How To Perform A Wedding Ceremony In California

California’s process for legally performing marriage ceremonies is fast, simple and uncomplicated. If you’re planning to perform a wedding ceremony anywhere in the State of California, we’ll walk you through every step to make sure your wedding day is worry-free.

What are the steps?

  1.  Ordination: You must be legally ordained and licensed as a Wedding Officiant in accordance with California state law in order to perform the marriage ceremony. The state does not have either an education or registration requirement, so if you are 18 years of age or older and have the capability to (1) perform the ceremony; (2) witness the signing of the marriage license by the bridal couple and the witness; (3) sign the marriage license yourself as the legal Wedding Officiant; and (4) return the marriage license to the issuing clerk’s office in a timely manner, then you meet the minimum legal standards.
    If you meet these criteria, you may request California-based ordination, under which you will receive your minister’s license. (Ordination is the process of being granted the authority to perform ceremonies. Upon becoming ordained, you are licensed as a minister and may perform ceremonies.)
  2. California State Flag (Image)Preparation: Begin planning the ceremony with your bridal couple, based on what their preferences are. Do they want a religious ceremony? Do they prefer a ceremony in which God or other deities are not mentioned? Design a written plan for the entire marriage ceremony, from the Officiant’s welcome and opening words to the assembled friends and family, to the commitment vows spoken by the couple, to the Officiant’s final pronouncement of husband and wife.
    Once everything has been written, you (as the Officiant) must rehearse the ceremony. You can do this on your own, or with a friend (or two) serving as your couple. The important point is to rehearse — practice makes perfect, especially if you’ve never performed a wedding ceremony before!
    Also, you should check with your couple throughout the planning process (1) to remind them to go down to the county clerk’s office in advance of their wedding day to obtain their marriage license, and (2) once they’ve obtained their marriage license, to remind them to bring it with them on their wedding day. The first rule of weddings: no marriage license, no wedding!
  3. Perform The Ceremony: The big day has arrived! Your couple looks great … but do they have their marriage license with them? Ask early, just in case they need to send someone back to their apartment to pick it up.
    If there wasn’t an on-site rehearsal and if you’re not familiar with the wedding venue, take some time — as much as possible — to walk around the facility. Make sure you’re comfortable with where you’ll be standing, and that you know where your couple and their attendants will be standing. Will you be working with a microphone? Check with the person who will be handling the audio — quite often, it’s the disc jockey — to see if you’ll have a microphone attached to you, or if there will be a mike stand. With or without a microphone, test your voice. Can you be heard in the last row?
    And then, the ceremony begins. You welcome the guests, friends and family, and present your opening remarks. The bridal couple exchange their vows, and you pronounce them married to each other — don’t forget to remind them to share their first kiss to seal their vows!
  4. After The Ceremony: Give your couple a few moments to relax and breathe, and to spend their first few minutes together as a married couple — they probably spent months and months planning this day, and they deserve a chance to catch their breath.
    But now, you’ve got one final step that you must take — and it is, without any doubt, the single most important step of them all: before your couple heads off to party all night at their reception, you must take them (and their witness) aside to sign the marriage license.
    Once everyone has signed the license IN DARK INK, and all the various boxes on the form have been filled in, DOUBLE-CHECK your work! It is much better to spend an extra minute or two to confirm that the marriage license is complete, rather than having to chase your couple down several days later (maybe while they are enjoying their honeymoon!) to fix something that could have been handled right there and then.
  5. Return The Marriage License: As your couple heads off to their reception, fold up their marriage license and pop it back in the envelope it came with, and then put it someplace SAFE for the time being — if you’re staying for the reception, take it to your car or your hotel room so that it doesn’t get lost or misplaced; if you are departing, take it with you.
    In either case, it your SOLE RESPONSIBILITY to make sure that the license is returned to the county clerk’s office that issued it WITHIN TEN DAYS after the ceremony, either in person or by mail. (The county clerk’s address is on the envelope the marriage license came in.)
    DO NOT wait until the eighth or ninth day following the wedding to send it back in — there is no good reason at all to hold on to it. Drop it in the mailbox as soon as you can!

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Disc Jockey As Wedding Minister (Photo)

Who Makes The Best Wedding Officiants?

A recent survey looked at which people from various professions made the best wedding officiants and, not surprisingly, it’s those folks with the “gift of gab” that topped the list.

Attorney or Lawyer as Marriage Officiant (Photo)

The “gift of gab” serves attorneys in the courtroom … and also when performing wedding ceremonies!

