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Who may serve as a wedding minister or marriage officiant in my state?

A quick guide to marriage laws for wedding ministers and marriage officiants performing marriage in the United States

Note: State laws change regularly, check with your county clerks office for up to date information.

This information is offered as a general guide only and is in no way to be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, seek the services of  competent legal professionals.

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Alabama - Any licensed minister of the gospel in regular communion with the Christian church or society of which he is a member may perform marriages. Also, marriages may be performed by the pastor of any religious society according to the rules of the religious society. Ministers must provide a certificate of the marriage to the judge of probate within one month after the marriage.  For questions see the county clerk.

Alaska - The minister, priest or rabbi of any church or congregation in the state may perform marriages. Ministers must provide marriage certificates to the couple married and report the marriage to the Marriage Commissioner.   For questions contact the Marriage Commissioner.

Arizona - Marriages may be performed by a member of the clergy (including a minister, priest, bishop, rabbi, and imam), a judge, a magistrate, a clerk of the circuit court, or a clerk or clerk-treasurer of a city or town. Ministers must record the marriage on the marriage license and return it to the clerk of the Superior Court within 20 days after the marriage. For questions contact the clerk of the Superior Court

Arkansas - Any regularly ordained minister or priest of any religious sect or denomination may perform marriages. Ministers must have their ordination credentials filed by the county clerk who will then issue a certificate to the minister. The marriage license must be completed by the minister and returned to the county clerk within 60 days from the date the license was issued. For questions contact the County Clerk.

California - The laws of the State of California make it unnecessary for persons performing marriages to file credentials with the clerk of the court or with anyone else. The county and state are removed from any responsibility for verification of credentials. The State does not maintain a central registry of members of the clergy. Any such concern for verification is totally at the discretion of the parties to the marriage. http://www.dhs.ca.gov/hisp/chs/OVR/Marriage/FAQ.htm

Colorado - Marriages may be performed by any ordained or licensed minister. Ministers must send a marriage certificate to the county clerk. A marriage may be solemnized by a judge of a court of record, a public official whose powers include solemnization of marriages, or in accordance with any mode of solemnization recognized by any religious denomination or Indian nation or tribe.  For further information contact the County Clerk.

Connecticut - All ordained or licensed clergymen belonging to this state or any other state may perform marriages as long as they continue in the work of the ministry. Marriage license must be completed by the minister and returned to the city or town clerk. For further information contact the City or Town Clerk.

Delaware - Any ordained minister of the gospel and every minister in charge of a recognized church may perform marriages. Ministers do not need to be licensed to perform marriages but they must report their name and address to the local registrar in the district in which they live. Ministers must keep the marriage license or a copy for at least one year. Also, the minister must, within 4 days, complete and return forms required by the State Board of Health to the clerk of the peace. For further information contact the Clerk of the Peace.

Florida - 741.07 Persons authorized to solemnize matrimony.- (1) All regularly ordained ministers of the gospel or elders in communion with some church, or other ordained clergy, and all judicial officers, including retired judicial officers, clerks of the circuit courts, and notaries public of this state may solemnize the rights of matrimonial contract, under the regulations prescribed by law. Nothing in this section shall make invalid a marriage which was solemnized by any member of the clergy, or as otherwise provided by law prior to July 1, 1978. (2) Any marriage which may be had and solemnized among the people called "Quakers," or "Friends," in the manner and form used or practiced in their societies, according to their rites and ceremonies, shall be good and valid in law; and wherever the words "minister" and "elder" are used in this chapter, they shall be held to include all of the persons connected with the Society of Friends, or Quakers, who perform or have charge of the marriage ceremony according to their rites and ceremonies. http://www.myflorida.com/myflorida/government/governorinitiatives/notary/relatedLaws.html

Georgia - Any minister who is authorized by his or her church may perform marriages. Ministers must complete a certificate of marriage and return it to the ordinary within 30 days after the marriage. For further information contact the Ordinary's Clerk.

Hawaii - Any minister may perform marriages if they are authorized by their church to do so. Ministers must obtain a license from the Department of Health before performing marriages. Ministers must keep a record of all marriages they perform. Ministers must report all marriages they perform to the Department of Health.

