Marriage officiant

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A Lutheran priest in Germany marries a young couple in a church. 2007-09-01trauungkoln.jpg
A Lutheran priest in Germany marries a young couple in a church.

A marriage officiant is a person who officiates at a wedding ceremony.


Religious weddings, such as Christian ones, are officiated by a pastor, such as a priest or vicar. [1] Similarly, Jewish weddings are presided over by a rabbi, and in Islamic weddings, an imam is the marriage officiant. In Hindu weddings, a pandit is the marriage officiant.

Some non-religious couples get married by a minister of religion, [2] while others get married by a government official, such as a civil celebrant, judge, mayor, or Justice of the peace.

By faith

A Lutheran priest in Germany marries a young couple in a church. Ev Stadtkirche Ravensburg innen.jpg
A Lutheran priest in Germany marries a young couple in a church.

Religious weddings are officiated by clergy people:

The officiant's duties and responsibilities, as well as who may be an officiant vary among jurisdictions. [3] [4] [5]



In the Catholic Church, it is the bride and groom who perform the Sacrament of Matrimony (marriage), but a marriage can only be valid if the Church has a witness at the wedding ceremony whose function is to question the couple to ensure that they have no obstacle to marriage (such as an un-annulled previous marriage or certain undisclosed facts between the couple) and that they are freely choosing to wed each other.

All ordained clergy (i.e. a deacon, priest, or bishop) may witness the wedding ceremony itself, though usually the wedding ceremony occurs during a Mass, which deacons lack the authority or ability to celebrate; however, in weddings that take place inside Mass, the deacon may still serve as the witness to the wedding, provided that a priest or bishop celebrates the Mass; and in weddings that take place outside Mass (which usually occurs in a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Christian or, less often, non-Catholic), the ceremony is the same for deacons, priests, and bishops (with few or no changes).


Protestant weddings are conducted by a pastor such as a priest as with Lutheranism and Anglicanism, or a minister as with Methodism.


In Quaker weddings the couple marry each other with no third party officiating.


Islamic weddings are performed by Imams.


In Judaism, a Rabbi officiates Jewish weddings. However, the Rabbi's function is to ensure that the Jewish religious laws of the wedding ceremony are followed, particularly making sure that the Jewish witnesses are valid. The Rabbi traditionally recites the blessing for the ceremony on behalf of the groom, although in ancient times the groom would have recited this blessing.



Some organizations have limited or no requirements for ordination, like American Marriage Ministries and the Universal Life Church. Such organizations may be known as ordination mills, however in most cases, their ordinations provide the same legal standing as mainstream officiants, and marriage licenses signed by such organization representatives are valid and recognized. [6]

Many nonreligious people have their marriages in churches and officiated by Christian pastors, [2] while others marry in mosques, and synagogues.


A number of humanist organizations provide credentials to individuals who may solemnize marriages in whatever manner they choose; these are known as Humanist celebrants.


In the United States, a marriage officiant is a civil officer such as a justice of the peace who performs acts of marriage or civil union. Their main responsibility is to witness the consent of the intended spouses for the wedding license and hence validate the marriage or civil union for legal purposes.

By country

United States

In the United States, Canada and many other countries, marriages are legally performed by a member of the clergy, a public official (e.g.a judge), or where authorised, by a civil celebrant (e.g. New Jersey). Some celebrants perform same-sex weddings and commitment ceremonies. [7] [8]

Laws in each state of the United States vary about who has the ability to perform wedding ceremonies, but celebrants or officiants are usually categorized as "clergy" and have the same rights and responsibilities as ordained clergy. There is some controversy over whether these laws promote religious privilege that is incompatible with the United States Constitution. [9]


In Scotland, since a June 2005 ruling by the Registrar General, humanist weddings are now legal, thanks to a campaign by the Humanist Society Scotland. Currently quality marriages of meaning and substance, with significant creative input by the couple are performed by Scottish Registrars - similar to that which Civil Celebrants perform elsewhere. [10] Scotland is the only part of the United Kingdom where Humanist weddings are recognised as legal by the state and is only one of eight countries in the world where Humanist weddings are legally recognised, the others as of 2017 are: Australia, Canada, Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and some states of the United States of America. [11] [12]


In Australia, Celebrants have a slightly different role, as regulated by national law.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wedding</span> Ceremony where people are united in marriage

