Just About Anyone Can Officiate A Wedding!
Do you want to be a wedding officiant in Indiana? Are you looking for an affordable wedding officiant in Indiana? Or, maybe the idea of finding someone to perform your wedding ceremony is making you uncomfortable and you are looking for information on how you can "create your own wedding officiant" in order to avoid confrontation. I totally get it! It happens!
Info From a Seasoned Professional
I've been a wedding officiant in Indiana for over 9 years and I have the information you need to know to either start your own wedding officiant business or just marry a friend or family member for fun. I know I must be doing something right because I've married over 3000 couples and the services I've created have been duplicated by plenty of other wedding officiants.
Perhaps it's bad for business to share this information but I know love is alive and there is no shortage of people to marry! I also like honesty. You should know what your options are. Chances are, you will find this article interesting, and if you are looking to hire a wedding officiant you will consider me, along with all your other options. As much as I love business, choosing a wedding officiant can be a very personal choice. You should hire the right person for you. If it's a man in a suit that looks that part, there are plenty of them! There are also many unique individuals that have something special to offer you as not just a person legally qualified to marry you, but a person that you want to marry you, a person that makes you feel comfortable or excited or happy!
I want you to have the ceremony you want. That includes the right person performing your wedding ceremony!
Officiate Weddings Just Because YOU WANT TO
Being qualified to officiate a wedding doesn't mean you have to start a business. Maybe you just want to perform a wedding for your son or daughter or even a grandchild. Performing a wedding ceremony can be a very intimate interaction, not just for the couple getting married, but for the person actually marrying them. I once had a couple cancel because the bride's father decided he really wanted to perform the wedding. I signed their marriage license and made their marriage legal and then her dad performed the formal ceremony. He was very excited about it!! If you love love and love weddings, performing a wedding ceremony is absolutely exhilarating!
Help Your Friends!
One of the biggest problems I've seen over the past 5 years is from couples who live in small Indiana towns. They live in the middle of nowhere and are just looking for someone to sign their marriage license. You can no longer get married at the courthouse in most counties in Indiana and it's created a problem for many couples. They thought they could just run down to the courthouse on their day off or lunch break and get everything done at once. When they realize all they could get was a marriage license and no wedding they start goggling and calling and trying to find someone to marry them. Quickly, they discover none of the pastors in the area will marry them without months of premarital counseling, or no one is available to marry them the day they need to get married, for whatever reason.
I've received calls from people who live hours away from me and don't have time to drive all the way to Indianapolis and back home again. More then once, I've explained to a person just how they can get ordained online so they can legally sign a marriage license. Just yesterday, I had a couple drive almost 3 hours each way to get their license signed. The bride, like many before her, said, "I should become a wedding officiant!" And, I agreed with her, like I always do. You can just be plain helpful!
I think everyone knows, all you have to do to be a wedding officiant in Indiana is to get ordained. It sounds easy, and it is, but it's also easy to talk yourself out of it thinking about the "What if's?"
When I got ordained it totally took me off guard. I did it because it came up out of nowhere and I thought it was a great idea. I was a little bored that day and intrigued by the possibilities.
MANY years ago, I was going through my email on a slow Saturday morning at work and one particular email caught my eye. It said, "Become an ordained minister! You can marry people, you can bury people! You can do everything a minister can do!" I thought it was hysterical! Just the way it was phrased. Me, and all the people sitting around me were cracking up! I decided to do it! It was before online payments so I had to actually print the application out, write out a check for $19.95 and mail it. 2 weeks later I received my ordination certificate in the mail. I didn't officiate my first wedding until many years later but I knew that I was able to!
Today, you can get ordained online in about 3 minutes and it's free! If you want a copy of the certificate to prove that you are ordained you have to pay to have it mailed. That's it. You could get ordained online right now and legally perform a wedding in Indiana today!
Don't I have to go to seminary to be ordained?
If you want to be part of an organized religion you need to meet the criteria to be ordained by that organization. The United States offers freedom of religion for all. You can practice any sort of religion you want and not too many people can say anything about it. I've written an entire article about getting legitimately ordained online. You can read my finding here. You can start your own church and ordain anyone you like. Online churches generally have no special requirements for ordination.
