Performing a Wedding
Have you been asked to perform a friend or loved one’s wedding? Congratulations! While initial anxiety and confusion are natural feelings when researching the proper procedure and protocol for becoming a minister, the process is quite simple, meaning that the nerves are unnecessary (not that knowing that will help).
It is common now for friends and family to perform wedding ceremonies even without a direct affiliation or any connection to a religious institution. In fact, we have ordained many individuals, like yourself, for that very reason. Weddings are incredibly personal adventures, and as such, people should be able to conduct the service as they wish with the person they want most leading the event. Therefore, to help you on your journey toward ordination, you can follow the following three-step process, ensuring that you can legally unite your loved ones in legal matrimony.
The first step, and likely the reason for any initial anxiety, is to become a licensed wedding officiant. If you’re like most people, you may assume that this is a lengthy process requiring religious affiliation and even months or years of commitment, but luckily that’s not the case. The ordination process is fast and straightforward. In fact, you only need to fill out a few forms, and then you're done. The whole process takes only a few minutes. The best part is that you can fill out the forms on our free Online Ordinations page. All you will need to do is fill out the necessary information: full legal name, address, email, etc.
While some families may be interested in allowing younger family members officiate a wedding, most states require officiants to be at least 18 years of age. Granted, this can be disappointing, but there are other opportunities for younger teenagers and even children to be active participants in the ceremony. It is often best to reserve the official duty of the wedding presider to role models, best friends, parents or even grandparents.
Collecting Marriage Materials
It would be wonderful if all you had to do to officiate your loved one’s wedding was getting ordained, but, unfortunately, bureaucracy rules and you need paperwork to prove everything. This means that you will need to review the policies that your individual state has in place, which can sometimes change depending on the county you are in. Beyond examining the procedures, you will likely need documents proving you are a minister along with other official and officiating documentation. In order to gain a full understanding of the required paperwork, you will want to contact the county clerk or other office charged with issuing marriage licenses in the area the wedding will be held.
In addition to inquiring about the proper documentation to perform the wedding ceremony, you will want to ask about any requirements on your end. Many counties across the country will ask you for several items:
- Ordination credential: This is essentially your permit, telling state and county officials that you are legally eligible to perform the wedding ceremony.
- Letter of good standing: This is an endorsement from our services, stating that you are in good standing and have met the requirements for officiating your friend's wedding.
- Regionally-specific documentation: A few locations, such as Nevada and New York City, require unique paperwork that is specifically tailored for their areas and could not be used elsewhere.
These are all readily available in our online store, where you can find even more ministerial products if you need or desire them. . While it is nice to know that these are available, not every county will require such evidentiary measures. For many counties across the country, merely being ordained is sufficient to perform a wedding.
If you would like further information on the laws and rules pertaining to marriage and the officiating of weddings, then you can review the requirements by state by studying our interactive map. Again, while the process sounds complicated, it is quite simple. Don’t let paperwork and bureaucracy scare you away from being there for your friends and loved ones on their special day.
Officiating the Ceremony
Now, the time has come. You have done all of the hard work. You have gone through the process to become ordained, researched and proven that you were the right person for the job. You just have to officiate the wedding, actually pronouncing your friends or relatives as married. But what do you say? There are all sorts of possibilities. You can choose to perform the ceremony in a laid back kind of way, perhaps catering to the interests of the two getting married. You can select a classic approach, which is traditional, beautiful and formal. Or, you can get creative with it! Whichever method you choose is ultimately between you and the couple, but there are a couple of critical elements that must be included for the wedding to be official.
Every wedding must include the Declaration of Intent and the Pronouncement. Exact wording doesn’t matter, but without these elements the wedding never really happened, no matter how much Champagne was poured, and cake was eaten. The Declaration of Intent is the part we are all familiar with; "Do you take…" and the response that hopefully follows, "I do."
This declaration must be followed by the Pronouncement, which is the point in the wedding where you earn your proverbial stripes by saying, "I now pronounce you…" While there is likely to be further additions to these statements, the vows for one, these statements are what constitutes a legal ceremony. The Declaration of Intent and the Pronouncement are the bare minimum requirements, and while it is unlikely that you would forget to say these things, it is essential that they are stated clearly and proudly in front of all witnesses.
While it is understandable that the couple are responsible for having the ceremony planned, it is your job to ensure that all legal requirements for the ceremony are met and achieved. Therefore, make sure that lines of communication remain open between you and the happy couple. Remember, they asked you to perform the ceremony, which means that they value your opinion and insight, and while they may not need it for every aspect of the wedding, you will have a unique perspective when it comes to the ceremony.
Your job is to ensure that when the wedding is over the couple is legally married and that the ceremony was everything they wanted it to be. Ask clarifying questions and discuss the service frequently to get everyone is on the same page so you know exactly what is expected of you.
There is one area involving creative input that many wedding officiants are asked to handle, and that is the creation of a script for the ceremony. While this is an intimidating ask for most people, keep in mind that you were asked to perform the wedding because of your relationship with the couple. You know them. You know their friends, their families. You have all the information you need to create a grand ceremony. You can take the time to craft personal anecdotes and memorable moments to build an emotionally stirring service. However, if your anxiety is getting the best of you, then we do offer templates and pre-written scripts to help you, or we offer a tool to help craft a wholly original and customized script for you and your friend’s big day. With our tool, you can simply select the ceremony and provide us with some basic information, and we’ll generate a script for you!
Don’t let the idea of officiating the service scare you. Remember that you are fully capable and that no one knows your friends or loved ones better than you. Take pride in the fact that they asked you to officiate such a monumental day in their lives, and if the anxiety gets to be a little too much to bear, then reach out to us and let us help you along the way.
Finishing the Process
After the ceremony, when the stress and excitement of the day have passed, remember to fill out the marriage license. It may seem like such a little thing, but that is precisely why it can be forgotten on such a big day. While there is time to submit a marriage license, generally 10 to 90 days, depending on the state, it is essential to submit the document before the deadline to ensure the legality of the ceremony. If the certificate is not submitted in time, you risk nullifying the entire service. It is also important to note that, since there is a limited timeframe, you do not want to get the license too soon, risking its expiration before the wedding.
After all paperwork has been signed and submitted, you have completed your work as your friends’ officiant. Congratulations! The personal contribution of presiding over a ceremony like this can be both life-changing and life-affirming.
We are happy to help guide you through this process, offering certification, endorsements and other tools to help you as you move from novice to wedding officiant. The process for ordination can be completed in less than a day, allowing you adequate preparation time for research into the state rules and county policies, which again we can help you with. Think of all the joy you will bring your family and friends as you preside over the wedding of two people they hold dear. It is not often that we are privileged enough to make such an impact. Let us guide you through the process, so that you can guide your loved ones into the next stage of their lives.