A Guide to Becoming a One-Day New York Wedding Officiant

Written and reviewed by the wedding law liaison team at the Universal Life Church.

A wedding taking place on a bridge

Have you been asked to perform a wedding in New York state? Or perhaps you’re just curious what the process looks like. Well, good news: there are various routes you can take to fulfill this role, and they are probably easier than you might think.

One popular option is to get ordained online. This speedy process (which also happens to be free) grants the authority to legally officiate wedding ceremonies throughout the state.

Another option, introduced through a bill recently signed into law, is a process that lets you become a one-time marriage officiant. This provision gives people the option to serve as an officiant for a single day and perform just one marriage ceremony. This method serves as an alternative to getting ordained, but it does have important limitations you should be aware of.

In this guide, we'll provide you with all the necessary information on how to sign up to be an officiant in New York state – both through the new one-time officiant provision, and via getting ordained online. We’ll also compare the two options so you can decide which route is right for you.

  1. Who Is Eligible to Perform Weddings in New York State

    Which individuals can take advantage of the limited one-day marriage license? The provision permits any ordinary person to perform a single wedding ceremony in New York, regardless of whether they possess a special qualification, such as a role in government or clergy status.

    According to the law, the two types of people generally authorized to officiate weddings in New York state are magistrates and ministers. A magistrate is another term for a judge, while a minister is a clergy member ordained by a religious organization (such as the Universal Life Church, for example). The pertinent section of legal text can be seen below.

    • Show Legal Excerpt

      N.Y. Dom. Law § 11 No marriage shall be valid unless solemnized by either:

      A clergyman or minister of any religion, or by the senior leader, or any of the other leaders, of The Society for Ethical Culture in the city of New York, having its principal office in the borough of Manhattan, or by the leader of The Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, having its principal office in the borough of Brooklyn of the city of New York, or of the Westchester Ethical Society, having its principal office in Westchester county, or of the Ethical Culture Society of Long Island, having its principal office in Nassau county, or of the Riverdale-Yonkers Ethical Society having its principal office in Bronx county, or by the leader of any other Ethical Culture Society affiliated with the American Ethical Union; provided that no clergyman or minister as defined in section two of the religious corporations law, or Society for Ethical Culture leader shall be required to solemnize any marriage when acting in his or her capacity under this subdivision.

      1-a. A refusal by a clergyman or minister as defined in section two of the religious corporations law, or Society for Ethical Culture leader to solemnize any marriage under this subdivision shall not create a civil claim or cause of action or result in any state or local government action to penalize, withhold benefits or discriminate against such clergyman or minister.

      The term "clergyman" or "minister" when used in this article, shall include those defined in section two of the religious corporations law. The word "magistrate, " when so used, includes any person referred to in the second or third subdivision.

    The ULC is a nondenominational organization that welcomes anyone who feels so-called to get ordained and become a minister, empowering them to officiate legally-binding marriage ceremonies (and much more). Millions of people globally have gone through our ordination process, and we’re proud to have many thousands of New York residents as members. Becoming ordained is free and is a 100% online process that requires only a few minutes from start to finish. To complete an ordination application and start your journey, hit the button below:

    Online Ordination
  2. New York Introduces One-Day Marriage License

    New York’s recent legislation expands the definition of who is allowed to perform weddings, creating a limited one-time marriage officiant rule that enables anyone who follows a government application process to get authorized to officiate marriage ceremonies. The provision allows individuals to obtain a license to officiate; this license is temporary and applies to just a single ceremony. The exact text of the law can be reviewed below.

    • Show Legal Excerpt

      § 11-d. One-day marriage officiant license.

      1. A town or city clerk shall issue a one-day marriage officiant license upon request. Such one-day marriage officiant shall have the authority to solemnize a marriage which shall be valid if performed in accordance with other provisions of law. Nothing herein contained shall nullify the authority of other persons authorized to solemnize marriages.

      2. Such one-day marriage officiant shall be eighteen years of age or over and need not be a resident of the town or city to which they apply or a resident of the state. A one-day marriage officiant shall have the authority to solemnize a marriage anywhere in the state.

      3. An applicant for a one-day marriage officiant license must apply for such license in the same town or city clerk's office as the couple to be married. Such applicant shall not be required to personally appear.

