Asking a Friend or Family Member to Officiate Your Ceremony? Start Here

You may find that a close friend or family member is best fit for the job. How to get them ordained? Here, the oft-asked marriage ordination questions and answers.
Friend officiating wedding ceremony
Photo by Justine Bursoni Photography

How do you get ordained?

Look to online ministries. Many are nondenominational or interfaith, while others are for certain religions. Just make sure you double-check the affiliation before you go through the process. Some ministries require applications to convey your intentions, while others ask for simple paperwork.

Can my friend or family member get ordained to perform a ceremony of any religion?

Though some online organizations are for specific religions, many are either nondenominational or interfaith. The American Fellowship Church (AFC), which has been ordaining people since 1975, ordains people of any religion, and those who go through the process are also able to perform nondenominational services.

How do we find a credible organization?

There are a few large organizations that will ordain you via the Internet. Some of the most common online ministries are American Fellowship Church, Universal Life Church, Universal Ministries, and Rose Ministries. Once you find one that seems to suit you, check with your Secretary of State's office for legitimacy. The American Fellowship Church, for example, is legally registered with the California Secretary of State's office as a nonprofit religious organization in good standing.

How long does it take to get ordained?

The process varies depending on what organization you go through. The American Fellowship Church ordains instantly via the Internet and sends ID cards and minister's licenses immediately afterward. Check with the organization to find out the specifics.

Does it cost money to be ordained?

Again, this depends on the organization you go through. Some, like the Universal Life Church, ordain for free but charge for certificates of credentials ($5 for a certificate). Others, like the American Fellowship Church, charge $25 or a comparable price for the ordination. A quick tip: Before getting ordained, find out whether the ordination will be for life or for a limited time. If it's for a limited time, find out if it costs anything to renew the ordination.

What are the responsibilities of our officiant?

In order for the marriage to be legal, your officiant has to include the Declaration of Intent, or the "Do you take...I do" vows portion of the ceremony. As for the rest of the ceremony, sit down together ahead of time and come up with a ceremony to fit your personalities. A typical ceremony often includes a processional, welcome, declaration of intent, readings, vows, ring exchange, pronouncement, and recessional.

What does our officiant need to do after they become ordained?

After the wedding, your officiant must complete the marriage license (for which you usually need two witnesses to sign, along with the couple and the minister) and mail it to the state or county clerk's office. Each state has different laws for how soon after the ceremony the license must be mailed, so make sure you do your homework.

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