Perform a Wedding Ceremony | A Three-Step Guide

If you have been asked to perform a wedding ceremony, don't feel intimidated or confused. Many ministers have become ordained through the Universal Life Church for this very reason. To help you prepare to perform a wedding ceremony, we have compiled this three-step set of instructions to ensure that it is legally binding.

A beautiful couple getting married by a minister

  1. 1. Get Ordained

    The first step is to get ordained. We have made this the easiest step for you. Just navigate your browser to our Free Online Ordinations page. Be sure that you are connected to a printer, you may print out your receipt of ordination. Read through the ordination instructions, once completed simply submit your request for your ordination to be processed.

  1. 2. Contact the Authority that Issues Marriage Licenses in your Area

    Marriage laws vary in each state; sometimes even county to county. It is important to be familiarized with the requirements set forth by your local and state government. Contact the local government agency that issues the marriage license and ask what is required of the minister who will perform the marriage ceremony.

    Some counties require basic documentation such as an ordination credential, a letter of good standing or signed statements of ministry; all of which are available to you under Ministry Products. Some counties require nothing and simply being ordained is enough to perform a legal wedding ceremony.

    Visit our Marriage Laws by State for more information.

  2. 3. Perform the Wedding Ceremony

    In order for a marriage to be legal, the wedding ceremony must include the Declaration of Intent; this is most commonly recognized as the "Do you take..." and "I do" exchange.

    If you need help writing the wedding ceremony script, visit our Wedding Ceremony Script Generator.

    Planning the rest of the wedding ceremony is then left to the wedding couple and yourself. People come to the Universal Life Church Monastery from very diverse backgrounds. We represent Christian denominations, Pagan belief structures, Eastern religions (Buddhist, Shinto, etc.), Secularists and any and all in between. We receive questions about performing wedding ceremonies daily. Although we provide a helpful variety of ceremony literature, we encourage you to look within yourself and to the couple for guidance. If you are officiating a wedding ceremony for close friends or family, chances are you have already done much to prepare. You have a personal knowledge of the couple after all, which is why they asked you to officiate their wedding!

    After performing the wedding, you must complete the marriage license. This usually requires the signatures of two witnesses and yourself, in addition to those of the couple. Once fully completed, mail it to the state or county clerk's office. Each agency has different requirements for the amount of time allowed to officiants to file the license; be sure you do your homework.

    Once the paperwork has been submitted, you have officially completed the wedding ceremony. Congratulations!

After the Ceremony Minister's Duties and Responsibilities

As the wedding officiant, it is usually your job to round up the bride, groom and official witnesses to sign and date the official county or state marriage license, as well as the keepsake decorative certificate that most couples will keep for the rest of their lives. Often our ministers will present the couple with a copy of your Ordination Credential or the official Wedding Officiant Certificate showing your legal status as an Universal Life Church Minister. In a majority of states, it is one of the officiants responsibilities to return the properly completed, signed and dated marriage license to the county clerk or registrar. Please allow time for the photographer to record this process for the couple's scrapbook. We have a variety of Decorative Certificates in our catalog.

Performing A Wedding

A wedding day is often considered one of the happiest moments in someone's life. It is important for the people involved as it signifies the start of a new life together under the context of law and religion. A wedding usually involves a form of ceremony. According to anthropologists, wedding ceremonies are rituals of transition or the rites of passage for both participants. Such rites occur when the individuals are crossing the boundaries of age or even social status. Just like birth or death, weddings create changes not only in the lives of the bride and the groom but also for the people who are connected to them. Wedding ceremonies allow the expression of emotion through the individuals' announcement of their union to the community. At the same time, wedding ceremonies allow the community to express their support and approval to the pertained union (Skolnick, 2009). Thus, such ceremony does not only serve as the union's social recognition, but it also serves as an avenue for people related to the bride and groom to share the momentous occasion and reunite with friends, relatives, and acquaintances.

Wedding Ceremonies From Around The World

Three green bridal wedding bouquets

Commonly, wedding ceremonies around the world share rituals that are influenced by various cultural traditions. Among the many rituals practiced during wedding ceremonies, the most essential and constant element is the symbolic expression of the unification between the man and woman. The union can be signified by exchanging rings, joining of hands, tying together the garments owned by the bride and groom, or other gestures that could be a representation of the union between the couple. Likewise, many rituals that are incorporated within the ceremony are done in order to emphasize wedding as the passage for the foundation of the family. For example, in Hindu wedding ceremonies, the couple circles a sacred fire in order to promote the fertility of their union (Skolnick, 2009).

Traditionally however, wedding ceremonies are often associated with the religious stance of the participants. Most wedding ceremonies are carried out in the context of religion in order to strengthen the sacredness and spirituality of the bride and the groom's union. Many religions and denominations have distinctive wedding ceremonies that are often the reflection of their faith. Among Roman Catholics, wedding ceremonies involve a nuptial mass, during which scriptural texts are read about marriage. Commonly, a priest and witnesses are present as they are the ones who consent and testify to the union of the bride and groom. In Orthodox Jewish ceremonies, the bride and groom stand under a “chuppah,” which is a canopy that serves as the metaphorical representation of the home that the couple will establish later on. Thereafter, the groom smashes a wineglass, which is believed to be the commemoration of the destruction of the first temple of the Jewish people (Skolnick, 2009). In the tradition of Islam, weddings, referred to as “Nikah,” are usually multi-day celebrations. During the ceremony, the bride and groom are separated in different rooms and an officiant who is very much familiar with the Islamic law heads to each of the room and asks the spouses certain questions concerning their marriage. Unlike in other religions wherein the bride can speak for herself during the wedding, a Muslim bride has a representative known as “wali” who is responsible for answering the questions of the officiant on behalf of the female spouse. Once the marriage contract is signed by both participants, it is only then that the couple would be allowed to see each other and be pronounced as husband and wife (Bose, 2009).

ULC Wedding Officiants

A gathering of ULC Wedding Officiants

Despite the fact that the most common trends of wedding ceremonies abide by the traditional religious or cultural practices of marriage, agnostic or secular wedding ceremonies are now also widely practiced as exampled by Universal Life Church Monastery ministers. Many couples prefer unconventional forms of wedding ceremonies and are abandoning the long process of traditional religious ceremonies due to time constraints. Unlike traditional wedding ceremonies that typically take place in churches, mosque, or other religious areas, nonreligious weddings like civil weddings occur in courthouses, wedding chapels, reception halls, or outdoors. These events tend to be much smaller and are less formal compared to that of traditional religious wedding ceremonies. Instead of a priest or rabbi presiding over the ceremony as the officiant, government-approved officials or secular officials serve as the facilitator of nonreligious weddings (Skolnick, 2009).

A Vow, A Promise

In any form of wedding ceremony—whether traditional religious or agnostic—couples exchange marriage vows or promises. In traditional religious wedding ceremonies, wedding vows exchanged by the spouses are often prescribed by their church. However, in the unconventional forms of wedding ceremonies, wedding vows can be written by the bride and the groom, so as to give them a chance to express their personal commitment to each other (Gill, 2009).

Generally, a wedding ceremony is one way of defining the rights and obligations of the partners toward each other. However, whatever wedding ceremony the couple prefers to follow, be it the traditional religious ceremony or secular ceremony, the value of the occasion is embedded in the new beginning that the couple is about to face together.

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