How To Perform and Officiate A Wedding: Everything You Need To Know

officiant handing wedding rings in hand

If you’ve ever planned a wedding or watched someone plan a wedding, you know how stressful it can be for the couple, not to mention how expensive weddings are. As a paid wedding officiant, you can help make a couple’s day extra special while putting money in your pocket.

How To Officiate a Wedding

Here are ways to prepare before you begin taking on officiating weddings as a side gig.

Before the Wedding

Meet with potential clients and find out what they are looking for in their officiant and the vision they have for their wedding. Some may want a specific speech while others may want the bare minimum. You can adjust your pricing based on how much the couple is asking you to do.

Before the big day, check in with the couple to make sure they have the correct number of witnesses prepared to sign the marriage license. Unless the couple asks you not to, prepare a short, somewhat personalized speech. This is called the invocation. Make sure to include any phrasing your state might require.

If you have to travel to the wedding, be sure to either include these costs in your pricing or discuss getting reimbursed ahead of time. Keep any receipts for qualified deductions at tax time.

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If you are going to say more than the bare minimum or something personal to the couple, practice your speech several times. Some officiants attend the rehearsal and others don’t. Some offer to attend the rehearsal for an extra fee.

During the Wedding

The main goal during the ceremony is to compliment the bride and groom. Lead the ceremony while keeping the spotlight on the happy couple. To help with this, you can wear understated clothes that fit the formality and theme of the wedding and stand aside during the big picture moments.

Be prepared to remind the couple about signing the license directly after the ceremony and anything else your state may require to make a marriage official. It is typically your responsibility to validate and sign the marriage license after the ceremony. Check that it hasn’t expired and all other requirements, like waiting periods, are met for your state.

After the Ceremony

Some states require the officiant to file the marriage license, though in most cases, it’s up to the couple to handle this. Specific instructions for filing the completed license are included when the couple receives it. Be sure to read these instructions to make sure the right people file the right documents.

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Factors To Consider Before Getting Started

Here are some things you should know before beginning the steps to becoming a wedding officiant.

What You Should Know:

  • Most weddings are on weekends. If you spend your weekends with family, friends, or doing chores, you may want to look at what you would be sacrificing before you start an officiant side gig.
  • Weddings can be at destination venues. For the same reason, be aware that a wedding might require driving long distances or flying. You may even need to get a hotel. This would reduce the number of weddings you can do in a weekend. It can also be a huge strain if you don’t like to travel.
  • You may be dealing with very stressed-out people. Weddings are expensive and stressful. Some people do not handle that well. You may end up dealing with clients who want things a certain way or take their stress out on you. Are you prepared to handle that and set boundaries when necessary?
  • Officiating weddings is a form of public speaking. If the idea of giving a presentation or speech in front of people you don’t know makes you sweat, then officiating weddings is not the best side gig for you.
  • Officiating weddings is not very scalable. There are only so many weddings you can do in a week. Based on the numbers above, if you can do an $800 wedding five days per week, that’s $16,000 per month, which would be very comfortable. However, if you charge on the lower end, say $200, and only officiate two weddings a month, you’d be bringing in an extra $400.

How To Become a Wedding Officiant

There are a few civil and religious professions that can officiate weddings. If you don’t already have one of those positions, such as a priest, judge, etc., then you can be ordained. Being ordained doesn’t have to be religious and it can even be done online now. For instance, American Marriage Ministries and the Universal Life Church both offer online ordination.

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What Is Required to Become Ordained?

Each state has its own rules, but online ordinations are valid in almost all states.

How Long Does Getting Ordained Take?

Online ministries usually only take a few minutes to ordain ministers. It is done almost immediately after you finish filling out the paperwork. It is even faster if you have all of your personal information at hand.

How Much Does Getting Ordained Cost?

At American Marriage Ministries and many others, it is free to become ordained.

Registering With The State

Some states require you to register as an officiant before you are legally able to officiate weddings. These are:

Since officiating weddings is governed by the state, you should make sure to research the regulations in your state.

Officiating Weddings as a Side Gig

The officiant is the person who stands with the couple, leads the ceremony and declares the couple married. This can include both religious leaders and non-religious officials who legally marry couples. It’s not a huge time investment, and officiating weddings can leave a lifelong impression.

How Much To Charge

Different geographical areas will have different going rates for wedding services, including officiants. As with most things, you can usually charge more in a big city than in a small town. Bridal magazines and sites, like, tell couples to expect to pay between $200 and $800 for a wedding officiant.

Make It Official

Even if you’re not doing it regularly, make your side gig an official small business. That includes setting up a separate bank account, tracking deductions, and tax planning. Even setting up invoicing can make your life easier and make you look more professional to potential couples.


Officiating weddings can be a great way to help make a couple’s special day even more special while making some extra money.[/tipquote]

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About the Author

Diane Fogle is the owner and sole freelance writer at The Little Green Bird. She received her Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of Denver.  The research skills gained through that program, combined with a love of learning and intellectual freedom, have led her to a passion for helping businesses communicate with their customers. She lives in Colorado where she hikes with her husband, two young daughters and an old greyhound.
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