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For a notary public, being asked to officiate at a wedding ceremony is a great honor and responsibility. Only three states currently allow notaries to officiate at wedding ceremonies. If you're a notary from Florida, Maine or South Carolina, you're legally qualified to solemnize a marriage. Even if this is your first time performing a wedding ceremony, you can help create a perfect wedding day by planning ahead, educating yourself and consulting with the couple.
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Consult with the couple. Make sure that all legal requirements are met. The couple needs to obtain a marriage license and present you with the completed forms before the ceremony. Check that the license is valid and that both partners have identification. Talk with the couple and ascertain any personalized goals for the wedding ceremony. If the couple write their own vows, you might want to read the vows beforehand.
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Practice your role beforehand. You should finalize your speaking parts and have a hard copy available. You don't need to memorize your part of the ceremony but practice until you feel confident. Even if the ceremony is small, meet with the couple before the ceremony and practice the entire ceremony once or twice. This will ensure a smoother process on the actual day.
Open the ceremony with an introduction. During the wedding ceremony, it's standard to open with the phrase: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join this man and this woman in matrimony." Make adjustments according to the individual ceremony. If it's a very small or nonreligious ceremony, this opening may be unsuitable.
Guide the couple in exchanging vows and rings. You can use a standard script or personalized vows. The vows must reflect the legal commitment that the couple is making. Ask the bride and groom individually if they agree to the responsibilities and obligations of marriage. After each one answers "I do," the couple can recite more personal vows directly to each other. Ask the couple to place the wedding rings on each other's fingers.
Pronounce the couple married. You might say: “By virtue of the authority vested in me under the laws of the state of Florida (or Maine or South Carolina), I now pronounce you husband and wife." Alter this according to the individual ceremony.
File the marriage certificate. After the wedding, submit the certificate to the town clerk. Typically you have seven to 15 days. You should sign the certificate as the officiant and include all required information. The certificate should be signed in front of two witnesses. As a notary, you do not officially count as a witness.
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Record the marriage. As a notary, you are required to keep a record of all wedding ceremonies you perform. Include the date, names of the bride and groom and the location of the ceremony.
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- Maine.gov: Notaries Public
- "Performing Marriage Ceremonies: A Guide for Florida Notaries Public;" State of Florida Executive Office of the Governor; 1999
Sally Murphy began writing professionally in 2000. She has worked as a writing instructor and written for various organizations and publications on topics ranging from history to hairstyles to television shows. Murphy graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and also holds a Master of Fine Arts in writing.
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