Having a Friend Officiate Your Wedding

picture of a bride and groom first kiss at the wedding altar surrounded by friends and family cheering

Happy Tuesday lovely readers! I hope you enjoyed a bit of the beautiful weather we had this weekend and are getting excited for fall. I can’t wait to break out my boots and sweaters, even though in New Orleans the temperature doesn’t ever get very chilly! A girl can dream, right?

Many of my clients have been asking my advice on having their friend or family member officiate their nuptials. I think this is a wonderful way to personalize such an important part of the big day! Having the people closest to you and who know you well presiding over the moment you marry makes the moment that much more special for many of my couples! However, what do you do when those that are closest to you are not ministers or judges? I am here to offer a solution that I suggest to my clients that has worked very well for them.

How to have a friend or family member officiate your wedding

  1. Get ordained.

    There are a few outlets to achieve this, if your friend/family member is not already ordained by a religious governing body. Applying online through the Universal Life Church Monastery is the fastest and least expensive way for anyone to become ordained.

  2. Register as a legal minister with the state of Louisiana.

    A) Find out what parish your ceremony will take place, and register there. Some parishes will require the officiant to register with the clerk of court, others (like Orleans Parish, where New Orleans is located) will require registration through the Department of Health and Hospitals.
    B) Fill out, sign, and notarize an affidavit declaring legal ministry status, and submit to the governing body overseeing marriage officials in that parish.

  3. Receive license and proof of registration.

    The parish will take time to review the application, and once all is in order and approved, your officiant should receive a license and proof of registration in the mail. This could take several weeks, so be sure your officiant begins the registration process well in advance of the wedding date (I’d suggest at least 8 weeks before your wedding).

If your officiant is not a minister, justice of the peace, or judge, it is easy for them to become ordained through an online process so that they can have the credentials necessary to marry you and make it official. There are a number of ways to do this, but the recommendation I make to my clients is to have their officiant visit the Universal Life Church Monastery website and fill out the form online. (As an aside, I am in no way affiliated with the Universal Life Church Monsatery, nor have they paid me to write about them. This is just the easiest and most straightforward process for my clients, so I’m sharing it with you!). Your officiant will then receive a confirmation via email which will affirm their status as a minister, able to perform your ceremony. This confirmation bestows upon your officiant rights as a legal minister, but nothing more and nothing less (see the Ordination FAQ page for more information). Your officiant will also receive an official ordination credential that will be necessary to present to the parish in which your ceremony will take place. Your officiant can print it right from their computer once they have completed the online ordination process. Super easy!

Once your officiant is confirmed as a legal minister, you will also need to have them register in Louisiana. This is true even if your officiant was already ordained, or is a justice of the peace or judge in another parish or out-of-state. Also good to note, federal judges are not able to preside over wedding ceremonies, so if the person you have in mind to officiate your wedding is a federal judge, you will still need a registered officiant to preside and sign your marriage license.  Depending upon where you are getting married, whether in New Orleans (Orleans Parish), Metairie, Kenner, or anywhere on the West Bank (Jefferson Parish), at a location outside the immediate metro area (check with your venue about what parish it is located in to be sure), then contact office where your officiant will need to register their credentials will vary. Since most of my clients’ ceremonies are in New Orleans, I will provide information about Orleans Parish, but always be sure to call ahead and make sure the rules have not changed and the procedure is the same.

In most Louisiana parishes, your officiant will need to register with the clerk of court in that parish. In Orleans Parish, the Department of Health and Hospitals regulates wedding officiants. Your officiant will be required to fill out an affidavit to register as an officiant in Orleans Parish. Your officiant can print and fill out a sample affidavit, found on the Department of Health and Hospitals website. This form will also need to be signed before a notary public, and mailed in to the Office of Vital Records listed at the bottom of the affidavit. Please always call ahead and check to make sure the procedures have not changed! The most recent number I have on file to call and confirm is 504.593.5100. If that number does not work for whatever reason, try looking up the Department of Health and Hospitals Office of Vital Records, and that should point you in the right direction! The address your officiant will need to mail in their notarized affidavit is PO Box 60630, New Orleans, LA 70160-0630. Again, please double check to make sure this has not changed!

Then your officiant will wait. The Office of Vital Records will take time to review the application and verify that all of the information is true and accurate. Once it has determined everything is in order, the office will issue a license and proof of registration to your officiant. This process takes several weeks to complete, so be sure to begin the paperwork well in advance of your wedding date!

And now it’s official! Your officiant will be able to legally marry you in New Orleans, and you can begin working together to personalize your wedding ceremony and develop a program that is specific to you both as a couple and in the way you both choose to celebrate your new lives together! Next week, I will tackle the process for applying for your marriage license, so stay tuned for more helpful tips on navigating the paperwork necessary to make your wedding official!

Photographer: Photo Pink 


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