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

Here's everything you need to know about helping a friend or family member get ordained to officiate your wedding.
by The Knot
Friend officiating wedding ceremony
Justine Bursoni Photography

Lots of couples are choosing to have a close friend or relative officiate their nuptials, and we love the idea. Not only does it add an even more personal spin to your ceremony, but it's another way to incorporate a loved one into your wedding who's not in the wedding party. Your officiant should be someone you care about (and who cares about you), and whom you trust to make your ceremony special. Just remember that ordination requirements differ from state to state—you'll want to do your research first to make sure you're following local state or district rules. So, how do you get them ordained? Have your officiant follow these tips below. 

How do you get ordained?

Look to online ministries. Many are nondenominational or interfaith, while others are for certain religions. Just 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 relative 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, 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 online. Some of the most common online ministries are American Fellowship Church, Universal Life Church, Universal Ministries and Rose Ministries. Once you find one that suits 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 online and sends an ID card and minister's license 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 a small fee for certificates of credentials. Others, like the American Fellowship Church, do charge varying prices for the ordination, based on what type of package or certificate you'd like to have. 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..." and "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 order of events often includes a processional, welcome, declaration of intent, readings, vows, ring exchange, pronouncement and recessional.

What does our officiant need to do after the wedding?

Postceremony, 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.

Ready to start looking for an officiant? Let's go!

Not sure where to begin with your wedding planning? Take our Style Quiz and we'll pull together a custom wedding vision and vendors to match, just for you. After that, create a free, personalized wedding website to keep your guests informed (and excited!) about your plans, and a time-saving Guest List Manager to organize your attendees. Even better? You can sync your Guest List Manager and wedding website to update everything at once. 

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