Basically, getting ordained online is a big business. Yes, that's right. It's a business. There are people who create churches with the intention to ordain people so they can perform marriages. It's legal in just about every state in the US. It is definitely legal to get ordained online and perform legal marriages in Indiana. I have performed thousands of weddings and have never been asked to prove I'm qualified to do so. I suggest you pay for the certificate to prove you are ordained, just in case. You could be asked, at some point, to prove it.
It took a long time for my parents to understand just how I became ordained and perform marriages. I'm still not sure they get it, but they just go with it. I make a decent living as a "stay at home mom" and I've only been to prison to perform a wedding, not because I've committed a crime.
Why isn't there some sort of required proof that my wedding officiant is legit?
I asked a local county clerk about why we don't have to prove ordination. The answer was, "We are not required by law to ask, so we don't."
I asked a local county clerk about why we don't have to prove ordination. The answer was, "We are not required by law to ask, so we don't." I can see their point, it would be a lot of paperwork and extra work in general.
Marriage is a legal process. You are entering into a legal contract. It's not a free flyer you pick up and fill out on a whim. You have to apply for a marriage license and meet certain qualifications to be issued the marriage license. You are required state under oath before you are issued the marriage license that you are entering into marriage of your own free will and that you meet the legal qualifications. Having a qualified wedding officiant sign your marriage license with you is really just an extra step for you to take to make a formal declaration that you are choosing to enter into the legal contract of marriage.
For many years, marriage and religion have been very closely related so they allow religious leaders to participate in the legal paperwork. This is actually rather unique to the US. In many other other countries, everyone needs to go to a state official in order to become legally married. If you choose to have a religious ceremony afterwards, that's up to you. It's true separation of church and state. The US allows many different types of people to officiate weddings but the state still issues the marriage license. You could very reasonably argue the extra step of having your marriage officiated after a license is issued is redundant.
But what about those stories about online ordination not being legit....
There are some interesting stories out there where people have decided that they don't want to be married anymore and have got to court to have their marriage annulled based on the fact the person that performed the wedding wasn't a legitimate minister. Most of these stories are older and not relevant to Indiana. Online ordained ministers are completely legal in Indiana.
If you don't feel comfortable completing the legal paperwork, you don't have to. This is just an option. I've had people say things like, "My friend is ordained, he could have married us, but he's a crackhead and I didn't want our wedding to be officiated by a crackhead." I could see their point!
Every year, I book last minute weddings when a couple decides that they no longer want their friend or relative to marry them. It made them feel like they had too much power of over them and they wanted a neutral party to perform the wedding and sign the license.
In both of these cases, the marriage would have still been legal, it just didn't feel good to the couple getting married.
Where should I get ordained online?
Most people get ordained online for free by the Universal Life Church. It's also known as the Universal Life Church Monastery. They ordain you for free and for life. Other organizations will ordain you for free and then you have to pay an annual fee to be "licensed" by them to perform marriages. So, go straight to the Universal Life Church, get ordained for life, pay the fee for the certificate and be done with it.
On a side note, the Universal Life Church ordains ministers so they can practice any sort of religion they want. So, you can get ordained by the ULC and start your own church, if you want. Their original intention was to allow individuals to legally practice their freedom of religion. The wedding thing definitely helps pay the bills!
How to LEGALLY Officiate A Wedding In Indiana
Officiating a wedding is a legal contract and you must be at least 18 years old and legally able to enter into a legal contract.
You aren't doing anything more than witnessing two people signing a piece of paper and agreeing to marry so it's not that deep.
Do I have to do anything when the couple is getting the marriage license?
As a wedding officiant, you are not part of the marriage license process. To make a marriage legal in Indiana requires a marriage license. A couple will need to obtain their own marriage license from the county clerk in the county where they live. There is no way around that. Only county clerk's issue marriage licenses and each couple has to appear in person to be issued a marriage license. There are exceptions in some Indiana counties due to incarceration or incapacitation. County Clerk's keep regular business hours. You can't get a marriage license on the weekend or holidays.
Marriage laws in Indiana are governed on the State level but the laws are interpreted on the county level. Here is everything you need to know about getting a marriage license in Indiana. Here is a direct link to the Indiana Marriage Laws. If you have questions, contact the county clerk that issued the marriage license you will be signing.
Completing the paperwork
As a wedding officiant, all you legally have to do is fill out the marriage license with your contact information, sign it, witness the two people getting married sign it and have them give their consent that they do want to be married. That's it.
Things to check before you fill out the marriage license:
What is my "title?"
