Can a wedding officiant legally certify your wedding?

July 29, 2021Lauren Windle

At Jacquie's Gourmet Catering, we know weddings. We also know here are lots of different types of wedding officials, all of whom may (in most states) legally officiate and certify your marriage.

First, it’s good to understand there are two types of weddings; legally binding weddings recognized by the state, and religious weddings, recognized within churches and synagogues.

It is possible to have both from the same officiant, or have two weddings; one for legal requirements and another for religious purposes.

Here’s the difference between types of officiants:

  • A minister can legally officiate a wedding, albeit with some restrictions due to religious affiliations. If you wish to get married “within your church” (this doesn’t necessarily mean inside the church building), having a minister marry you might be the right choice for you. You can choose any minister you prefer, of course, as long as you predetermine the religious guidelines of your minister’s and your faith.
  • Priests can also legally officiate weddings, but again with restrictions pertaining to the Catholic faith. Some priests will legally marry individuals outside of the faith, but it may not be a recognized marriage within the Catholic church. The same may be true if one partner has been married previously. Have an honest talk with your priest to walk you through the rules.
  • A Jewish cohen or rabbi may legally officiate a Jewish wedding ceremony. Again, there may be certain religious rules both partners must agree to. Check with your rabbi well ahead of time so there are no surprises for either partner and/or family members, especially if both partners are not practicing Judaism.
  • A justice of the peace is a court officer of the state that can perform legally recognized civil (non-religious) marriages. Justice of the peace unions are a simple option for those who want nothing more than a legal marriage certificate. That said, you cannot just walk into a courthouse and get married (like they do in the movies). You may need to have a blood test and/or proof of citizenship and/or proof of divorce (if re-marrying) prior to setting up the appointment. Civil unions may also be offered only on certain days, scheduled times, and locations. Make sure you check out what your city or township justice of the peace requires in advance.
  • A wedding officiant refers to anyone who can legally officiate a marriage ceremony. Today however, the term generally refers to a non-denominational official who has been certified by the state to officiate weddings. When couples use a non-denominational wedding officiant, they aren’t bound by the limits of any specific religious tradition or dogma and can be custom-tailored to the individual desires of the couple.

It’s good to know your options well in advance – and then discuss the particulars with your soon-to-be spouse. A minister, rabbi, priest, justice of the peace, and a non-denominational wedding officiant are all capable and approved to officiate your wedding ceremony.

Make sure you talk about expectations and tone of the ceremony as well as where you want to hold it, timing, formalities, wording of the vows, even the music and catering you envision at your event.

With over 20 years in the reception and event catering business, Jacquie’s Gourmet Catering can help you with lots more than food options! Just ask us for ideas. We really do know a lot about weddings!







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