Idaho - Marriages may be performed by priests or ministers of the gospel of any denomination. Ministers must give a marriage certificate to the bride and to the groom. Also, the minister must complete the license and marriage certificate and return it to the recorder who issued it within 30 days after the marriage. For further information contact the County Recorder.

Illinois - Marriages may be performed by ministers of the gospel in regular standing in the church or society to which they belong. The marriage license and certificate must be completed by the minister and returned to the county clerk within 30 days after the marriage. For further information contact the County Clerk.  Wedding ministers must contact the county clerk before performing a marriage ceremony.  You may have to remind them of your rights under the constitution (freedom of religion) in order to get them to issue a permit.

Indiana - Marriages may be performed by a member of the clergy (including a minister, priest, bishop, rabbi, and imam), a judge, a magistrate, a clerk of the circuit court, or a clerk or clerk-treasurer of a city or town. Ministers must return the marriage license and a certificate of marriage to the clerk of the circuit court within 3 months after the marriage. For further information contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

Iowa - Ministers of the gospel who are ordained by their church may perform marriages. Minister must give a certificate of marriage to the bride and to the groom. Also, the minister must report the marriage to the clerk of the district court within 15 days after the marriage. For further information contact the Clerk of the District Court.

Kansas -

Solemnizing marriage; persons authorized to officiate. (a) Marriage may be validly solemnized and contracted in this state, after a license has been issued for the marriage, in the following manner: By the mutual declarations of the two parties to be joined in marriage, made before an authorized officiating person and in the presence of at least two competent witnesses over 18 years of age, other than the officiating person, that they take each other as husband and wife.

      (b)   The following are authorized to be officiating persons:

      (1)   Any currently ordained clergyman or religious authority of any religious denomination or society;

      (2)   any licentiate of a denominational body or an appointee of any bishop serving as the regularclergyman of any church of the denomination to which the licentiate or appointee belongs,     if     not restrained from so doing by the discipline of that church or denomination;

      (3)   any judge or justice of a court of record;

      (4)   any municipal judge of a city of this state; and

      (5)   any retired judge or justice of a court of record.

      (c)   The two parties themselves, by mutual declarations that they take each other as husband and wife, in accordance withthe customs, rules and regulations of any religious society, denomination or sect to which either of the parties belong, maybe married without an authorized officiating person.

Kentucky - Marriage shall be solemnized only by clergy, justices and judges of the Court of Justice, retired justices and judges of the Court of Justice except those removed for cause or convicted of a felony, county judge/executives, such justices of the peace and fiscal court commissioners as the Governor or the county judge/executive authorizes, and certain religious societies.

Louisiana - Ministers of the gospel or priests of any denomination in regular communion with any religious society may perform marriages. Ministers must register with the clerk of the district court of the parish or with the health department if in New Orleans. After performing a marriage, the minister must complete a marriage certificate and return it to the clerk of the district court. For further information contact the Clerk of the District Court.

Maine - As of July 1, 1981 the Secretary of State's Office no longer requires a license be issued for ministers of the gospel for the purpose of solemnizing marriages in Maine. Currently, Maine relies solely on the language of the law regarding who is authorized to solemnize marriages in Maine. According to Title 19-A M.R.S.A. section 655, the following persons are authorized to perform marriages in Maine: A. If a resident of this State: (1) A justice or judge; (2) A lawyer admitted to the Maine Bar; or (3) A notary public under Title 4, chapter 19, and B. Whether a resident or nonresident of this State and whether or not a citizen of the United States: (1) An ordained minister of the gospel; (2) A cleric engaged in the service of the religious body to which the cleric belongs; or (3) A person licensed to preach by an association of ministers, religious seminary or ecclesiastical body.  Every person authorized to unite persons in marriage shall make and keep a record of every marriage solemnized by that person in conformity with the forms and instructions prescribed by the State Registrar of Vital Statistics.

Maryland - In Maryland, any adult can sign as clergy, as long as the couple who are getting married agree that he is a clergy. The celebrant doesn't have to be a resident, register in advance, or fulfill any other requirements.

