It’s so easy for other people to say, “You can just get ordained online and marry people!” But when it’s you signing the marriage license and making a couple’s marriage legal, you definitely want to be sure. I know I did.
So, can you just get ordained online an be a legit wedding officiant? Yes! Getting ordained online makes you a legitimate ordained minister and in every state, an ordained minister can legally perform marriages. Check with your local authority to find out exactly what you have to do once you are ordained. You may have to register with them. One exception, the state of VA does not allow ministers ordained by The Universal Life Church to perform legal marriages.
Read the VA law here: https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=3242933869117036293
Always check your state laws!
I was ordained 0ver 15 years ago by The Progressive Universal Life Church. I did it for fun. When I decided to take my wedding officiant business to the next level I double checked everything to be sure. It turned out, the Progressive Universal Life Church no longer exists. I knew they said I was ordained for life, but I wondered if it still counted if the church no longer existed. So, I got ordained again by the Universal Life Church Monastery. It turns out, in Indiana, where I live and work, it really doesn’t matter. However, in some states it does.
Always Check YOUR State Laws!
I LOVE gathering this type of information and sharing it, but as simple as being a wedding officiant might sound, a marriage license is still a legal document. It’s got a lot of power. You want to make sure it’s done right. If you are at any time uncomfortable, call your county clerk and ask.
I know that finding information online is easier, but it’s not always accurate. Everything I know today could be different a year from now. When you look at all the articles on the internet, whoever wrote them may not be interested in going back and correcting the information. In many articles on my blog, I’ve gone looking for actual links to government websites where the actual laws and ordinances are written. I’ve not always been able to find them and what I have found isn’t necessarily up to date.
Knowing the facts will give you more confidence
All this being said, don’t let my legal disclosure and warnings deter you! Allow them to help you. Educating yourself and double checking the information will give you confidence. A telephone call to ask a few questions is really pretty harmless. Asking questions with the person you will be filing the marriage license with is the very best way to put your mind at ease. KNOWING the answer is better than word of mouth from a friend or some random person. If you are a professional wedding officiant, the more confident you are with your knowledge the more confident couples looking for your services will be.
Oh the interesting online ordination options!
My research of churches offering online ordination I did a basic Google search and went back several pages. I was amused by some of the ways Americans have chosen to exercise their freedom of religion with creating The Church of Dude where you can become a Dudeist Priest. The Universal Life Church will ordain you a Jedi Knight – “The Force” that is with you, always, is the basis of a religion you are free to practice. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a real thing. The Church of Cannabis is also a real thing, but they don’t ordain ministers. (Update, if you have a local Church Of Cannabis, check with them, I recently spoke to someone who had a brother married a the Church of Cannabis in Indiana.)
There are some churches that offer online ordination just to be able to officiate weddings.
There are some churches that offer online ordination just to be able to officiate weddings. It’s not a scam. It is a great business opportunity! I found myself wandering off and looking up how I could start my own church? I mean, why not? The answer is, I think there are probably enough already. I followed more than one link to a now-defunct place to get ordained online to perform marriages and that was enough to tell me the market is saturated.
Non-denominational or Christian ordination?
The most popular churches that provide instant online ordination are completely non-denominational and open to all, however, there are several organizations that ordain Christian ministers. If you find yourself wanting to perform traditional Christian weddings and perhaps start a wedding ministry, that might be for you. They adhere to strict christian principles and views of marriage.
Secular Humanist Wedding Officiant Certification
There is also a church that refers to themselves as Spiritual Humanists which falls in between a non-denominational minister and a Secular Humanist. Secular Humanists only certify their wedding celebrants, as being “ordained” is associated with a church. Personally, I am ordained to have the legal power to marry anyone anyway they wish to be married.
My Review of 13 Online Ordination Websites
The Universal Life Church is probably the most popular place to get ordained online. They’ve been around for over 30 years and ordained millions of people, including several famous people! One of the things about The ULC that might look a little scammy is the have another website that goes by this URL: https://getordained.org/free-ordination. If you go to getordained.org you can see their certificates are the same as The Universal Life Church Monastery. The Church is in California and the Monastery is in Washington. It’s a very interesting way to market a business.
Is it really free?
The Universal Life Church boasts free ordination. The trick is, if you want certified proof that you are ordained, you need to pay for the certificate. The cost of the certificate is $11.99 plus shipping. If you want to perform a wedding in a state that requires you to have a “Letter of Good Standing” with the church that had ordained you, that will cost you $18.00. The nice thing is if you need both the letter and the certificate they will cut you a deal. Shipping is extra. They also have an overnight Fed-Ex option for all your wedding officiant emergencies!
The ULC has several packages where you can get additional minster-things like a ministry card you can show someone if you aren’t carrying your ordination certificate around. (Hint: take a picture and leave it on your phone or post the picture to your business website.) You can also buy clergy shirts and stoles, books and decorative marriage certificates you can give to the couple you marry. Things you don’t necessarily need, but are nice to have.
