obtain the marriage license, but it’s always a good idea to check in with them to make sure they are on top of that. When it comes time to sign the marriage license, ensure that the couple has a valid Wisconsin marriage license before the ceremony is performed, and to turn the license in within three days of the completion of the ceremony.
For more details on correctly completing forms, please consult our guide on how to complete a marriage license.
Once you have returned the completed marriage license to the County Clerk’s office, you can breathe a sigh of relief -- you have successfully performed all of your functions as the wedding officiant! Congratulations, and since you’re in Milwaukee, why not pour yourself an ice cold Schlitz...▲ TOP
File for the Marriage License from the Milwaukee County Clerk's Office
Couples that are residents of Wisconsin should apply with the county clerk’s office of the county where either applicant is a resident. Marriage licenses issued by Wisconsin county clerk’s can be used anywhere in the state. Non-Wisconsin residents must apply in the county in which they are to be married, in this case Milwaukee County. For the couple to obtain their marriage license, both partners must be present before the county clerk. Licenses are issued at the County Clerk’s office, at 901 N 9th Street in Milwaukee.
When you go, don’t forget the following:
● Photo ID such as a valid driver's license
● A birth certificate that is not torn, taped, or laminated. Photocopies are not accepted.
● Each partner must provide their social security number.
● If you are applying as residents, one applicant must show proof of residency with a current address in Milwaukee County. This could be a Wisconsin driver's license, utility bill, credit card statement, or a rental lease agreement.
● If either member of the couple has been married before, you’ll need a filed copy of the final judgment of divorce, a certified divorce certificate, legal annulment or certified death certificate that ended the last marriage. Note that in Wisconsin you must be divorced for more than six months before you are married again, regardless of where the divorce was granted.
● You must also provide the name, address and telephone number of the officiant performing the wedding ceremony, but the officiant doesn’t have to be present at this time.
● Also, bring a black pen, as Milwaukee County will not accept blue or red ink on the form.
Below is the pertinent information pertaining to marriage licenses issued in Milwaukee. For clarification on what this information means you can check out our Marriage License Laws Explained page.
Issuance Office: Milwaukee County Clerk's Office
Waiting Period: 3-5 Days Before Completing
Expiration: 30 Days
Return: Before Expiration by the Officiant
The Basics -- While the city is lively, you won’t have to worry too much about accommodations due to the city’s relatively small population and relaxed demeanor. However, you may want to avoid planning a wedding during Summerfest week, which is June 28 to July 10, and the week of Labor Day, August 31 to September 4, during which time hotels and accomodations rates can climb and the city is a bit busier.
Transportation -- You can get around Milwaukee by taking advantage of the city’s bus routes or the streetcar, which is called the Hop, which are scheduled to come every ten to fifteen minutes. It recently added a new lakefront route on the Hop, adding more options to get around downtown. The city also offers Uber and Lyft, but parking is pretty easy in Milwaukee, so your guests shouldn’t have a problem should they choose to drive to your ceremony.
Weather -- The climate of Milwaukee is fairly mild, with temperate summers averaging in the 70s. Fall and winter do get fairly cold however, with average temperature dropping to the 20s and 30s December through March. The best time to plan a ceremony would be in the late spring or summer, but you might be able to find the best rates on event venues and hotels in September when it’s still fairly warm, but tourism has died down following the busier months.
Finding The Right Wedding Officiant -- Think about what kind of wedding ceremony you want to have. An intimate ceremony may call for a family member or close friend. Perhaps a larger ceremony would call for someone who is more experienced in public speaking. After narrowing it down, consider these points when choosing candidates for your officiant:
● You want an officiant who is compatible with the ceremony you are planning. That means someone who is articulate, who is not afraid to speak in front of an audience, and who understands the honor of being asked to deliver your ceremony.
● Find an officiant who shares your values and beliefs. You want someone who will work with you to create a ceremony that is meaningful and personal to you. Consider asking someone who has known you since you were both kids, has grown with you, and who shares your vision and spiritual disposition.
● Make sure to give the family member or friend time to think about their answer, and (this is a tough one!) don’t take it personally if they say ‘no.’
● Seek guidance and assistance, especially if this is the friend or family member’s first time delivering a wedding ceremony.