Out of all the “feeder” categories, radio announcers and disc jockeys were the clear-cut number one. Having to jump in with a few words before the start of a song, or having to talk off the top of your head before sending it over to the traffic report, radio people have the innate skills needed to perform marriage ceremonies.

With the shaky state of the radio industry, more and more radio personalities are lining their wallets with extra cash these days, picking up an extra $500 to $1500 each weekend by performing two, three or even four weddings!

And while many radio personalities have steady shifts and regular employment, the same can’t be said for actors and actresses, who often spend more time auditioning than they do working.

Already trained to work on stage or before the camera, and to ad lib when things go off-script, serving as a minister and wedding officiant is a perfect side gig for actors — and it sure beats waiting tables and hoping for a nice tip from your customers.

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Celebrant Institute Training (Photo)

Ethics and the Wedding Officiant

As a Wedding Officiant, what professional standards are you expected to comply with? Is there a certain level of ethics you must meet in your day-to-day work?

For these questions, we look to the Code of Ethics and Professionalism established by the Celebrant Association International.

According to the association, the code was created “to uphold the highest level of service and professionalism … while promoting freedom of choice in ceremonies and promoting the values of the Celebrant movement.” Continue reading

ULC Ordination License Certificate (Image)

The Cost of Ordination: Becoming Ordained Online

How much does wedding minister ordination cost? Here is our regularly-updated overview of several of the most popular Wedding Officiant ordination services, showing their fees and ordination terms:

American Marriage Ministries Lifetime? $40
Christian Harvest Church Lifetime $78
First Nation Ministry  Two Years¹ $32
Open Ministry Lifetime Free²
United National Ministry Not Stated $89.99³
ULC Monastery  Lifetime? $39.994
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Vincent M. Mallozzi, The Wedding Reporter (Photo)

The Wedding Reporter

Vinny Mallozzi, The Wedding Reporter, On The Job (Photo)

Vinny Mallozzi, The Wedding Reporter, On The Job

Vincent M. Mallozzi — or “Vinny,” to those who know him — comes right out and says it:

I’m not a priest or a rabbi or an online minister — nor do I play one on television — and yet I have married thousands of couples from around the world.

And while I have never led an exchange of vows, generations of brides and grooms who once gathered before me have shown thanks by sending emails and postcards from their honeymoons, and, on occasion, invitations to their wedding receptions.

And while he’s not a priest or a rabbi or an online minister (and perhaps he should be!) Vinny’s “higher calling” is that of being the Wedding Reporter for the “cathedral of journalism,” The New York Times. He began his career as a sports reporter there, from 1986 until 2003, then transitioned to the nuptial news desk, covering some 6,000 weddings in the time since then.

So what’s the one question that causes nearly every bride he interviews to take a lengthy pause?

“My service comes complete with a query,” he writes, “that renders women of all tongues rather speechless: ‘Will you be taking your husband’s last name or keeping your own?’”

❤ Read the full article, along with a delightful video of Mr. Mallozzi at work, on The New York Times website.

Disney Princess Wedding Ceremony (Photo)

Wedding Vows … Disney Style!

Alan Katz of Great Officiants (Photo)

Alan Katz of Great Officiants

We’re unashamed to admit that we love Alan Katz of Great Officiants in Southern California — he’s built an outstanding life celebration organization that can provide its clients with a solemn ceremony one hour … and a zany Star Wars-style wedding the next!

(What happens the hour after that? We can’t wait to find out!)

In a recent blog post on his team’s website, Alan provided the recipe for an amazing themed ceremony that fits the Disney movie fanboy-and/or-girl couple to perfection: a reading that alludes to a plethora of memorable characters from Disney features, and how their traits add to the couple’s relationship.

Alan explains, “I have a lot of couples who are huge Disney fans, so I wrote this story on how to live like your favorite Disney character.”

Here are a few quick examples from Alan…

Like Carl and Ellie Fredricksen, your love can be epic. It can only go UP from here!

Like Jack Sparrow, seek your adventure to find what you treasure most — gold, pearls, and lots of rum!

Like Aladdin, even a lowly street urchin can find his princess by rubbing the magic lamp. Just don’t rub it the wrong way!

Alan’s Disney-flavored vows conclude delightfully: “Not everything is a fairytale in life, but when you devote your life to the one you love, you can live a complete life!”

Read Alan’s complete “Disney vow” article here.

Want to become ordained to serve as a Wedding Officiant? It’s quick and simple! Click here to learn more…

Bride and Groom Walking Downtown (Photo)

Are You Sure Your Ordination Is Legal?

