More and more couples are being married by recently ordained friends or family. A recent study claims the Universal Life Church — an organization that offers “free and legal” ordinations — has ordained more than 20 million people since 1962 (including our editor-in-chief). Data from two popular nuptial websites backs this up: TheWeddingReport.com reported that the percentage of weddings officiated by a friend or family member rose from 10 percent in 2008 to 17 percent in 2012, while TheKnot.com found an increase from 29 percent in 2009 to 40 percent in 2015.
This massive increase in the number of regular people — i.e., not priests, rabbis or other types that might be found entering a bar together for the purposes of a joke — officiating marriages would suggest that it’s incredibly easy to become ordained. And it is! Provided, that is, you’re not trying to be ordained by a larger denomination like the Catholic Church, which is significantly more complicated and probably not worth your time. That said, here’s what you need to know if you want to legally marry two people in a secular or loosely religious way:
Laws Vary by State
First things first: As with all things of legal importance when it comes to marriage, the regulations for performing a marriage ceremony vary from state to state. In some states, the laws are much stricter, and simply being ordained doesn’t necessarily allow you to legally wed people — a few states even require that an ordained minister actually have a ministry or congregation, rather than simply being ordained online.
If your state isn’t okay with ordained ministers marrying two people, your best bet is becoming a temporary officiant — or someone who’s given the legal thumbs up for a day by a state to marry two people. You can find out how to become a temporary officiant (and if that’s even necessary) in your state here.
Besides That, Getting Ordained Is Astonishingly Easy
If your state is cool with you simply becoming ordained to marry your friends and family (most are), organizations like the Universal Life Church and the American Marriage Ministries will ordain those who want to perform a marriage ceremony with just a few clicks of the mouse — all you have to do is provide them with your name, email address and street address in order to be ordained for life.
Again, though, make sure you know your state regulations. In some states, becoming a temporary officiant or being ordained might even be overkill. For instance, according to this list of recognized marriage officiants by state, commissioners of the Salvation Army are legally approved to perform marriage ceremonies in Alaska, and couples can solemnize their own marriage in Colorado and Wisconsin.
So one last time: Check your state’s official website to find out who’s in the clear when it comes to officiating marriages. Once that’s done, you can worry about what to say during the ceremony and just how drunk you’re allowed to get beforehand.