What Are the Requirements to Become a Wedding Officiant?

Wedding officiants bind the contract between to individuals within a wedding ceremony. Read on to learn more about who can become a wedding officiant and how. Schools offering Public Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

General Requirements for Becoming a Wedding Officiant

Every state has different laws outlining who can be a wedding officiant. In most cases, you need to be an ordained or invested member of a religious group where you already perform weddings, or you need to be a public official, such as a judge. A state license may be required.

Some states require wedding officiants to be residents, while other states, like Connecticut, allow non-resident wedding officiants to perform weddings as long as they are actively involved in a ministry or are legally able to perform marriage ceremonies in another state.

Your local town, city or county clerk's office typically has all the information you need about whether only religious clergy and public officials can officiate weddings, or if there is an alternative path to the role.

Important Facts about Wedding Officiants

Median Salary (2014) $43,950 (clergy)
$14,140 (judges)
$35,460 (court clerks)
Required Education Ordination (for clergy), law school and licensure (for judges)
Work Environment Varies by ceremony - indoor/outdoor, courthouse, place of worship
Similar Occupations Event planners, arbitrators, paralegals

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Religious Ceremony Officiating

Ordained members of the clergy who are actively involved in a congregation are typically able to perform wedding ceremonies, but becoming a clergy member can take years of study. Priests, ministers and other religious leaders sometimes hold a bachelor's degree, but they may obtain a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) or similar degree as well.

States such as Ohio require clergy members of any religious society or congregation to provide proof of ordination and obtain a state license before they are qualified to officiate at weddings. In Maine, an ordained minister or person licensed to preach may perform ceremonies. Any rabbi, priest, minister or other ordained or invested member of a religious group may perform ceremonies in California.

There are some organizations that offer online ordination, sometimes for a fee. These are generally nondenominational faiths, and this kind of ordination doesn't guarantee the ability to perform weddings. You must check the laws of your state to determine if online ordination would be considered valid for the purposes of serving as a wedding officiant.

Secular Ceremony Officiating

If you have no plans to become a clergy member, you may be able to still become a wedding officiant, depending on your state laws. In the state of New York, the board of a town or village or the common council of a city may appoint a marriage officer to officiate weddings. California permits captains of the Salvation Army to perform wedding ceremonies. In Maine, lawyers and notaries public are legal wedding officiants, as long as they are state residents.

Many states also allow government officials, such as mayors, judges and justices of the peace, to solemnize marriage ceremonies. Maryland circuit court clerks or designated deputy circuit court clerks can officiate at wedding ceremonies. City clerks in cities of more than one million residents are permitted to perform marriage ceremonies in New York.

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