District Of Columbia Marriage Laws

Created and reviewed for accuracy by researchers at the Universal Life Church Ministries

District Of Columbia Outline

Congratulations! If you've found yourself at this page it is likely that you are either planning to be married or have been asked to perform a wedding ceremony in Washington D.C. Ordained ministers of the Universal Life Church have successfully performed thousands of legal marriages in Washington D.C. The information provided below will walk you through the steps one must follow to become a minister and perform a valid wedding ceremony in the state of Washington D.C.

Quick Facts
  • ULC Ordination Accepted: Yes
  • Minister Registration Required: Yes
  • Minister's Residency: Irrelevant
  • Minister's Minimum Age: 18
  • Marriage License Waiting Period: 3 Days
  • Marriage License Valid For: Never Expires
  • Marriage License Return Within: 10 Days

1 How to Become an Ordained Minister in District Of Columbia

If you haven't already, you should get ordained online with the Universal Life Church. Ordination is free and can be completed in just a matter of minutes. Thousands of legally valid marriages are performed by ULC ministers around the world every year. Begin the process by clicking the big blue button below!

2 How to Officiate a Marriage in District Of Columbia

Next, you should contact the office of your local marriage authority (typically your county clerk). Let them know that you are a minister of the Universal Life Church in Seattle, and ask what they will require of you to officiate a legal marriage.

Select your Marriage Bureau to quickly generate the contact information for your local marriage authority.

Select a county contact

District Of Columbia's Top Wedding Spot

District Of Columbia's Top Wedding Spot

Federalist Decatur House built by Benjamin Henry Latrobe in 1818

3 License to Marry in District Of Columbia

After you've contacted your marriage authority, you should visit our online store to purchase whatever documentation will be required. We typically advise ministers in Washington D.C. to get an Ordination Package and to add a Letter of Good Standing to her or his order. Minister registration is required in Washington D.C., you will be required to present proof of your ordination to the local authorities before any marriages you perform will be accepted as having been legally solemnized. As an added bonus, having this proof of your ordination will provide peace-of-mind to any couple that you intend to marry. Additionally, please attempt to leave at least 3 weeks between the date of the wedding ceremony and your order, to ensure that you receive all of your materials in advance.

4 How to Perform a Wedding in District Of Columbia

Now that you've done all of the above, you are ready to perform the wedding! Be sure that the couple has picked up their Washington D.C. marriage license from the appropriate office. This license never expires, but there is a 3-day mandatory waiting period between when the couple receives the marriage license in Washington D.C. and when the ceremony may be legally performed. Please be aware that the signed license must be returned to the issuing office within 10 days of the completion of the wedding ceremony.

At the Universal Life Church we receive several calls from wedding officiants in Washington D.C., after they've received their license to marry by getting ordained online, asking for guidance on how to perform a wedding ceremony. Once the legal matters have been taken care of, officiating a wedding (while a sometimes-daunting task) can be a great deal of fun. We would suggest that new Washington D.C. wedding ministers concerned about the ceremony peruse one of our helpful wedding guides. The minister training section of our website should offer a helpful refresher for more experienced ministers.

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District Of Columbia Marriage Code

Marriage in Washington D.C. is governed by Chapter 4 of Title 46 of the Code of the District of Columbia. Ordained ministers of the Universal Life Church have successfully solemnized thousands of weddings in the district. Below, you will find that we have reproduced a relevant excerpt of this code
§ 46-406. Persons authorized to celebrate marriages.

(a) For the purposes of this section, the term:

(1) "Civil celebrant" means a person of a secular or non-religious organization who performs marriage ceremonies.

(2) "Religious" includes or pertains to a belief in a theological doctrine, a belief in and worship of a divine ruling power, a recognition of a supernatural power controlling man's destiny, or a devotion to some principle, strict fidelity or faithfulness, conscientiousness, pious affection, or attachment.

(3) "Society" means a voluntary association of individuals for religious purposes.

(4) "Temporary officiant" means a person authorized by the Clerk of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ("Court") to solemnize a specific marriage. The person's authority to solemnize that marriage shall expire upon the filing of the marriage license, pursuant to § 46-412.

(b) For the purpose of preserving the evidence of marriages in the District of Columbia, a marriage authorized under this chapter may be solemnized by the following persons at least 18 years of age at the time of the marriage:

(1) A judge or retired judge of any court of record;

(2) The Clerk of the Court or such deputy clerks of the Court as may, in writing, be designated by the Clerk and approved by the Chief Judge of the Court;

(3) A minister, priest, rabbi, or authorized person of any religious denomination or society;

(4) For any religious society which does not by its own custom require the intervention of a minister for the celebration of marriages, a marriage may be solemnized in the manner prescribed and practiced in that religious society, with the license issued to, and returns to be made by, a person appointed by the religious society for that purpose;

(5) A civil celebrant;

(6) A temporary officiant;

(7) Members of the Council;

(8) The Mayor of the District of Columbia; or

(9) The parties to the marriage.

(b-1) All persons authorized by subsection (b) of this section to solemnize marriages shall comply with the requirements of § 46-412.

(b-2) The Court shall charge a reasonable registration fee for authorization to solemnize marriages; provided, that the registration fee for a temporary officiant shall not exceed $25.

(c) No priest, imam, rabbi, minister, or other official of any religious society who is authorized to solemnize or celebrate marriages shall be required to solemnize or celebrate any marriage.

(d) Each religious society has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine, teachings, and beliefs regarding who may marry within that particular religious society's faith.

(e) (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religious society, or a nonprofit organization that is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities, or goods for a purpose related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage, or the promotion of marriage through religious programs, counseling, courses, or retreats, that is in violation of the religious society's beliefs.

(2) A refusal to provide services, accommodations, facilities, or goods in accordance with this subsection shall not create any civil claim or cause of action, or result in a District action to penalize or withhold benefits from the religious society or nonprofit organization that is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious society.

(Mar. 3, 1901, 31 Stat. 1392, ch. 854, § 1288; Apr. 23, 1904, 33 Stat. 297, ch. 1490, § 1; June 25, 1948, 62 Stat. 991, ch. 646, § 32(a), (b); May 24, 1949, 63 Stat. 107, ch. 139, § 127; July 5, 1966, 80 Stat. 264, Pub. L. 89-493, § 13(a), (b); July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 570, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 155(a); Jan. 26, 1982, D.C. Law 4-60, § 2, 28 DCR 4768; Mar. 3, 2010, D.C. Law 18-110, § 2(d), 57 DCR 27; Nov. 5, 2013, D.C. Law 20-36, § 2, 60 DCR 12143.)

View the District Of Columbia Statutes on the official state site
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