How to become a wedding officiant: online churches to get ordained

Updated Jun 3 2020
How to become a wedding officiant: online churches to get ordained
Big Lebowski print from Boxing Bear

Are you looking to have a familiar face as your wedding officiant? A friend or family member instead of a stranger? It's an appealing thought in a lot of cases, especially if you're living the secular life. This post is meant to be shared with your chosen pal so they can find out how to become a wedding officiant, and and where to get ordained.

How to become wedding officiant: the legal stuff

First, make sure it is legal. Call the registrar in the township where you will be getting married to see what needs to be done by your officiant to ensure that they can legally do the deed. This not only varies by country and state, but can also vary by municipality within the state. Just because someone is an internet-ordained minister does not automatically let them perform marriage ceremonies everywhere — in the US, marriage laws are governed at the state level, not the federal level.

Don't forget all the other paperwork, like your marriage license, when considering a friend officiant.

Here's a list of who can perform marriages ceremonies by US state.

But in those states where you can be ordained by a religious organization, here are some online options.

Online churches to get ordained

Here is a list of sites (both secular and theistic) that will get you started on your way to being able to legally marry your friends! You know what I mean. And most of these sites make it dead easy to do…

Costs and timeframes to get approved vary by each site.

How to become a wedding officiant: online churches to get ordained
And your officiant can actually DRESS like The Dude with this Big Lebowski Sweater from Camp Kitschy Knits

Make your first stop the state's official website of where you want to get married (or where you plan to marry the couple, depending on who's reading this!), and then move on to the way more fun topics like planning the ceremony and what you'll wear!

Have YOU ever gotten ordained online?

  1. Before you decide that you want a friend or family member to officiate your wedding you should check with your state. Some states, Pennsylvania for example, do not allow online officiated ministers. There have been some marriages that have been dissolved due to this.

    • It's funny because my husband is actually ordained to perform marriages but couldn't perform ours because we live in PA! We really wanted a friend of ours, who also already had an online ordination, to perform the majority of the ceremony but since PA doesn't recognize that we had to find a legal person to jump in and do the pronouncement. This proved difficult because most reverends, justices of the peace, etc who we contacted wanted a much larger role than we were willing to give them. We literally just wanted them to sit in a chair, pop up at the end, and pronounce us married. We finally found a college alum of mine who's a reverend and was thrilled with the whole thing! So all's well that end's well but a good back up plan for if you really want a friend to do it and don't want to involve a stranger? Go to the courthouse for the legal bit. That was our plan if we couldn't find anyone who was willing to play second fiddle to our buddy.

  2. In Quebec, anyone can officiate a wedding, even if they are not ordained. Essentially you fill out government paperwork to allow you to officiate at a particular wedding on a particular day. So, for example, my husband officiated at his brother's wedding, and his other brother's wedding was officiated by his best friend. There are some bureaucratic hoops to jump through in terms of making sure all the paperwork is in order, but otherwise the process is open to pretty much anyone.

  3. Hi guys! As a professional in the wedding industry I wanted to shed a little light, and hopefully some clarification on this article and the responses.

    First off, the article makes a great point: you should definitely do your homework before having a friend or family member perform your ceremony to make sure you are fully compliant with the state requirements where the ceremony is taking place. Choose your online ordination service wisely, and make sure that your ordination will satisfy all requirements as a wedding officiant/minister. Some states have registration requirements for those who wish to perform marriage, but believe it or not, most states don't!

    County clerks in a handful of states with no registration requirements – Pennsylvania included! – will frequently give misleading information to couples and those ordained online to deter or intimidate them. It’s not right, it’s not cool, and it often leads to couples feeling like they have no choice but to pay a stranger to perform their ceremony. Even if they go with a not-so-bad backup plan, it still sucks because they didn’t get what they desired most for their wedding day: a close friend or family member to perform a very meaningful, personal ceremony.

    However, many fail to realize that if there are no registration requirements for ministers in that particular state, those county clerks don’t have the authority to deny a marriage performed by a minister ordained online. They can tell you whatever they want to discourage you, but at the end of the day, the clerk’s job is to file the marriage license, and that’s it.

    I have been in the business of weddings for quite a few years, and have worked with a handful of officiants with online ordinations in several states, including AMM ministers. I can assure you, as long as you do some quick research, your loved ones – even if ordained online! – DO have the right to perform marriage.

    For some reference for this specific discussion:

  4. Does anybody have information about North Carolina's marriage laws? My husband is supposed to perform a marriage ceremony for my brother in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. I have come across different responses to this question and wondered if anyone on this site has had any experience with NC. We plan to have him become ordained through American Marriage Ministries.

  5. I find a simple googling of “[insert state name] marriage/officiant laws” or something similar gives a good general sense of what you’re working with. I’m so lucky my home state of Massachusetts allows “one day designation” for friends to officiate without even getting ordained, but the state I grew up in (Connecticut) by contrast has strict requirements that only certain elected officials, JPs, or ministers *with an active congriyation* can solmnize. Info for both those states is clear and easily found online.

    I would further say though, as the article suggests, always double check with the town clerk to be sure. They should be able to clear up any doubt of what the requirements are.

    Also make extra certain everything is spelled right and keep track of mail right after. When I officiated for a friend (one day designation, MA) the town clerk made a typo and I had to resign a new copy of the marriage certificate a week after it was filed. UGH.

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