Massachusetts - Ordained ministers of the gospel may perform marriages. Before performing marriages, ministers are required to apply for a certificate from the state. For applications write to: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of the Secretary, Supervisor, Commissions Division, State House, Boston, Massachusetts 02133. You must file a copy of your ordination certificate and a statement from the church saying that you are in good standing.

Michigan - Marriages may be solemnized by any of the following: (a) federal, probate, district, and municipal judges, and district court magistrates, in their court area; (b) mayors, in their city; (c) Wayne County clerks; (d) ministers of the gospel, anywhere in the state, "if the minister is ordained or authorized to solemnize marriages according to the usages of the denomination, and is a pastor of a church in this state, or continues to preach the gospel in this state"; and (a) non- resident ministers of the gospel, anywhere in the state, if the minister is authorized to solemnize marriages by his or her state's laws.  http://courts.co.calhoun.mi.us/book012.htm#Solemnization Authority:

Minnesota - Any licensed or ordained minister of the gospel in regular communion with a religious society may perform marriages. Ministers must file a copy of their credentials of ordination with the clerk of the district court of any county. Ministers must give a marriage certificate to the bride and groom and also file a certificate with the clerk of the district court in the county, which issued the marriage license. For further information contact the Clerk of the District Court.

Mississippi - Any ordained minister of the gospel who is in good standing with his or her church may perform marriages. Ministers must send a certificate of marriage to the clerk who issued the marriage license within three months after the marriage. For further information contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

Missouri - Marriages may be performed by any clergyman who is a citizen of the United States and who is in good standing with any church or synagogue in this state. Ministers must keep a record of all marriages they perform. They must give the couple a marriage certificate and must complete the marriage license and return it to the recorder of deeds within 90 days after the marriage license was issued. For further information contact the Recorder of Deeds.

Montana - Solemnization and Registration: (1) A marriage may be solemnized by a judge of a court of record, by a public official whose powers include solemnization of marriages, by a mayor, city judge, or justice of the peace, by a tribal judge, or in accordance with any mode of solemnization recognized by any religious denomination, Indian nation or tribe, or native group. Either the person solemnizing the marriage or, if no individual acting alone solemnized the marriage, a party to the marriage shall complete the marriage certificate form and forward it to the Clerk of the District Court.

(2) If a party to a marriage is unable to be present at the solemnization, he may authorize in writing a third person to act as his proxy. If the person solemnizing the marriage is satisfied that the absent party is unable to be present and has consented to the marriage, he may solemnize the marriage by proxy. If he is not satisfied, the parties may petition the district court for an order permitting the marriage to be solemnized by proxy.

(3) The solemnization of the marriage is not invalidated by the fact that the person solemnizing the marriage was not legally qualified to solemnize it, if either party to the marriage believed him to be so qualified. Ministers of the gospel of any denomination may perform marriages. Ministers must complete and return a marriage certificate to the clerk of the district court within 30 days after the marriage. Also the minister must provide marriage certificates to the bride and groom upon request. For further information contact the Clerk of the District Court.

Nebraska - Any ordained clergyman whatsoever, without regard to the sect to which they belong may perform marriages. Ministers must report marriages they perform to the county judge who issued the marriage license within 15 days after the marriage. Also the minister must provide marriage certificates to the bride and groom upon request. For further information contact the County Clerk.

Nevada - Any ordained minister in good standing with his denomination, whose denomination is incorporated or organized or established in the State of Nevada may perform marriages. Ministers are required to apply for a “certificate of permissions” to perform marriages. Among other requirements, the applicant's ministry must be primarily one of service to his congregation or denomination and his performance of marriages must be incidental to such service. For further information contact the County Clerks office.  http://www.leg.state.nv.us/NRS/NRS-122.html  Note: The performance of marriage is highly regulated in the State of Nevada.  An online ordination is not usually sufficient to receive permission to perform marriage.

New Hampshire - Marriages may be performed by any ordained minister of the gospel who resides in the state and is in good standing with his church. Ministers not residing in the state may obtain permission to perform a marriage upon application to the Secretary of State. Ministers must send a copy of the marriage certificate to the town clerk. For further information contact the City or Town Clerk.

New Jersey - NJ law states that "every minister of every religion" may legally solemnize marriages. No registration is required. You just have to properly complete the New Jersey marriage license and return the 2 white copies within 5 days to the registrar in the municipality where the wedding took place. You keep the blue copy and the newly married couple gets the pink copy. For further information, contact the registrar.

