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Michelle M. Winner is a luxury lifestyle writer and non-denominational minister. She has done hundreds of weddings and is licensed in all 50 states.
What Does It Take To Become An Ordained Minister
Having a wedding ceremony is a great honor with important responsibilities. With online coordination increasing, it can be difficult to know where to start. Fortunately, many non-denominational churches and nonprofits offer all the supplies you might need to ordinate and rehearse for free, have a polished ceremony, and follow legalities.
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“We hope most people take their role as a civil servant seriously, and we are here to support them with free coordination and a variety of additional resources,” says Natasha Anakotta, American Ministries of Marriage. “If you need a step-by-step guide on Commissioning, cut-and-paste wedding vows, or information on wedding customs and traditions around the world, we have it.”
Natasha Anakotta is the Director of Outreach and Operations for American Marriage Ministries (AMM), a non-denominational church. AMM promotes marriage equality and celebrates individuality by offering free and legal online coordination for getting married in the United States to ensure that every couple has access to a wedding attendant who shares their worldview, beliefs and values.
Read on for everything you need to know about getting appointed, plus professional wedding attendant tips and etiquette to remember.
The timeline and procedure will vary depending on the organisation. It may take one day for your coordinator to register online, or longer if your coordinating service requires training or coursework before assigning you. Look for a reputable one online that offers basic, fast and free coordination but has additional quotes and support staff to answer your questions.
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You cannot have a legal marriage unless authorized by the state. Each state has different definitions, classifications, and laws governing who can have a wedding ceremony. Being commissioned with a legitimate organization recognized in fifty states is the best way to comply with these regulations. Here are the key questions to consider:
Once you’ve decided where you want to be assigned online, you’ll likely apply by filling out a form. Here is a link to a sample application. Upon your acceptance, you will be sent a printable ID or Minister ID number. And just like that, you are now appointed.
Check the state and county statutes where the ceremony is held to see if you must be registered as an officer before the ceremony. In most states, you can marry as soon as you are appointed. Still, some will require ministers to register with a government office before the ceremony, which means you may need to submit for certain documents and credentials. You can find an up-to-date directory of all states and their ministry registration policies here.
Every wedding is different in style and level of formality. If they say, “Wear whatever you want,” think about your attire in the context of your role as the registrar, not the wedding guest. Avoid prints and opt for neutral colors. Make sure you have hair to minimize distractions. it won’t catch your eyes and avoid flashy jewelry or smart watch.
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Learn about ceremony protocol, standard service order, vows, musical tips, how to move around the ceremony site, and how to fill out and file a marriage license. If you need help, go back to the coordinating body for help. Meet the couple to find out what they’re thinking about the ceremony. Prepare the script, practice your presentation, and set up a procession for rehearsal.
If you are uncomfortable conducting the rehearsal, ask the planner or field coordinator who will be at the ceremony to rehearse.
Get a few copies of the ceremony script to bring with you. Don’t forget to bring your marriage certificate too! Arrive at least an hour early to check in with the couple, review the music tips, the wedding area has everything you need (small table, Bible, candles, lighters, etc.) rings ready.
Just before the ceremony begins, tell everyone to take their seats and put their phones on silent. When you ask guests to stand up for the bride, be sure to tell them to sit down later. Do not read from the tablet or phone during the ceremony. Use a printed booklet or binder and look at the couple (and guests!) as much as possible. When it’s time for the couple to kiss, step back and get out of the way.
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Sign and fill out the marriage certificate with the couple and, if necessary, the witness(s) immediately after the ceremony. File the completed marriage certificate according to the instructions provided. If this is the couple’s responsibility, make sure they follow up and file them in a timely manner. Lauren Rodrigue by Lauren RodrigueWedding Planning ContributorLauren contributes articles to The Knot with a focus on wedding planning advice and trends. Lauren also works as an advertising copywriter. He has written for The Knot Worldwide, Lauren Jezebel, Vice, Buzzfeed and The Hairpin.
They asked and you agreed, but the next step is to answer the question: How exactly do I run a wedding and how do I get appointed? Most wedding attendants are self-taught after being posted online or going through the formal process at the local county clerk’s office. However, if you are here, it is most likely because you want to take the extra step of precaution and preparation that will result in you bringing the lucky couple together safely in legal marriage. (By the way, this piece isn’t just for those who want to be civil servants. If you’re getting married and still need to find someone to preside over your wedding ceremony, read our official guide to finding one in your area.)
We love the idea of having a friend run your wedding – it’s both budget friendly and personal. It’s important to know that the rules vary from state to state, so check to see if an online appointment is considered a legal way to become a minister. If so, your friend will want to be assigned online or at the local county clerk’s office, which is usually a quick and simple process. Check with your local office for details on specific requirements, such as applying for a marriage license, age of consent, and whether they need a blood test. Also, some states require the wedding clerk to prepare additional paperwork before allowing the county clerk to apply for a marriage license. Finally, on the wedding day, the officer’s time to shine will be when he conducts the ceremony (per the couple’s wishes), signs the marriage license, and returns it to the issuing office.
The law varies from state to state, so it’s important to review your local arbitration rules to legally ensure the wedding takes place. You’ll need to focus on the situation where the wedding is taking place (not where you’re from or when the couple is calling home).
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In addition to presiding over the ceremony on the wedding day, legally complying with state laws will be one of your greatest responsibilities as a civil servant. It’s worth noting that a wedding you perform may be illegitimate and subject to fines if appropriate laws are not followed. No pressure, though: Wedding laws are usually straightforward, and if there’s still confusion, pick up the phone and call the local county clerk’s office to help clear up any remaining issues.
Some states do not require officers to be appointed as ministers, while others do require it – so the next step is to check if the wedding venue is accompanied by this requirement. But don’t worry, you don’t have to attend a theological school to run a wedding. Here’s how to get assigned online.
If you believe in a particular religion and the prospective spouses agree, confirm that the state where the wedding will take place will recognize a marriage regulated by that religion. Next, look for online sorting options. This is also an option if you prefer to be appointed by a non-sectarian or interfaith organization. Some of the most frequently searched online options are American Church of Fellowship, Rose Ministries, Universal Living Church, and Universal Ministries.
However, double check that local state laws will recognize online ministry for legitimacy purposes. Coordination may involve filling out some paperwork, attending some courses and/or paying a fee, but overall it is an easy process as long as you are thorough from start to finish.
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