They ask for your "title" when you fill out the license. If you are an ordained minister you write in "minister." I write "reverend." Some people think that you write "wedding officiant" but that would be incorrect. A wedding officiant is someone who is legally qualified to perform a wedding. That could be a judge or a mayor or another legally qualified individual. You can read about being a wedding officiant in my article here. If you are an ordained minister, that legally qualifies you to officiate a wedding in Indiana.
Performing a Legal Wedding Ceremony
Technically, you need to perform a wedding ceremony. However, that can be as simple as asking "Do you take this person to be your spouse?" And, "Do you take this person to be your spouse?" They both say, "yes" and you pronounce them married! I literally do this at Starbucks just about every day. it's a very simple, basic, no frills, wedding.
Most of the time, people want an actual wedding ceremony. Most wedding officiants just go online and download a wedding ceremony. You can use a pre-written wedding ceremony or you can create your own ceremonies. I have my 6 most popular wedding ceremony scripts here. I also maintainan entire wedding ceremony website with hundreds of wedding ceremony ideas. You can read a simple civil ceremony, perform a spiritual ceremony or a completely non-religious ceremony.
Just because you are an ordained minister does not mean you have to perform a religious ceremony.
Performing a Wedding Ceremony
Officiating a Wedding
Anyone can perform a wedding ceremony. Anyone can write a wedding ceremony or read from a script. Just like you can exchange vows with someone and not be legally married you can perform a wedding ceremony and not sign a marriage license. This is always an option. If you don't want to take legal responsibility to sign to sign a marriage license, someone else can take care of the legal part and you can just perform the ceremony. Or, you can sign the license and make the marriage legal and someone else can perform a more formal, elaborate wedding ceremony.
File the Completed Marriage License
There is generally a "note to officiants" with the marriage license that the completed marriage license needs to be returned within 30 days. ANYONE CAN RETURN A MARRIAGE LICENSE. The license can be returned in person or by mail and anyone can obtain a certified copy of the marriage license. It's a public record.
When I performed a lot of $50 Quickie Weddings in my home I always gave the completed license back to the couple to file themselves. Most couples having a budget, quickie wedding are just looking to get the paperwork completed quickly. Today, if I perform a formal wedding ceremony I will return the completed license to the Hamilton or Marion County Clerk if they couple wants me to. Otherwise, they can return it themselves. My fee to file the paperwork and obtain copies is built into my pricing. Stamps, envelopes, gas and certified copies aren't free! YOU are not required to file the license. It's just required that the license be filed.
What if something goes wrong?
If something goes wrong, you fix the problem. It's not that hard. I will say, I don't return marriage licenses by mail anymore because they can get lost in the mail. I return the license in person to make sure it's filed. If copies get lost in the mail they can always be re-sent. A completed marriage license is much harder to replace. If I do end up mailing a marriage license to an outlying county I will mail it by certified mail to make sure it's received. Most couples are OK returning the license themselves. It's a very important legal document. They should be OK with treating it as such!
What if the marriage license gets lost in the maiI or lost in general?
If the marriage license gets lost you get another copy of the marriage license, fill it out again with the original date of the marriage and everyone has to sign the license again. This can be a HUGE problem is the couple lives hours away.
What if the marriage license doesn't get returned within 30 days?
The solution to this problem varies by the county that issued the license. Some counties will still accept the license as long as it was signed before it expired. (A marriage license is good for 60 days.) Other counties require additional paperwork and fees.
What if the couple changes their mind and no longer wants to be married?
The answer to this is tricky. If they didn't file the completed marriage license with the clerk there's nothing to legally "undo." Just because you are issued a marriage license doesn't mean you have to actually get married. Technically, you are married as of the day the marriage license is signed even if the paperwork is lost for months before you realize it. Some would say you are still technically "married" but there is no legal paper trail so there is nothing to "divorce."
Every now and then, someone will decide they really don't want to be legally married and lie about filing the completed paperwork. This happened once with a couple I married. When the groom found out he tried to complete the paperwork himself. Legally, the bride needed to be present when we re-signed the marriage license. She refused to be there so I also refused to sign it. It was a scary domestic situation involving a green card. I'm not sure how they resolved it.
What if it's a Green Card Wedding?
Can I Get In Trouble With Immigration?
