Obtaining a License to Perform a Marriage

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Many people no longer belong to churches or to specific organized religions, making it complicated when considering the ceremony for their wedding. And not everyone wants a simple civil ceremony at the courthouse. They may want their wedding officiant to be someone who means something special to them or represents and believes in what they believe. This leaves the option of asking a close friend or someone with your same spiritual beliefs to perform the wedding ceremony. It can be done, but there are certain steps necessary to make it official.

Becoming Ordained

Decide which type of ordination is needed—civil or religious. If the impetus for the license comes from a couple asking you to perform the ceremony, they should make their preferences clear.

Go to the issuance office—usually the clerk's, registrar's or probate office—but it can differ by state. Apply for a minister license—a license to perform a marriage—not a marriage license. Pay the license fee, which again varies by state. Note that the license must be from the state where the wedding is to be performed.

Read related coursework and take any tests, as necessary. Religious ceremonies are more likely to require some form of study, such as taking bible courses or learning about the specific religion of the couple; it will depend on the religion itself and the church. Civil ceremonies, or ones where the officiant does not need to be a part of the church, usually do not ask for any extra work.

Wait to receive the license. Some states give it to the officiant immediately; other states take up to six days.

Perform the ceremony before the determined expiration date in the particular state.