New Mexico - Any ordained clergyman whatsoever, without regard to the sect to which he or she may belong may perform marriages. Ministers must provide the county clerk with a marriage certificate within 90 days after the marriage. For further information contact the County Clerk.

New York - The laws are very complicated depending upon where you live, contact the County Clerk for information.

North Carolina - Any ordained minister of any faith who is authorized to perform marriages by his church may do so. Ministers must complete the marriage license and return it to the register of deeds that issued it. Magistrates are the only “civil” officials with authority to conduct marriage ceremonies in North Carolina. For information contact the Registrar of Deeds Office in the county you are to perform the marriage.

North Dakota - Ordained ministers of the gospel and priests of every church may perform marriages. Ministers must file a certificate of marriage with the County Judge who issued the license within 5 days after the marriage. Certificates must also be given to the persons married. For further information contact the county clerk’s office in the county you are to perform the marriage.

Ohio - Any ordained or licensed minister of any religious society or congregation within this state may perform marriages. Before performing a marriage, ministers must present their ordination credentials to the probate judge of any county. The judge will provide the minister with a license to perform marriages. The minister must then present his license to the probate judge in any county in which he performs a marriage. Ministers must send a certificate of marriage to the probate judge of the county, which issued the marriage license within 30 days after the marriage. For further information contact the Clerk of the Probate Court.

Oklahoma - Solemnization of marriages: All marriages must be contracted by a formal ceremony performed or solemnized in the presence of at least two adult, competent persons as witnesses, by a judge or retired judge of any court of record in this state, or an ordained or authorized preacher or minister of the Gospel, priest or other ecclesiastical dignitary of any denomination who has been duly ordained or authorized by the church to which he belongs to preach the Gospel, or a rabbi and who is at least eighteen (18) years of age. The preacher, minister, priest, rabbi or ecclesiastical dignitary who is a resident of this state shall have filed, in the office of the court clerk of the county in which he resides, a copy of his credentials or authority from his church or synagogue authorizing him to solemnize marriages. The preacher, minister, priest, rabbi or ecclesiastical dignitary who is not a resident of this state, but has complied with the laws of the state of which he is a resident, shall have filed once, in the office of the court clerk of the county in which he intends to perform or solemnize a marriage, a copy of his credentials or authority from his church or synagogue authorizing him to solemnize marriages. Such filing by resident or nonresident preachers, ministers, priests, rabbis or ecclesiastical dignitaries shall be effective in and for all counties of this state; provided, that no fee shall be charged for such recording; but no person herein authorized to perform or solemnize the marriage ceremony shall do so unless the license issued therefore be first delivered into his possession nor unless he has good reason to believe the persons presenting themselves before him for marriage are the identical persons named in the license, and for whose marriage the name was issued, and that there is no legal objection or impediment to such marriage.

Oregon - Ministers of any church organized, carrying on its work, and having congregations in this state may perform marriages in this state if authorized by their church to do so. Before performing marriages, ministers must file their credentials with the county clerk of the county in which they reside or in which the marriage is to be performed. Ministers must give the bride and groom a marriage certificate upon request. Also, the minister must send a marriage certificate to the county clerk who issued the marriage license within one month after the marriage. For further information contact the County Clerk.  Oregon requires wedding ministers to register before conducting marriage ceremonies.

Pennsylvania - Ministers of any regularly established church or congregation may perform marriages. Also, persons may marry themselves if they obtain a certificate from the clerk of the orphans' court. Ministers must provide a certificate of marriage to the bride and groom. Also, they must send a marriage certificate to the clerk of the orphans' court who issued the marriage license within 10 days after the marriage. For further information contact the Clerk of the Orphans' Court.

Rhode Island - Everyone who has been, or is, the minister of any society professing to meet for religious purposes or incorporated for the promotion of such purposes, and holding stated and regular services, and who has been ordained according to the customs and usages of such society may perform marriages. Ministers must obtain a license from the city or town clerk before performing marriages. Ministers must endorse and return the marriage license to the town or city clerk in which the marriage was performed. For further information contact the Town or City Clerk.

