Bride and Groom Walking Downtown (Photo)

Are You Sure Your Ordination Is Legal?

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n a recent article by church-growing expert Raul Rivera on the StartChurch blog, he asks a very relevant question: are you sure your ordination is legal? 

While the situation described in the article — whether the ordination of a minister by his former pastor is still valid — may be unique, the question of whether or not your ordination is legal, valid and acceptable in various jurisdictions is actually very common.

Back to the blog cited above, which lays out the scenario:

Pastor Charles felt honored when he was asked to perform a wedding, especially since the bride and groom were his longtime childhood friends. They had all grown up together in the same Michigan town and attended the same church there. Later on, the engaged couple moved from Michigan to Ohio. They asked Pastor Charles to sign their marriage license and officiate their wedding in Ohio.

While your ordination may be legal, valid and acceptable in Michigan, using our example here, do you know if you can legally perform a ceremony in Ohio … or any other state outside your primary licensed area?

The simple answer is yes, but — unlike Michigan, which does not require Officiants to register prior to performing a ceremony — the State of Ohio does require you to register with the Secretary of State’s office in Columbus before the ceremony takes place, without exception.

Pennsylvania Disclaimer of Liability (Excerpt)
In Pennsylvania, your online ordination credentials could be called into question. (Click to enlarge.)

Most ordaining organizations will provide you with the required forms to register with jurisdictions outside your primary licensed area (such as Arkansas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Minnesota, Louisiana, West Virginia, Maine and New Hampshire) for no additional fee. However, many organizations, including First Nation, will charge a small additional fee for the special documents and forms required to register in Hawaii, Nevada and New York City.

In nearly every case, the registration process is not very complicated — if you follow the instructions, complete the proper forms, and submit them in a timely manner.

Seeking ordination to perform wedding ceremonies? Please click here for information.


Keep in mind that you should contact your ordaining organization any time you plan to serve outside your home state or primary licensed area. While your ordination may be valid and accepted everywhere around the United States, and while most states have basic marriage laws that permit non-resident Officiants to serve without restriction, it is strongly advised that you confirm everything before the wedding ceremony in order to avert problems after the wedding ceremony!

Are you legally ordained? If you received free instant online ordination, your minister’s license may not be valid in every jurisdiction. You can request legal, valid and certified ordination for as low as $10.95 per year, and receive a 20% discount on complete ordination by using code FNC20. Click here for more information.

Discuss this topic in our Officiant Forums.