How to Become a Legal Wedding Officiant

by Jade Lynch-Greenberg

Performing weddings is a way to supplement your income.

Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

One of the benefits of being a legal wedding officiant is the opportunity to join friends and family in matrimony. And there are other advantages to taking this step. Legal wedding officiates can set their own rates to earn money for performing services which, depending on which type of officiate you become, can include not only weddings, but funerals, blessings and other belief-based ceremonies. Instead of going to a university or seminary to achieve this position, you can go online and become certified fairly quickly.

Step 1

Decide what type of legal wedding officiant you want to become. Do you want to perform one wedding for friends or family, or do you want to perform frequent weddings as a means to earn money? Do you want to perform religious ceremonies or simply complete the legal requirements of the ceremony? You can become ordained as a clergy-person, or seek a state-oriented designation.

Step 2

Become ordained as a clergy-person online as an option. You pay through a website to have an ordination certificate mailed to you, such as from the Universal Life Church. For an additional fee, you can order additional materials, including a wallet ID card, prepared ceremony material and ceremonial certificates. Fees online can vary from $10 to hundreds of dollars, based on the organization, customization of your order, specialization of your certificate and what materials you order from the website.

Step 3

Obtain a temporary marriage designation. This option allows you to briefly gain the status of a non-religious legal wedding officiate. In many places, by state, you can obtain a one-day marriage designation by submitting paperwork and paying a fee. Generally, this designation allows you to perform only one wedding, and you may be limited to one designation per year.

Step 4

Qualify to become a justice of the peace. This option allows you to gain the status of a nonreligious legal wedding officiate, if you wish to perform multiple weddings per year. However, this is a more complicated process than obtaining a one-day marriage designation. You are required to have references and may begin your position only during specific years. Additionally, some counties and states have a limit of how many justices of the peace may be allowed in a particular area.

Step 5

Pay the necessary fees and submit the primary required paperwork to become an officiate. Then, check the state and county laws where you intend to perform weddings to see what, if any, additional paperwork you need to file. Also, make note of when, if ever, your licensing will expire.

You may also keep a record of when paperwork for individual marriage licenses should be filed and what material is needed to file them, in case couples seeking your assistance are less familiar with the process.

Step 6

Check federal and state-specific income-tax laws relating to your situation, if you intend to perform multiple weddings per year for the purpose of supplementing your income.

Since tax-exempt status is generally only applicable to clergy-persons who have a congregation, your income earned in this manner likely falls under self-employment. You’ll need to keep careful records and receipts, detailing how much you’ve earned and the cost of related expenses (such as transportation to the ceremonies), in case of an audit.

Warnings

  • Regulations vary by state. Some states require you to submit a copy of your ordination certificate -- or additional paperwork -- prior to performing weddings, and some may even require the clergy-member to have state residency or an actual church charter.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

About the Author

Jade Lynch-Greenberg is a writer, blogging enthusiast and educator. She teaches multi-modal writing in the university setting and has written for the web since 2002, and created comics since 2006. She write scripts, articles, scholarly documents and technical explanations, and holds a Master of Arts in English from Purdue University.