South Carolina - Ministers of the gospel who are authorized to administer oaths in this state may perform marriages. Ministers must complete the marriage license and give one copy to the parties and the other two must be returned to the county judge of probate who issued it within 15 days after the marriage. For further information contact the County Judge of Probate Clerk.   South Carolina requires ministers to register before performing marriage ceremonies. 

South Dakota - Marriages may be performed by a minister of the gospel, or priest of any denomination. -Ministers must provide the bride and groom with marriage certificates upon request. Ministers must also keep a record book of all marriages they perform. Finally, the minister must send a marriage certificate to the clerk who issued the marriage license within 30 days after the marriage. For further information contact the Clerk of Courts.

Tennessee - All regular ministers of the gospel of every denomination, and Jewish rabbis, more than 18 years of age, having the care of souls may perform marriages. Ministers must endorse the marriage license and return it to the clerk of the county court within three days after the marriage. For further information contact the County Clerk.  Registration is required.

Texas - Ordained Christian ministers and priests; Jewish rabbis and persons who are officers of religious organizations and who are duly authorized by the organization to conduct marriage ceremonies may perform marriages. Ministers must complete the marriage license and return it to the county clerk who issued it within 30 days after the marriage. For questions contact the County Clerk

Utah - Ministers of the gospel or priests of any denomination who are in regular communion with any religious society may perform marriages. Ministers must provide a certificate of marriage to the county clerk who issued the marriage license within 30 days after the marriage. For further information contact the County Clerk.

Vermont - Marriage can be performed by: A judge, supreme court justice, assistant judge, justice of the peace, or an ordained or licensed minister, rabbi or priest residing in Vermont or authorized by their denomination. Ordained ministers residing in this state may perform marriages. Non-resident ordained ministers may perform marriages with the permission of the Probate Court of the district within which the marriage is to take place. Ministers must complete the marriage license and certificate of marriage and return it to the clerk's office from which it was issued within ten days from the date of the marriage. For further information contact the City or Town Clerk.

Virginia - Wedding ministers must register with their circuit court clerk before performing any marriage.  Please contact your circuit court clerk's office for details. Here is a ruling on the matter of officiating marriages.  Apparently, it is at the discretion of the clerk whether to issue authority to perform marriage to a minister or not.  http://www.vaag.com/OPINIONS/2001opns/01-057.pdf

Washington - Regularly licensed or ordained ministers or any priest of any church or religious denomination anywhere within the state may perform marriages. Ministers must send two certificates of marriage to the county auditor within 30 days after the marriage. Washington simply needs the name of the ordaining body on the marriage license itself...no registration required.  For further information contact the County Auditor.

West Virginia - Requirements for Registration: 1. Proof of Age: The registrant must be 18 years of age or older, and may show proof using a birth certificate, driver license, passport or military ID. 2. Proof of Authority: The registrant must be duly authorized to perform marriages by his or her church, synagogue, spiritual assembly or religious organization; and in regular communion with that group of which he or she is a member. 3. Bond: The bonding requirement is waived if the registrant gives proof before the county commission of his or her ordination or similar formal authorization by the religious organization. A bond of $1,500 with surety approved by the county commission, is required if the formal ordination or similar authorization is not provided. A letter from the members of a single congregation unaffiliated with a recognized religious body is not considered proof sufficient to be exempt from the bonding requirement. The Secretary of State will establish a registry of all persons authorized to perform marriages.

Wisconsin - Any ordained clergyman of any religious denomination or society may perform marriages as well as a judge, a court commissioner, or certain religious appointees. You and your prospective spouse may officiate under established customs or rules of some religions. Before performing marriages, ministers must file their credentials of ordination with the clerk of the circuit court in the county in which their church is located. The clerk will give the minister a certificate. Ministers must complete the marriage certificates and give one to the bride and one to the groom. The original must be returned to the register of deed's of the county in which the marriage was performed or if performed in a city, to the city health officer. This must be done within 3 days after the marriage. For further information contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

Wyoming - Every licensed or ordained minister of the gospel may perform marriages. Ministers must give a marriage certificate to the bride and groom upon request and must return a certificate to the county clerk. For further information contact the County Clerk.

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