How to Get Certified to Marry Couples

by Kristie Lorette ; Updated September 28, 2017

Find out how to perform wedding ceremonies.

wedding image by Mat Hayward from Fotolia.com

Marrying a couple is a great honor, and as a result many couples request that a friend or family member officiate the wedding instead of a traditional member of the clergy or justice of the peace. In order to perform the ceremony, the friend or family member must become certified and registered to marry couples. Completing the certification and registration requires only a few simple steps.

Research the rules for the state in which you plan to officiate. Each state--and even some counties within the states--has its own rules for who is legally allowed to officiate a wedding. For the most part, anyone who is officially certified (or ordained) to marry couples may do so.

Select a program that will certify or ordain you to perform weddings. One popular option is the Universal Life Church, which ordains non-denominational ministers and priests for free. Ordination is for the life of the applicant, so there is no need to renew registration periodically. Other programs include the online Wedding Minister Certification Program. This program is not free but does provide in-depth training for certification.

Register your certification/ordination with the county clerk. Depending on state and county rules, this will be either in the county where the wedding will be officiated or in the county where the couple lives. Once you register the certification/ordination, you will be legally recognized to perform weddings in that county.

Obtain and record your county certificate number when you register your certification/ordination. This number shows that you have a legally authorized license to perform weddings in that county.


  • Register your certification in each county where you plan to perform weddings. Doing so will prevent any problems with the marriage not being legal.

    The state of California has a “Deputy for a Day Program” (or “Deputy Marriage Commissioner for a Day”) that enables a couple to arrange for a friend or family member to perform their wedding. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, attend a training course (usually less than an hour), and pay a small fee (anywhere from $40 to $120 in 2010). This program is not available in all counties, so couples planning to be married in California should check their county regulations before pursuing this option.

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About the Author

Kristie Lorette started writing professionally in 1996. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in marketing and multinational business from Florida State University and a Master of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University. Her work has appeared online at Bill Savings, Money Smart Life and Mortgage Loan.