Walnderlust Bay is a wedding ministry. They state they are a “religious society whose beliefs date back thousands of years.” They also state they believe in the God of the Bible and that weddings are one of civilization’s greatest institutions. They really want everyone to have a great wedding and believe that those who preside over weddings should be trained, dedicated and prepared. They provide their ministers with a training video and online and phone support. I think that is AWESOME!!
The cost of being ordained with Wanderlust Bay Ministries is $39. Ordination is effective immediately but it may take a few days to receive your printed certificate. They also clearly state that if the wedding is taking place in Pennsylvania, Virginia and some counties in New York there may be additional documentation required so contact them before ordering. They have a legal team that is up to date with current laws.
While other online ordinations boast that you can do just about anything an ordained minister does, Wanderlust Bay Ministries just sticks to the business of marriage.
Just like the Universal Life Church and Universal Life Church Monastery are the same, First Nation Ministry is also First Nation Church. They are The Official Church of Love™ They also say that they are A Division of Universal Life Church International, Inc., of Modesto, California. So I don’t know if this is yet another name for the same Universal Life Church Monastery or not.
First Nation Ministry breaks down their information and explanations by state. I looked at becoming qualified in Indiana because I know I’m an expert in Indiana, having performed over 3000 marriages. The following is what they offered me:
At The First Nation Church Website you have options:
Other websites ordain you for life and for free with just a one time fee for the certificate so all the renewals fees seem a little unnecessary. They also say you can become part of the American Council of Wedding Officiants which, when I Googled it, the website I found was under renovation and linked back to FirstNationMinistry.org - Which, as of this update, (5/19) no longer exists.
While I’m Sure First Nation Ministry is a place to get a legitimate ordination to perform legal marriages, it looks like they decided to think up new words to describe the process and create something that looked new and make a business out of it. In reality, it’s all a business, so I can’t fault them for that. This situation shows the market is probably saturated with online wedding officiant churches.
"Come join the slowest-growing religion in the world – Dudeism. An ancient philosophy that preaches non-preachiness, practices as little as possible, and above all, uh…lost my train of thought there. Anyway, if you’d like to find peace on earth and goodwill, man, we’ll help you get started. Right after a little nap."
The Church of Dudeism will ordain you as a minister as long as you:
So, I think being a Dudest Priest is funny. I know a guy who is a divorce lawyer and a Dudest Priest. It’s completely harmless. If you want to perform fun weddings, why not? It’s probably not something you want to build a business on but to marry your best friends or just get the ordination certificate for $10. Why not? Their Letter of Good Standing is only $5. It’s a very good deal! Considering most online ordinations are really just business models, I’d say this one is the best! A LOT of thought and work went into this church. I literally bow to their greatness!!
United National Ministry is a Christian Church located in Dallas, TX. Our mission as a church is to ordain ministers for the Lord and promote traditional marriage between a man and woman. United National Ministry was founded to help Christians everywhere become ordained to spread the gospel and perform their religious duties.
United National Ministry is a Marriage Ministry and clearly the business of ordaining ministers so they can perform legal marriages. They come at it from a Christian perspective instead of being non-denominational and open to everyone. They clearly state that with their ordination you cannot perform a same-sex marriage.
Their basic ordination certificate package is $49.95. They also offer Wedding Ministry, Complete Ministry and Church Charter packages so you can preach or start a prison ministry or any thing you feel called to do.
American Marriage Ministries is a constitutional church, meaning that our mandate is based on this country’s foundational documents and the philosophies that inspired the Founding Fathers during the formative years of this nation.
"We draw inspiration from all who have advanced society’s protections of individual freedoms and rights, from Judeo-Christian and eastern teachings, to the enlightenment philosophers, to name a few."
The AMM Website is just downright awesome! It’s well organized and clearly answers all your questions. The ordination certificate is $10. The Letter of Good Standing is $15.
Open Ministry offers free Online Ordinations, support and training for ministers, a Directory of Ministers, and religious guidance through a variety of mediums. We provide legal updates, wedding and marriage laws, and tools and resources for ordained ministers. We are a truly welcoming ministry that honors our members and congregation. As a Ministry of open faith we seek a society that will legally protect and support all ministers and include the freedom to perform weddings for friends and family, regardless of religious belief in practice or denomination.
"We believe marriages should be available to all those who seek the recognition of their commitment to one another, and the couple has the right to choose their own minister."
Open Ministry is another great website. It’s informative and up to date on marriage laws. It states that the ordination is free but the actual ordination certificate is $9.99 and the Letter of Good Standing is $14.99.
They say “We Care” and you can feel that as you navigate through their website.
As an outreach of Christian Global Outreach Ministries, MINISTER NOW! was originated in 2015 from Nashville, TN to bridge individuals who wanted to become Christian ministers with the ability to do so.
"There was a constant call from service men and women who sought to be ordained, but were not connected to a church wherever they were serving. We also began to research the needs of those who had a call on their lives for ministry, but whose family, work and life schedules did not allow them the opportunity for a lengthy ordination process or seminary program. There are many online sites that will ordain anyone of any faith, or no faith. We only ordain those seeking to be Christian ministers."