Excellent question! I know that I have most likely performed MANY green card weddings. Sometimes, I don't think the American bride realized she was being taken advantage of. That concerned me. When I realized the actual impact of the situation, it haunted me. Other times, I knew the couple made an agreement to marry for a green card. Marriage is a legal way to get a green card. People get married for all sorts of reasons, you'd be surprised. I'm not sure how you can really differentiate why it's OK to marry someone for money or health insurance but not a green card? If you know what you are doing who am I to question?
Wedding officiants don't issue marriage licenses, the county clerk does. Visa status is irrelevant when you go to get a marriage license. Even if the clerk thinks the marriage is probably not legit, there is nothing they can do about it. I had a groom that didn't even have a passport. All he had was a state ID from his home country. All he had to do was get it translated and they issued him a marriage license. Ultimately, it comes down to Immigration and Homeland Security to decide if the marriage is legit or not.
I've had many conversations on the subject of green card weddings. My husband is from Germany. We had a green card wedding. We met in the US. We moved to Germany. We were married in Germany, applied for the green card in Germany. We moved back to the US and he went back to work at the same job he had when we first met. 2 years later, there wasn't much for immigration to question. 28 years later, we're still married.
Last year, I got to marry an immigration agent and he answered all of my questions. My greatest concern was for the women who didn't know they were taken advantage of. He said nothing would happen to them - unless they were a repeat offender. There are people who make their living marrying foreigners. He also said there is often no rhyme or reason. Legitimate marriages can be denied and others are approved. There are certain wedding officiants that marry a majority of the greencard couples. Immigration is aware of this. There is nothing illegal going on when it comes to the wedding officiant.
Ultimately, immigration sorts it all out in the end. Last year I received a call from a lawyer who was representing a couple that I married several years ago. Immigration was questioning their marriage and they were building a case to prove that the marriage was legit. He asked me to sign an affidavit stating that, in my opinion, the marriage was legit. I did, right away. I asked him, what if I'd have declined to sign? He said they would have just left it out of the case. Others haven't wanted to get involved when asked.
I married over 1000 couples in my home for $50. Sometimes, I married them for free - because I could. I was really, really happy providing a great service to a lot of couples. In the end, it was the green card couples that made me stop performing weddings in my home. It started to really, really disgust me. Once I really realized what was going on and how far some people will go to get what they want I had to remove myself from the equation. They were taking advantage of me too. That's the biggest problem when providing budget services. People will push to see how much they can get for nothing.
Do I need to register with the state to Officiate Weddings?
No, the is state-wide registration required in Indiana to legally officiate weddings.
Do I need to be a Certified Wedding Officiant?
There is no "official certification" to be a wedding officiant in Indiana. There are local and national organizations you can choose to join. They set their own "certification" requirements. The certification doesn't make them a better or more qualified wedding officiant. Sometimes it just means that you pay them money to be part of a professional organization.
I was looking to join a national wedding officiant organization but one of their requirements was I needed to have a written contract for every wedding I perform. I perform a lot of $50 Quickie Weddings in Starbucks. It is just silly to have a written contract for that. The person that runs the organization offered to sell me a contract to use though! I'll keep my money and set my own business standards. Thank you very much!
Do I Need to be Licensed to Officiate a Wedding?
No. Indiana doesn't license wedding officiants. Some online churches will license their ordained ministers. That's completely different. I consider it an unnecessary business tactic.
Can I Officiate a Wedding in Prison or Jail?
Yes. If you are legally able to officiate a wedding in Indiana you can legally officiate a wedding in an Indiana jail or prison. Each prison or jail has their own requirements an inmate must meet when they want to get married. They will need to approve the person performing the wedding but they only thing they can really check is if you meet the state requirements and the requirements to be a visitor to the facility. I usually recommend getting a friend ordained to perform your wedding in prison. Often, I have to charge extra because the drive to some prisons is several hours each way and it can be way out of budget.
You will need to check with the jail or prison for details. Each facility is different.
Being a Wedding Officiant In Indiana is Easy!!
Generally, officiating a wedding in Indiana is easy. As a full-time wedding officiant for several years, I've officiated a LOT of weddings. If you marry 500 couples a year, you get a lot of experience. Most people perform a wedding once or twice a year or one or twice in a lifetime. They are joyful occasions you spend with your loved ones. You say a few words, fill out a piece of paper and that's it. I've included more details because they are questions people ask and they can also make for interesting reading!
If you have more questions, please just ask! I'm happy to help!