How to Become a Wedding Officiant

Thinking about becoming a wedding officiant? Follow these 5 steps to make it official.

By The Zola Team

how to become a wedding officiant
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

  • Do your research ahead of time: Check the relevant jurisdiction’s marriage laws to find out what requirements exist for officiating weddings.
  • You’ll likely need to get ordained, but luckily the process is cheap and easy online.
  • Finally, you may need to register with the state in order to officiate marriages.

Officiating the wedding of friends or family is an honor that allows you to play a special part in the big day. That said, if you’ve never officiated a wedding before, it can be difficult to know what you need to do in order to legally perform the marriage. If you’re in this situation, you’re in luck: we’ve done the research for you. Below, find details on how to become a wedding officiant or jump straight to a step depending on where you are in the process:

  1. Start the process early.
  2. Check the state’s marriage laws.
  3. Get ordained.
  4. Register with the state.
  5. Plan the ceremony.

5 Steps To Become a Wedding Officiant

The timeline and process to become a wedding officiant may vary by organization and state. We’ve outlined the most common steps you’ll need to follow in order to become a wedding officiant.

Step 1: Start The Process Early

  • The time it takes to become legally able to perform a wedding ceremony varies depending on the state’s regulations. To be safe, we recommend starting the process as soon as you’re asked to do the honors so that you have plenty of time to receive any important documentation and to resolve any issues you might encounter along the way.
  • Allocating extra time will also be crucial should a new officiant need to be secured for the wedding in the event of complications registering with the state.

Step 2: Check The State’s Marriage Laws

  • Every state has its own set of law and regulations for what’s required to become a wedding officiant. Familiarize yourself with the state’s laws regarding officiants to understand what steps you need to complete to legally marry people.
  • Particular counties within a state (like in certain parts and wedding venues in Virginia) may not allow individuals who are not members of the clergy or civil servants to perform marriages. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to check the city laws as well.
  • Find about your State’s Marriage Laws.
Simplify Your Wedding Planning at Zola

Step 3: Get Ordained

  • For individuals who are not already ordained members of a clergy or civil servants authorized to legally marry people ((judges, court clerks, etc.), the first step is to become ordained. This sound intimidating, but becoming ordained is as easy as applying online through the ordination organization of your choice.
  • Most online ordaining services do not require you to be a member of a particular religious faith and typically the process is free.
  • There are hundreds of options for becoming ordained online to officiate weddings. To choose the right one for you, we recommend considering the following:
    • Does the organization represent your beliefs and values?
    • Does the organization have resources, such as sample ceremonies, to help you officiate your first wedding?
    • Is the organization a federally recognized 501(c)3 religious organization? Pro Tip: If not, then your ordination is likely not legal.

Step 4: Register With The State (If Required)

  • Once you are ordained (and have received your certification of ordination), refer back to Step 1 to see if you need to register with the state. In some states you only need to be ordained to perform a marriage, while others require that you register and/or obtain special licensing (with fees that vary by state).
  • In some states, you must supply a letter of good standing from the ordaining organization to register.

Step 5: Plan the Ceremony

Congratulations - you’ve completed all of the legal requirements and are ready to plan the ceremony. Make sure to sit down with the soon-to-be-wedded-couple to better understand what they expect from their ideal ceremony. Be sure to ask questions about the couple’s story, making sure to understand the specific details, inside jokes, and themes they’d like to incorporate into their big day. Once you’ve nailed your script, make sure to practice! Study the ceremony’s order of events and rehearse your presentation.