Who Can Officiate a Wedding?

There are lots of decisions that go into the wedding planning process. Choosing the person that will officiate the ceremony probably doesn’t rank as high on the list as the wedding gown, wedding venue, and menu items for the day. However, you need to know who can officiate a wedding if you want a legally-binding ceremony.

There are many wedding officiants you can choose from. We’ll review them in this article to help you make the right choice for your big day.

Wedding Officiants Explained

A wedding officiant is an official who leads your wedding ceremony. The individual must be legally ordained to perform weddings in the state and understand the jurisdiction’s laws regarding the marriage license.

Their job includes working with the intending couple long before the wedding date to design the ceremony. A qualified officiant will typically have an input in the core elements, including the readings, music, vows, and more.

Some officiants can also deliver premarital counseling. Others understand the type well and can make the event much more enjoyable.

On the wedding day, the officiant will sign the marriage license (alongside the two witnesses) and return it to the county clerk’s office for appropriate certification. Without the marriage license, you’re not legally married.

List of People Who Can Officiate a Wedding

The list of individuals who can officiate a wedding includes:

Religious Wedding Officiant

Religious officiants are faith leaders who perform wedding ceremonies at their place of worship. Standard titles of religious officiants include:

  • Imam
  • Rabbi
  • Priest
  • Minister
  • Reverend
  • Pastor

They can all perform the wedding ceremony and sign your marriage certificate. However, choosing a religious officiant doesn’t always mean you have to hold your wedding in a place of worship. You can have a spiritual leader hold your wedding at any venue.

Before you choose a religious officiant, you need to have a conversation with them to ensure you can adhere to the rules and regulations of the denomination or organization.

The Civil Wedding Officiant

Civil wedding officiants are government officials who can legally handle a wedding ceremony in line with state laws. Also known as secular officiants, civil officiants go by various titles, including:

  • Judge
  • Mayor
  • Notary public
  • City hall clerks
  • County clerks
  • Magistrate
  • Justice of the peace

Civil officiants hold weddings in government buildings such as the courthouse or city hall. Secular officiants are an excellent choice if you want a simple, nonreligious ceremony.

Ordained Wedding Officiant

If you’re more comfortable having a loved one as the officiant for your wedding ceremony, you can have them become an ordained wedding officiant (if they are not already).

An ordained wedding officiant is any public member who has undergone the ordination process. Your loved one can become ordained by applying online or at the local government offices and paying the required fees.

Some states don’t recognize online ordination, so you must review your state’s marriage laws before your friend, or family member completes the application process and pays the fees.

After the ordination process, you have to sit down with the newly ordained wedding officiant to discuss how you’d like your wedding ceremony to be.

Do you want to write your vows? Do you want to include special readings? Do you want the wedding to take a religious or secular tone? You can decide on these together.

Professional Wedding Officiant

Also known as celebrants, these are licensed professionals with the qualifications to perform a marriage ceremony. Celebrants have experience in interfaith, spiritual, and secular traditions. However, most of them only focus on specific areas.

Celebrants are a fantastic choice when looking for someone who can officiate a wedding and is also capable of offering guidance on writing and practicing your vows. They will also allow you to add traditions or rituals to the ceremony where religious or certain secular officiants may not do so.

Please don’t hire a celebrant until you’ve sat down with them. Evaluate them well ahead of time to ensure they are up for the task.

Fortunately, many celebrants have adequate experience. You’re unlikely to hire one where your wedding is their first rodeo. Thus, you can trust them to officiate your ceremony professionally and confidently.

What Happens if an Unrecognized Officiant Handles Your Ceremony?

Besides the fact that they are likely to mishandle your big day by being at a loss on what to say (or making inappropriate jokes), working with an unrecognized officiant means your wedding has no legal backing.

Remember, you need a marriage license to make your wedding legal, and only a recognized officiant can fill out the application.

Must the Officiant Say Specific Words to Make a Marriage Legal?

The officiant doesn’t have to say certain words to make your marriage legal. You may hear the exact words during a marriage ceremony because religious and cultural traditions surround marriage.

Although most experienced officiants will stick to the usual ceremony script, they are not under any obligation to do so.

Accurately filling out the marriage application license is more important. Some legal requirements include the signature of two witnesses, a notary public’s signature, and photo identification.

What Are Legal Problems That May Arise During the Process?

Finding who can officiate a wedding is usually straightforward. However, legal hiccups may arise while planning the wedding. For instance, you can’t legally marry someone else if you are already married.

If your intended spouse is separated but has yet to complete the divorce proceedings, they must divorce officially before the state can recognize the new marriage.

Do you need more advice on finding an officiant for your wedding? Knowing who can officiate a wedding is one step of the process; finding a qualified officiant is another. At City Hall Wedding, we can help you find the perfect officiant.

Are you unsure about holding a ceremony in the first place? Read this to know if it’s essential to have a wedding ceremony.