Clergy members, judges, and court clerks can all obtain licenses to officiate weddings. Education and licensing requirements vary by state and by profession. Judges, for example, must have some legal experience, while clergy members typically attend a religious school or seminary to gain the required knowledge.
Wedding officiants are licensed by their state to legally marry two individuals. Depending on the laws of the state, only certain individuals are authorized to solemnize marriages. The most common wedding officiants are clergy members, ministers, justices of the peace, judges or court clerks; however, this list may also include notaries and ship captains. Education requirements usually vary according to profession.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree or Juris Doctor, depending on profession|
|Other Requirements||Licensure (for judges), ordination (for clergy)|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*|| Little to no change for judges;
4% for court clerks;
6% for clergy
|Average Salary (2015)*|| $116,100 (judges);
$38,230 (court clerks)
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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A number of officials may perform weddings and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has employment outlook data for many of these careers. Learn more about these career paths below.
Clergymen and Ministers
Clergymen and ministers are ordained by their religious organization to lead members in worship and other spiritual practices, such as wedding ceremonies. They serve as religious counselors offering guidance to their followers in spiritual and moral matters. Wedding officiants in this category may also be known as pastor, minister, rabbi, preacher, chaplain, vicar and other related designations.
Clergymen and ministers guide couples on the road to marriage. They may provide pre-marital and spiritual counseling, as well as perform the couple's wedding ceremony and sign the marriage license.
The traditional route to becoming ordained as a clergy member is to attend a religious school or seminary. These schools offer a range of religious education from certificate programs to graduate degrees in religion or theology studies. Online programs are also available that offer ordination as a clergy member. While some online institutions have no minimum age requirements, states generally require that those performing marriage ceremonies be at least 18 years of age.
Judges and Justices of the Peace
Judges or judicial workers work out of courthouses overseeing legal proceedings. They make rulings in cases and settle disputes. Judges and justices of the peace may also research legal issues, oversee court operations and give opinions.
Judges oversee cases and legal procedures in courts. Justices of the peace are judges that work in municipal or county courthouses supervising minor cases such as traffic violations, probate and misdemeanors. In some states, judges and justices of the peace may also solemnize marriages.
Most federal and state court judges must first become attorneys and have some legal experience. Becoming an attorney requires attending law school and passing the bar examination in the chosen state of practice. Some states do not require their judges to be lawyers, but legal experience provides greater career opportunities.
Court clerks work out of a court or municipal agency preparing licenses and securing information for judges. They also handle accounts and records. Court clerks prepare agendas, answer correspondence and secure data.
Some states allow deputy court clerks to perform marriages. They perform the ceremony either in the courthouse or in their office. They also sign the marriage license and collect the fee. Additional duties include assisting judges, preparing paperwork and correspondence.
Court clerks are usually only required to have a bachelor's degree in public administration or an administrative related profession. However, a master's degree or law degree may sometimes be preferred for higher-level clerk positions. Deputy clerks typically need extended experience. They are also typically required to demonstrate communication and management skills.
In summary, officiating weddings involves actually overseeing a wedding ceremony between two people. It can also, however, include counseling, completion of reporting or registering requirements, and collecting the required fees. Clergy members, court clerks, and judges are all typically authorized to officiate wedding ceremonies.