I’ve been a professional wedding officiant for over 9 years. I claim my income and pay taxes every year. I operate my business without a license because I live and work in Indiana and Indiana Law does not require me to have a license.
So, do YOU need a business license to be a Wedding Officiant? No. You do not need a business license to be a Wedding Officiant or to officiate a wedding in general. If you want to run a wedding officiant business you may be required to obtain a business license. It depends on the laws in your state. Always consult your local government authority or a lawyer.
The purpose of a business license is for the state to track income for tax purposes or to protect the public.
Being able to legally officiate a wedding has nothing to do with how much you charge to officiate a wedding. It has to do with meeting the state requirement to officiate a wedding. If you officiate weddings as a hobby or as a favor to a friend you might not charge for your services so you wouldn’t need a business license.
What do I need to legally start a wedding officiant business?
For the most part, you may really need nothing at all. I work out of my home and my car so I don’t maintain an office that may be subject to occupancy permits or anything like that. I provide a service that is not taxed by my state. I don’t sell actual things. If you sell products you might need a retail license depending on sales tax laws in your state.
How about becoming an LLC?
Becoming an LLC has nothing to do with having a business license. It’s a way of protecting your personal assets when you are running a company. You don’t have to form an LLC. Forming an LLC is something you need to research for yourself and consult a professional if necessary. I only became an LLC when I was truly growing as a business. It gives me some credibility when I say I’m Marry Me In Indy! LLC but I don’t think it really matters.
Do I need to pay taxes as a wedding officiant?
If you earn money, you need to declare the money you earn and then pay any applicable taxes. Personally, I’m a Sole Proprietorship LLC. It basically just tells the word I’m in business. The advantage I have is I’m a full-time wedding officiant and I have business expenses. I can deduct my business expenses and actually end up paying little to no tax. I’m married, my husband and I file our taxes with the status married filing jointly. By combining our income it affects the taxes we pay. I deduct the miles I drive. I’m a mobile wedding officiant so I drive a LOT. I deduct the use of my phone and the internet, the cost of running my website and my business advertising. I work to earn money. I want to keep as much of it as I possibly can!
Contact your tax accountant to discuss your income taxes. Don’t take my word for it. This works for me!
There is no rule stating you need to charge actual money when you officiate a wedding. If you pay your church when you get married the money goes into a general fund for the church. If a judge marries you during business hours in a courtroom the fee goes to the general fund as well. The judge receives a salary for everything he does during his business day. If a judge sells their services after business hours they can charge what they like and then claim that income. If you are just officiating your friend’s wedding as a favor you are probably not going to charge them.
When someone is checking your credentials they will ask all sorts of questions. Their questions are more often based on assumptions than facts. So you may be asking…Are you a licensed Wedding Officiant?
No. Check with your state to be sure, but generally, no, you don’t need a license to perform a wedding ceremony. In some states, you may be required to register with your local marriage license office as a wedding officiant and be given a registration number you need to put on a couple’s marriage license when you sign it.
This is an interesting question and there are some very interesting points to be made when answering this question.
You don’t need to be certified as a wedding officiant.
Many people become wedding officiants by becoming an online-ordained minister. Once you become ordained you will want to get a certified copy of your ordination in order to prove it, if asked, to meet the qualifications to be a wedding officiant. Technically, you are certified by a church to be a minister. You are not a certified wedding officiant.
Other types of Wedding Officiant certification
This subject really interests me. There are people who get together and create Wedding Officiant Associations. These are not legally required groups to join, they are peer groups or professional groups. A person, or people, will get together and decide to declare themselves a formal group. In order to belong to the group you need to meet certain qualifications. You also need to pay an annual fee. In return, you get to say you are part of the group with the idea that it gives you more credibility as a wedding officiant. You also belong to a group that refers couples to each other. This can be a good thing. Once you belong to the group, you might be “certified” by that group. They can say “We Have Certified Wedding Officiants” and that adds a feigned credibility. It doesn’t mean that wedding officiants that don’t belong to the group aren’t equally or more qualified.
I’ve always chosen not to join a wedding officiant association because I felt like I’d be giving more than I’m getting in return. Often, the person that starts the association has a business where they have a large advertising campaign to book weddings. Their goal is to book as many weddings as they can and then find other people within their association to actually perform the weddings for part of the cost. They may contract the wedding for $550 and then find another officiant to actually perform the wedding for $300. While that might be a great option for a part time wedding officiant I’d rather keep all the money for myself and book the clients directly. It’s much more personal and I get to control the situation and set the fees.
I recently declined to join a wedding officiant association because it was required that I have signed contracts with every couple I marry. While having a signed contract for some weddings is a very good idea, I perform hundreds of weddings every year that are $50 or $60, 15-minute appointments. Having these people sign a contract is kinda silly. When I inquired, explaining the situation and asking if there was any leeway I was giving a really strange answer. The person said it was still in my best interest to have a written contract and then offered to sell me a contract I could use once I joined the association. Essentially, they were looking to make money more than anything.
I do see the benefits of belonging to an association. It sounds good an a resume or a website and it can give customers confidence in your business. I may join one at some point. As some national organizations are growing they are adding benefits.
What is the cheapest way to promote my wedding officiant business? A lot of wedding professionals find that word of mouth advertising is the best way to build your business. That makes it a good idea to have business cards to hand out for others to share for you. You can get hundreds printed for a very low fee. Maintaining social media accounts is free. Having a good informational website to refer potential customers too will require a small investment but very worthwhile in the end. You can learn how to build a great website for free online and pay a small monthly fee to host it.
Is it worth it to advertise my wedding officiant business on The Knot? Wedding websites like The Knot and WeddingWire attract a certain type of couple. They target brides and groom with average and above average budgets for their wedding. If this is your target market, it’s a great investment that will pay off over time. Do a little research first though. See how well The Knot ranks in your local search engines and see if other professionals in your area are finding success with it. If there are not a lot of high budget weddings in your area you might not make your money back. I have premium ads on both websites and I find they work well for me right now. This wasn’t always the case. You have to contract with them for a year at a time. You could pay a lot of advertising before actually marrying a couple to gain the money back.
Are you a certified wedding officiant?
Do I need a license to perform a wedding ceremony?
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"