Minister Now! will ordain you for life for just $25.
They say you can purchase other items but there is no access to the store from the homepage. They have links to a list of cities where they have ordained ministers and another link to a page showing ministers in action.
I found a link to their parent company Christian Global Outreach Ministries which provided some more wedding information. Honestly? I don’t think this is a great website for someone just looking to become a wedding officiant. If I didn’t know what I was looking at or looking for I’d be confused. I like to look at everything on a website before I buy, especially something so important, I couldn’t find those things on the Minister Now! website.
The “Christian Harvest Church” is reaching out to all people and ordaining ministers from all over the world.
"We hope to spread Christianity to even the smallest most remote groups. Religious tolerance and understanding is important. We believe in freedom of religion – the right of every person to choose and practice his or her own religion."
You can be an associate member in the Christian Harvest Church and be ordained if you believe:
*in Jesus Christ our Savior and you agree to spread the word of Christianity in your own way.
*your actions and beliefs should not conflict with common decency.
*we are all free to do as we will as long as it does not harm or infringe on the rights and freedoms of others.
Harvest Christian Church looks like a legitimate church trying to make some extra money with the wedding business. I can’t blame them for that. Their Clergy Pack is a one time fee of $79. They have a simple, straightforward website. I don’t see any other information about their actual church. This is their wedding “ministry”.
"As Spiritual Humanists we believe that every person has innate right to make a spiritual connection to the rest of the cosmos. We facilitate this through our free online ordination program. Our premise is simple:
We can solve the problems of society using a religion based on reason."
The Church of Spiritual Humanism has a wonderful website! It clearly states everything the church is about with complete explanations of their rituals and practices. Online ordination is free and you can purchase “Clergy Packs” for $24.95, $45.96 and $95.95. They also sell an officiants manual for $39.95. If you aren’t a Christian or a Secular Humanist, this a great middle point!
I highly recommend this site if you want to be a spiritual wedding officiant.
"A humanist celebrant plays a role similar to that of a traditional clergyperson with one difference: humanist ceremonies express our positive, non theistic philosophy of humanism instead of traditional faith. Humanist celebrants conduct humanist, nonreligious, and interreligious weddings, commitment/same-sex unions, memorials, baby namings, and other life cycle ceremonies. Celebrants are generally recognized in all states and many countries, being accorded the same rights and privileges granted by law to priests, ministers, and rabbis of traditional theistic religions."
Becoming a secular celebrant is different from a random online ordination. Make sure to check with your local authorities to make sure secular celebrants are allowed to perform a legal marriage. A secular humanist is an Atheist. It’s not a religious organization. It might matter legally. You can always become a non-denominational ordained minister to perform any type of wedding ceremony you like – including completely non-religious. The application is much more extensive with a $40 application fee and a $100 annual professional fee. The money is obviously going towards maintaining a much larger, completely legitimate organization. They offer this certification to compliment their beliefs, not to just make money to keep the rest of their ministry running.
"The American Fellowship Church is a religious organization whose ministers are dedicated to the enhancement of each person’s spiritual growth and development and thus to the worth, dignity, well-being, and unique potential of each individual."
The American Fellowship Church offers a 1 Year Minister License ID Card Ordination and Membership + Certificate for $45, $115 for 5 years and $260 for a lifetime. You can also pay for ministers training beyond just performing marriages. If you just want to legally perform a wedding, this is probably not the site for you. $260 for a lifetime? There are other sites that will ordain you for life for less than $20 for everything delivered to your door. This just makes no sense to me, especially because it wasn’t very high in the search results to give me any extra confidence in it.
"The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, after having existed in secrecy for hundreds of years, came into the mainstream just a few years ago. With millions, if not thousands, of devout worshipers, the Church of the FSM is widely considered a legitimate religion, even by its opponents – mostly fundamentalist Christians, who have accepted that our God has larger balls than theirs.
Some claim that the church is purely a thought experiment or satire, illustrating that Intelligent Design is not science, just a pseudoscience manufactured by Christians to push Creationism into public schools. These people are mistaken — The Church of FSM is legit, and backed by hard science. Anything that comes across as humor or satire is purely coincidental."
So, yes, it’s a really funny website. It is a huge satire and their ordination process actually mimics the other online ordination websites in a lot of ways with certificates and cards for your wallet. But it does clearly say you can preside over any social ceremony. That’s not a legal ceremony. Enjoy the website, it’s funny, don’t try to register as a wedding officiant with the ordination.
What is a licensed wedding officiant? Being licensed is a term some churches that ordain ministers online use. They may ordain you but only “license” you to use that ordination for a certain amount of time. You can pay for a year or longer. It’s not a legal term when it comes to performing weddings. It’s a layman term created but an organization. Wedding officiants are not licensed. Some states require them to register.
How old do you have to be to officiate a wedding? 18. When you officiate a wedding you sign a marriage license which is a legal contact. You must be old enough to legally sign the license.
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"