A few years ago I received a call from someone who wanted to be a wedding officiant. They asked me how I learned. I told her I Googled it. They weren’t quite sure what to say after that.
So, can you become a wedding officiant online? Yes, and no. You can research the laws and local qualifications required to be a wedding officiant, get ordained as a minister and also learn how to officiate a wedding online. There may be other steps you need to take in order to legally perform marriages that you will need to do in person. You also can’t perform a wedding online.
The idea of becoming a Wedding Officiant by just getting ordained online can be a very abstract concept. I’m pretty sure when you ask the question can you become a wedding officiant online? You are thinking about getting ordained online. Everyone is doing it! Or it might seem like it if you know a lot of people getting married. But how does that really translate into real life? How do you go from filling out an online form and receiving a congratulatory email that you are now ordained for life to actually legally marrying a couple? What do you do now that you’re ordained? Where do I get a wedding ceremony and how do I perform the ceremony? Is all of this really legit? It is legal or an I screwing up someone’s life? These are all questions that can be answered online. In fact, right now, I’m being a wedding officiant online sharing my knowledge and experience with you.
Getting ordained online. Is this really legit?
I became an online-ordained minister because I thought it was funny. It was actually hysterical. I was checking my email at work one day in 2002 and received an email that said “You too, can marry people, you can bury people, perform naming ceremonies. Get ordained online!” I had the people sitting around me laughing as I kept saying out loud like a sales pitch. (That’s what it was) It was so long ago I literally had to print the application, write a check for $19.99 and mail it to the company. A few weeks later I received a certificate that declared me ordained for life. I toyed with the idea of starting a wedding officiant business then but work picked up and I wasn’t bored anymore so that was the end of it.
Fast forward 6 or 7 years. I had two little kids and I was looking for a way to be a full time mom and make money. I remembered I was ordained and wondered if I could actually marry people? Everything I read said I could but, really? I called my local county clerk’s office. (The county clerks in Indiana issue marriage licenses.) The conversation went like this:
Me: “I’m ordained online…not a Baptist or a Methodist, just online. Is that Ok?”
Clerk’s Office: “Yes, that’s fine. As long as you are ordained. You are good to go.”
Me: “Do I have to show you the ordination or register with you?”
Clerk’s Office: “No. As long as you are ordained, it’s OK.”
Me: “Are you sure?”
Clerk’s Office: “Oh honey, we don’t care who signs that paper, we just make sure all the lines are filled out.”
The rest is history. I went on to marry the daughter of a woman who works in that clerk’s office in a big formal wedding and her cousin was married in my living room. So, yep, it’s legit.
This is my experience based on where I live and my local county clerk. Please check with your local county clerk. Their policies may be vastly different!
A few years after I married my first couple I decided I really liked it and wanted to build an actual business. I wanted to make sure everything was legit. I wanted to make sure the ordination part was OK just in case someone asked. I went online to research my ordination and it turned out the church didn’t exist anymore. The URL forwarded to another website. That freaked me out a little. So I did the most logical thing I could think of. I got ordained online again!
The second time I got ordained I did it through the Universal Life Church. it took about 20 minutes. They sent me an email confirmation and I sent them $14.93 for a certified copy. My husband got ordained earlier this year and it was actually instantaneous. I think his certified copy cost $19.95. They have a really good business going on!
To this day, I’ve only been asked to prove my ordination by couples wanting to make sure I’m legit. Never by the clerk’s office.
You may need to take your online ordination one step further, obtaining a hard copy of your ordination certification through the mail and presenting it to your local marriage license office to either register with them as a wedding officiant or simply prove your authenticity. You may also need a letter of good standing from the church. Some states require this for priests and pastors with congregations as well.
Where do I find a wedding ceremony and how do I perform it?
If you get ordained online to marry a friend or family member this is what’s it’s really all about. In most places, you can just go to the courthouse and find a judge to marry you to make your marriage legal. Most likely, you are going to be performing an actual wedding ceremony. Yes, you are going to get up in front a people and be official!
There are many wedding ceremony scripts online. I have an entire website filled with wedding ceremony scripts with readings, vows and ring exchanges. You are welcome to use all of the information to put together a ceremony. You can actually just print an entire prewritten ceremony out if you like. https://www.weddingceremonypro.com/. I put all the information together as a tool for myself in writing wedding ceremonies and for couples I marry so they can have options to customize their own ceremony.
You can choose a ceremony you like or have the couple you are marrying choose a ceremony they like. I highly recommend practice reading it outloud. Not only so you can perform the ceremony well but to make sure it actually sounds good. Sometimes, people who write wedding ceremonies use words and phrases we don’t use in everyday life. It may sound ceremonious but it doesn’t always make sense. Always edit for clarity, or to just not sound weird. Most of what I’ve collected is from other wedding officiant websites or ceremonies I’ve found and have been rewritten. A lot of it is the same thing over and over again. We put the ceremonies on our websites as a resource for couples we marry not to sell books or anything copyrighted.
There is some original works out there that are copyrighted so you need to be aware of it, but most of it is just the same ceremonies re-worked and edited to suit the couple being married.
What else do I need to know as a wedding officiant so I don’t mess up someone’s wedding?
As long as the marriage license is completed and filed in the end, the couple is married. To a lot of couples, that’s all that really matters. They just need to get the job done and make it official before the reception begins.
Make sure you know how to properly complete the marriage license.
This is literally different in every state and might not be found online. You may have to ask the marriage license office directly.
When I started marrying couples 9 years ago the marriage license was different then it is now. I’ve seen licenses in other states with a lot more lines to fill out. It’s usually very self explanatory.
Your name and contact information.
They will ask you what your title is. That refers to what qualifies you to perform the marriage. If you are a judge you write judge. If you are a minister you write minister. I go by Reverend Victoria Meyer so I write “Reverend” as my title.
You are signing off on the marriage and marriage license so make sure all the lines are filled out correctly. Make sure the marriage license is valid – not expired.
In Indiana, if the couple is from out of state they need to be married in the county the license was issued.
Make sure you do this correctly or it will need to be re-done.
Basically, if you mess us the paperwork you just re-do it. It’s not the end of the world. The couple is still married, you just need to make sure the right forms are filled out properly for government records.
What does a wedding officiant wear? You may wear a dark suit if you are a man. Women may wear a dark suit or dress. It will depend on if the wedding is casual or formal. It’s a good idea to ask the couple. They may really not want you to wear black at their wedding. Many ministers wear robes. That’s always an option. You can just cover up whatever you are wearing and look like a minister or a judge.
Where can I get ordained online? There are many places to get ordained. Universal Life Church is probably the most popular. You can get ordained online for free and only pay for the certificate. They will sell you all sorts of things that you can use in building a ministry or a business. Open Ministry is another options. American Marriage Ministries is another. The US Constitution allows for freedom of religion. These churches and the validity of their ordination is completely legal.
Victoria Meyer, founder of Marry Me In Indy! LLC has been a wedding officiant in Indiana for over 9 years and married over 3000 couples. She shares her experiences and is happy to be your "Wedding Officiant Insider"