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Become a Minister to Perform Marriage

Updated on December 3, 2010

Will You Marry Us?

You may have heard of people performing marriage after getting ordained online, or you may have even been asked to perform marriage and want to know more.

An increasing number of couples are now having friends or family members officiate their weddings. This is a practical solution for couples who have different religious backgrounds, are looking for a civil-style ceremony, or just want to save some money.

For some, having someone close administer the official blessing to the marriage has its own intrinsic appeal.

Slow load times plagued early online ordinations.
Slow load times plagued early online ordinations.

How it Works

Even though online ordinations have been in practice since 1995, many people still question their credibility and legality. This is something most people don't deal with on a day to day basis, so it's perfectly understandable to have some questions.

Are Online Ordinations Legal?


All religious practices are protected by the 1st Amendment, online ordinations are simply a 21st century exercise of this right. No state can pass a law that expressly prohibits online ordinations.

States may impose licensing requirements for ministers to follow. When a state does set requirements, they do so to ensure that a record of the minister is archived to supplement the state issued marriage license.

No government office can deny a minister the right to perform marriage based solely on the fact their credentials were obtained online.

What is an Ordination?

Another source of confusion is that most people do not know what "ordination" means. An ordination is simply the issuance of a title by a religious body to one of its members. The conditions and practice of an ordination are determined by each individual church.

Not all ordinations are created equal. Ordination over the internet is certainly not the same as obtaining an academic degree from an accredited seminary school, however all ordinations are equal in the eyes of the law.

Do you consider yourself?

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What churches offer online ordinations?

American Marriage Ministries is one of many churches that have popped up over the last several years that ordain people online. We hope you will choose us if you are performing marriage, however you may find one that better reflects your values.

A good resource is the website where you can see a pretty comprehensive list of what's out there. Keep in mind that even though all online ordinations are legal, some of these churches are more reputable than others.

Churches need money too.
Churches need money too.

What does ordination cost?

Some churches charge for ordination, while others do not. Don't be fooled, paying for ordination does not make an ordination more legitimate. As with everything on the internet, there will always be someone offering their service for free.

Those of us that don't charge for ordination support ourselves by selling minister credentials, supplies, coursework, etc. Generally, ministers are not required to make purchases unless they need paperwork to register with a state.

Regardless of government requirements, it isn't a bad idea to have your own set of paperwork before performing marriage. At American Marriage Ministries the most you will spend is $50, which is pretty cheap, and speaking for the AMM, we really do appreciate your support.

With great power comes great responsibility.
With great power comes great responsibility.

I'm ordained, now what?

If you are planning on performing marriage, then your next step is to find out what (if any) minister licensing requirements you need to observe.

Requirements vary by state, and sometimes by the County, Cities, and Towns within a state. We have a marriage laws resource on the AMM website when you will find detailed information for the state where you will be performing marriage.

Find out if you need to get licensed before performing marriage.

The table below separates states by their general minister licensing requirements.

  • Registration Required: The minister must register with a government office before performing marriage.
  • Select Locations: Certain Counties, Cities, or Towns may require that the minister register before performing marriage.
  • No Registration: The State has no formal registration procedure for ministers.

New Jersey
New York
Washington DC
North Carolina
West Virginia
North Dakota
South Carolina
South Dakota
New Hampshire
New Mexico
Rhode Island
Write something meaningful for the couple!
Write something meaningful for the couple!

Prepare for the Wedding

After you have satisfied any licensing requirements, you can focus on preparing for the wedding ceremony.

There is no legal format or wording for a wedding ceremony, but certain conventions are often followed.

If you have never conducted a wedding, we encourage you to read our wedding ceremony training. There you will see a basic wedding ceremony structure and you can learn about your role in the wedding.

Remember that no matter how basic or elaborate the wedding, the minister has only three speaking parts. These are conventionally known as:

  1. The Invocation (We are gathered here today...)
  2. The Declaration of Intent (Do you...)
  3. The Pronouncement (I now pronounce you...)

Whether the ceremony is religious or civil is up to you and the couple. We encourage you to work closely with the couple on the ceremony's wording.

Once you have chosen your words, we strongly recommend that you take the time to rehearse them! Trust us, it is well worth it.

Mawwiage, sweet mawwiage!
Mawwiage, sweet mawwiage!

Conduct the Wedding

The big day has arrived. By this point you should be fully prepared to conduct the wedding.

Good luck!

If you are nervous, don't worry, most people have an innate fear of public speaking.

Just remember why you are doing this, it doesn't hurt to have such a supportive audience either!

Quick Poll

Which ceremony would you prefer?

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Don't forget your pen.
Don't forget your pen.

Sign the Marriage License

In addition to performing the wedding ceremony, you must also complete the marriage license.

What is the marriage license?

The marriage license is the legal document of marriage, it is filed for by the couple and obtained from a local clerk's office prior to the wedding.

Most states apply waiting periods and/or expiration dates to marriage licenses, so the document will need to be completed within a specified time-frame.

How do I complete the marriage license?

The couple will present you with their marriage license after the wedding ceremony. Your duty is to:

  1. Make sure that the marriage license is valid.
  2. Make sure the information on the license is correct.
  3. Complete your portion of the marriage license.
  4. Make sure the license bears any necessary witness signatures.

Marriage licenses and the forms on them vary across the country. You can see a sample marriage license on the AMM website.

Don't forget the postage either.
Don't forget the postage either.

Return the Marriage License

Your final duty is to return the marriage license to its office of issuance; this should be done as soon as possible. All states require that the marriage license be returned within a certain timeframe.

The marriage license should include detailed instructions on when, where, and how to return the license. In most places you can file the license by mail.

Once the marriage license has been returned, it will be filed with the state's Department of Health, Vital Statistics,etc.

After the license has been filed, the couple can order certified copies and certificates of their marriage from their local state government.

Congratulations, you have performed marriage!

About American Marriage Ministries

This is the official Hubpage of American Marriage Ministries. We are a non-profit church, established in Washington State, that provides free ordination to all who want to perform marriage and other religious rites.

We hope this Hubpage has been informative and encourage you to contact us if you have further questions.

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      Johna578 3 years ago

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      Irfan Fahrudin 3 years ago

      This was very helpful, great hubs! As always, Thank you peace & blessings!

    • ginarook profile image

      ginarook 7 years ago from New York City

      Are you serious? I liked the pictures and captions.

    • cathrynprice profile image

      cathrynprice 7 years ago from Illinois

      That was an interesting read. Thanks!