A wedding is a ceremony where two people are united in marriage. Wedding traditions and customs vary greatly between cultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries, and social classes. Most wedding ceremonies involve an exchange of marriage vows by a couple, presentation of a gift, and a public proclamation of marriage by an authority figure or celebrant. Special wedding garments are often worn, and the ceremony is sometimes followed by a wedding reception. Music, poetry, prayers, or readings from religious texts or literature are also commonly incorporated into the ceremony, as well as superstitious customs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clergy</span> Formal leaders within established religions

Clergy are formal leaders within established religions. Their roles and functions vary in different religious traditions, but usually involve presiding over specific rituals and teaching their religion's doctrines and practices. Some of the terms used for individual clergy are clergyman, clergywoman, clergyperson, churchman, and cleric, while clerk in holy orders has a long history but is rarely used.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Civil marriage</span> Marriage performed, recorded, and recognized by a government official

A civil marriage is a marriage performed, recorded and recognised by a government official. Such a marriage may be performed by a religious body and recognised by the state, or it may be entirely secular.

A marriage license is a document issued, either by a religious organization or state authority, authorizing a couple to marry. The procedure for obtaining a license varies between jurisdictions, and has changed over time. Marriage licenses began to be issued in the Middle Ages, to permit a marriage which would otherwise be illegal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Minister (Christianity)</span> Religious occupation in Christianity

In Christianity, a minister is a person authorised by a church or other religious organization to perform functions such as teaching of beliefs; leading services such as weddings, baptisms or funerals; or otherwise providing spiritual guidance to the community. The term is taken from Latin minister. In some church traditions the term is usually used for people who have ordained, but in other traditions it can also be used for non-ordained people who have a pastoral or liturgical ministry.

Quaker weddings are the traditional ceremony of marriage within the Religious Society of Friends. Quaker weddings are conducted in a similar fashion to regular Quaker meetings for worship, primarily in silence and without an officiant or a rigid program of events, and therefore differ greatly from traditional Western weddings.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Humanist Society Scotland</span>

Humanist Society Scotland is a Scottish registered charity that promotes humanist views and offers Humanist ceremonies. It is a member of the European Humanist Federation and Humanists International.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Officiant</span> Leader of a service or ceremony

An officiant is someone who officiates at a service or ceremony, such as marriage, burial, or namegiving/baptism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Celebrant (Australia)</span> People who conduct formal ceremonies such as weddings, funerals, etc.

In Australia, celebrants are people who conduct formal ceremonies in the community, particularly weddings, which are the main ceremony of legal import conducted by celebrants and for this reason often referred to as marriage celebrants. They may also conduct extra-legal ceremonies such as naming of babies, renewal of wedding vows, funerals, divorce, becoming a teenager, changing name, significant birthday, retirement, and other life milestones. Officiating at a marriage requires that the celebrant be an authorised marriage celebrant under Australian law, or the law where the marriage takes place, but officiating at non-legal ceremonies does not.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Humanist celebrant</span>

A humanist celebrant or humanist officiant is a person who performs humanist celebrancy services, such as non-religious weddings, funerals, child namings, coming of age ceremonies and other rituals. Some humanist celebrants are accredited by humanist organisations, such as Humanists UK, Humanist Society Scotland (HSS), The Humanist Society (US), and the Humanist Association of Canada (HAC).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Celebrancy</span>

Celebrancy is a profession founded in Australia in 1973 by the then Australian attorney-general Lionel Murphy. The aim of the celebrancy program was to authorise persons to officiate at secular ceremonies of substance, meaning and dignity mainly for non-church people. Up until this point legal marriages were reserved only to clergy or officers of the Births, Deaths & Marriages registry office. These appointed persons, referred to in the Marriage Act of Australia as "authorised celebrants", create & conduct weddings, funerals, namings, house dedications, coming of age and other life ceremonies for those who do not wish to be married or have other ceremonies in a church or registry office.

A self-uniting marriage is one in which the couple are married without the presence of a third-party officiant. Although non-denominational, this method of getting married is sometimes referred to as a "Quaker marriage", after the marriage practice of the Religious Society of Friends, for which see Quaker wedding.