In a recent article by church-growing expert Raul Rivera on the StartChurch blog, he asks a very relevant question: are you sure your ordination is legal? While the situation described in the article — whether the ordination of a minister by his former pastor is still valid — may be unique, the question of whether or not your ordination is legal, valid and acceptable in various jurisdictions is actually very common.

Pennsylvania Disclaimer of Liability (Excerpt)

In Pennsylvania, your online ordination credentials could be called into question. (Click to enlarge.)

Back to the blog cited above, which lays out the scenario:

Pastor Charles felt honored when he was asked to perform a wedding, especially since the bride and groom were his longtime childhood friends. They had all grown up together in the same Michigan town and attended the same church there. Later on, the engaged couple moved from Michigan to Ohio. They asked Pastor Charles to sign their marriage license and officiate their wedding in Ohio.

While your ordination may be legal, valid and acceptable in Michigan, using our example here, do you know if you can legally perform a ceremony in Ohio … or any other state outside your primary licensed area?

The simple answer is yes, but — unlike Michigan, which does not require Officiants to register prior to performing a ceremony — the State of Ohio does require you to register with the Secretary of State’s office in Columbus before the ceremony takes place, without exception.

Most ordaining organizations will provide you with the required forms to register with jurisdictions outside your primary licensed area (such as Arkansas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Minnesota, Louisiana, West Virginia, Maine and New Hampshire) for no additional fee. However, many organizations, including First Nation, will charge a small additional fee for the special documents and forms required to register in Hawaii, Nevada and New York City.

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Officiant Forums Launched!

Whether you’re a seasoned professional wedding Officiant, someone who is just getting started in the profession, or if you’re only interested in performing a marriage ceremony for a friend or family member, we hope you’ll join our Officiant Forum.

While we’re just getting started and the cupboards are admittedly pretty bare, we’ve invited several industry experts to get involved to provide answers and advice on training, ceremony prep, local laws and procedures — just about anything that might come up during your day-to-day work.

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Preparing To Perform Your First Wedding Ceremony


Officiant performing a marriage ceremony (photo)

Getting ready to perform your first wedding ceremony? We’ve got a few tips to help.

Getting asked to perform your first wedding ceremony progresses very quickly from “Sure, I’ll do it!” to “Yipes, what do I actually do?”

A wedding ceremony is a beautiful but complex thing. As the designated Officiant, you may not have realized it before, but you’re in charge. It’s the bridal couple’s show, but you’re guiding them through the ceremony. Once you arrive at the altar (or the other designated spot where the vows will be spoken) you’re running things.

What things? Every thing. When you officiate a marriage ceremony, you’re essentially hosting and narrating the program — you are literally the master of ceremonies! Speak in a voice that everyone can hear, even those in the back row — and especially great grandma in the second row. She doesn’t want to miss a word!

The bridal couple will be following your lead, so make sure that every “repeat after me” is followed by short and simple vows for each of them to repeat. Test it out on yourself, because if you can’t remember more than four or five tongue-twisting words to repeat (with your nerves frayed, and a big audience of family and friends staring at you) neither will the couple!

But that’s not everything

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Beach Wedding - The Toast (Photo)

How To Become A Wedding Officiant

Let’s say that you’ve been asked to perform the marriage ceremony for your best friend or, perhaps, your favorite cousin. What’s the process you must go through to become an ordained minister and wedding officiant? Do you need to be trained to serve as a celebrant, or receive a special license?

Photo of a wedding officiant performing a marriage ceremony

You don’t have to be a priest or minister to become a wedding officiant!

Basically, the person performing a marriage ceremony must be legally ordained by a church or religious organization. Becoming ordained means that you are licensed to serve as an officiant (or celebrant, or ceremonial minister) and may perform weddings and other rites, such as funerals, baby blessings, and vow renewals.

Need to become ordained to perform marriage ceremonies? It’s fast and easy!

Click here to find out how…

You’re probably wondering how complicated the ordination process is, and how many years of education and on-the-job training you’ll have to undergo.

We’ll get those two questions out of the way immediately: the ordination process is actually quite simple, and there is no educational or training requirement — except one, which we’ll get to shortly.

What is ordination? Ordination simply means that the organization has verified who you are, made sure that you are of legal age to perform a marriage ceremony (in most states, it’s either 16 or 18 years old) and that you are capable of performing the wedding and witnessing the bridal couple’s signatures on their marriage license, which you are ordinarily required to return to the issuing agency (usually the County Clerk’s office) following the ceremony.

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