How to get Ordained in California to Officiate
Written and reviewed by the wedding law liaison team at the Universal Life Church.
You've arrived at the California marriage laws guide! Whether you're officiating your first wedding, or if it's been awhile since your last, it's always a good idea to check up on the local marriage laws. To make sure everything goes smoothly on the big day, we recommend reviewing this guide we've put together. Among other things, it will explain how to become a wedding minister, how to marry someone, and how to ensure the wedding is legal in California.
Below are is the simple checklist one must follow to officiate a wedding:
Getting Ordained in California
The ordination process to become a marriage officiant is not nearly as difficult as you might anticipate. In fact, our online ordination process is straightforward, fast, and completely free. Legally licensed ministers of the ULC conduct countless marriages in California every year. Once you have your minister license, officiating a wedding is just a hop, skip, and a jump away! Click the link below to get started.
How Do You Perform a Wedding in California
For starters, you should get ahold of the marriage license office in the county where the wedding will take place. Introduce yourself as an ordained minister and ask what documents officials will need to see from you. You might be asked to provide several different documents to confirm your ordination status, and note that these requirements can vary from county to county. What one county might require, the one next door might not - which is why we recommend contacting local officials prior to the wedding. Any documents they might request are available through the Minister Store on our website.
Select a county to see contact information for each office:
California Wedding Officiant Requirements
After you've spoken with county marriage officials, simply visit our website, sign in to your account, and order the necessary supplies. Based on the feedback we've received from our ministers in California, we recommend picking up a California Wedding Set
For the most part, ministers are not required to register in California. That being said, it's not uncommon for the county clerk to ask for proof of your ordination before giving the "go-ahead" to perform marriage ceremonies. It can also give the couple peace of mind to know that their wedding minister has all official documentation, such as the ordination certificate, on hand. Per the request of the county officials, we suggest ordering your official documents well in advance.
How to Get a California Marriage License
Marriage licenses in California are issued by county clerk's offices. While it is the couple's duty to pick up the license directly from the clerk, the minister should be aware of the rules pertaining to marriage licenses the relevant county. For example, if the couple is getting a Sacramento marriage license, it's the minister's job to know if there are any specific regulations in place for that locality.
California marriage licenses are valid for 90 days after being picked up from the county clerk. There is no mandatory waiting period, meaning the ceremony can be held immediately after the license is issued. After the wedding has been performed, the license must be returned to the county within 10 days.
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How Do You Officiate a Wedding?
Once all the paperwork is in order, you're ready to perform the wedding! If you need any guidance in this area, please don't hesitate to consult the resources linked below. These carefully-constructed pages provide helpful tips and information on all aspects of performing a wedding ceremony. Made with our wedding officiants in mind, they contain everything you'll need to plan the perfect ceremony.
Many ULC ministers have used these same resources for guidance when becoming professional officiants!
Signing the Marriage License in California
Now there's just one more step - but it's a very important one! After performing the wedding, you must sign the marriage license (along with the couple and their witnesses). Your official title will be "Minister"; for ceremony type, put "Religious"; for denomination, write "Non-Denominational".
If prompted to provide an address of ministry, put your personal ministry or home address. Do not put the address of ULC headquarters. Lastly, remember that the signed license must be turned in to the marriage office before the deadline!
California Marriage Laws
Marriage laws in California are primarily directed by California's Family Code. This section defines persons authorized to perform a marriage in the State of California, which includes ordained ministers of the Universal Life Church, among others. We've provided the relevant portion below.
Universal Citation: CA Fam Code § 350 (2019) 350.
(a) Before entering a marriage, or declaring a marriage pursuant to Section 425, the parties shall first obtain a marriage license from a county clerk.
(b) If a marriage is to be entered into pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 420, the attorney-in-fact shall appear before the county clerk on behalf of the party who is overseas, as prescribed in subdivision (a).
View the California Statutes on the official government state website.