Same-sex marriage in Judaism has been a subject of debate within Jewish denominations. The traditional view among Jews is to regard same-sex relationships as categorically forbidden by the Torah. This remains the current view of Orthodox Judaism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Organized secularism</span> Belgian irreligious union

In Belgium, organized secularism is the local associations and organizations which provide moral support for naturalist, atheist, agnostic, secular humanist, freethinking, Bright, or irreligious and non-confessional citizens. A person who subscribes to such entities or ideologies, or at least espouses an interest in "free inquiry" apart from religious traditions is described as a "secular" or "free-thinker".

An ordination mill is a religious organization or denomination in which membership is obtainable by trivial means and all members are qualified for self-ordination as a minister of religion, bishop, priest or deacon without any prerequisite training, work, experience, seminary study or other qualification. In some cases, ordination may be obtained online or by mail merely by submitting an application and a nominal fee.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Civil funeral celebrant</span> Non-religious officiant at a funeral

A civil funeral celebrant is a person who officiates at funerals which are not closely connected with religious beliefs and practises. They are analogous to civil celebrants for marriage ceremonies. Civil celebrant funerals began in Australia in 1975. As secular (civil) wedding ceremonies became accepted, first in Australia and then in other Western countries, a similar process for funerals has since been established in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. Civil funeral celebrants are often also civil marriage ceremony celebrants.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Civil ceremony</span> Non-religious legal marriage ceremony

A civil, or registrar, ceremony is a non-religious legal marriage ceremony performed by a government official or functionary. In the United Kingdom, this person is typically called a registrar. In the United States, civil ceremonies may be performed by town, city, or county clerks, judges or justices of the peace, or others possessing the legal authority to support the marriage as the wedding officiant.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Legal status of the Universal Life Church</span>

The legal status of the Universal Life Church encompasses a collection of court decisions and state executive branch pronouncements determining what rights the Universal Life Church (ULC) and comparable organizations have as religious organizations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Universal Life Church</span> Religious organization which offers ordination to anyone

The Universal Life Church (ULC) is a non-denominational religious organization founded in 1962 by Kirby J. Hensley, under the doctrine: "Do that which is right". The Universal Life Church advocates for religious freedom, offering legal ordination to become a minister for a small fee, and in many cases free of charge, to anyone who wishes to join. The ULC has ordained ministers from a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs, including Christians, atheists, Wiccans, pagans, Jews, and people of many other faiths. The ULC's popularity stems in part from a rising interest in having friends or loved ones officiate weddings, a trend which has attracted a range of celebrities to become ordained including Stevie Nicks, Adele, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ian McKellen, Conan O’Brien and Steven Tyler, among others. However, courts in the states of New York, North Carolina, and Virginia have held that they will not recognize marriages solemnized by ULC ministers, while eight states have specifically held such marriages to be valid, these being Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington. The remainder have not addressed the issue.


  1. Dyck, Cornelius J.; Martin, Dennis D. (1990). The Mennonite Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Reference Work on the Anabaptist-Mennonite Movement. Mennonite Brethren Publishing House. p. 541. ISBN   9780836131055.
  2. 1 2 Reju, Deepak (11 April 2012). "Would I Officiate a Wedding for Two Unbelievers? Yes". TGC . Retrieved 11 May 2018. Even though they may have little connection to a church, many couples today still want a traditional wedding ceremony with a pastor officiating.
  3. Officiant's regulations in Quebec Archived 2007-01-02 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Officiant's FAQ in California Archived 2006-12-01 at the Wayback Machine
  5. "FAQ Officiating Weddings throughout the United States, with links to State Code Sections". Archived from the original on 2016-11-07. Retrieved 2007-05-30.
  6. Sipher, Devan. "Great Wedding! But Was It Legal?" . Retrieved 2018-10-06.
  7. "New Jersey Department of State - Certified Civil Celebrants". Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  8. "Celebrant Institute & Foundation | Become Wedding & Funerals Officiant". Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  9. Hannah Natanson (2019-08-21). "This nonprofit is fighting to give nonreligious couples more choice in who marries them. Texas just dealt them a setback". Retrieved 2019-10-03.
  10. Team, National Records of Scotland Web (31 May 2013). "National Records of Scotland". National Records of Scotland. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  11. "Humanist Chaplain". Glasgow Caledonian University. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  12. "Humanist Society Scotland | Celebrate the one life we have". Humanist Society Scotland. Retrieved 8 October 2021.