      4. A town or city clerk shall be entitled to a fee of twenty-five dollars for issuing a one-day marriage officiant license. Such license shall be issued only after payment of such fee and submission of a completed application form.

      5. The application form shall require the following information of the applicant: name, date of birth, address, email address and telephone number. The application form shall also require the following information of the parties to be married: names, dates of birth, and addresses as they appear on the application for a marriage license.

      6. Such license shall only be valid for the parties to be married as stated on the application and shall expire upon the earlier of either completion of such solemnization or the expiration of the marriage license.

      7. One-day marriage officiants shall be exempt from registration as required pursuant to section eleven-b of this article.

  3. Becoming a New York One Day Officiant

    To apply for the one-time marriage officiant license, you need to contact the government office responsible for issuing marriage licenses, usually the office of the City or Town Clerk. Both residents and non-residents can apply, and an in-person application may not always be necessary; it can sometimes be done remotely.

    The specific requirements to apply may vary from place to place within the state, but applicants will typically need to provide many details about the marriage ceremony (like the date, location, and other information) as well as their personal info (name, home address, birthdate, etc.).

  4. Cost of Being a One-Day Wedding Officiant in New York

    Becoming a one-day officiant in New York incurs a fee of $25, which is mandatory and applies state-wide. The fee must be paid to the clerk's office directly and can only be made via the payment methods they accept (note: additional credit card fees may also be added to the total in some areas).

    If the clerk’s office approves your application to become an officiant, you should receive an email with a confirmation of your legal status. According to applicants, this step can take multiple weeks – or longer – depending on processing times. Only once confirmation is received can an officiant move forward with the marriage ceremony.

  5. Comparing Online Ordination With the One-Day Officiant License

    How does this one-day marriage license compare with other routes to officiating weddings, like getting ordained? A comparison between New York’s one-day officiant rule and the online ordination process reveals several key differences.

    A park landscape with the New York skyline in view

    Temporary vs. Permanent License

    Perhaps the most important limitation to be aware of regarding New York’s one-day marriage license is just that: it is temporary and only valid for performing one ceremony. If you end up performing another wedding at any point down the line, you would need to repeat the application process in its entirety – including the waiting period, and paying the $25 fee all over again.

    Interestingly, from speaking with our ministers, many individuals who get ordained initially intending to officiate just a single wedding have found themselves enjoying the experience so much that they go on to officiate multiple weddings. It’s also not uncommon for friends or family members to be so impressed with an officiant’s performance that they immediately begin recruiting them to perform other weddings!

    Perhaps that’s why online ordination with the Universal Life Church is such a commonly-used option: ULC ordination credentials provide lifelong authorization to perform weddings, with no limitations on how many ceremonies you can take part in. If you think there’s even a slim chance you might want to officiate another marriage ceremony at some point later on, getting ordained online would easily allow for that.

    Price of the License

    Another important difference is cost. The price of a one-time marriage officiant license in New York is $25, while online ordination through the Universal Life Church is entirely free. Upon signing up, ministers gain access to an online account where they can view their ordination credential in its digital form.

    Paper copies of ULC ordination credentials and other documents are available to order online, but this step is optional. The ULC recognizes all ordinations it issues, regardless of whether individuals choose to order official paperwork.

    With that said, specific areas in New York state may require ministers to display physical proof of their ordination in order to perform wedding ceremonies. To learn about the process in your area, please visit our New York state guide to performing weddings in New York state. If required, you can obtain any such documents from our website, where we offer convenient packages containing all the necessary information, supplies, and training materials, for officiating weddings and more across the state.

    Application Processing Time

    Anyone planning to become a one-day officiant in New York should keep application windows and processing times top of mind. To apply for the one-time officiant designation, you must be sure to submit the necessary paperwork at minimum 30 days before the ceremony. After submission, it could take up to 23 days to receive an acceptance notification. Unfortunately, this potentially leaves couples and officiants with only 7 days before the ceremony to find an alternative in the case that the application gets denied.

    That would never be an issue when getting ordained through the Universal Life Church. The ULC ordination process provides instant confirmation via email after an ordination application is submitted. This immediate verification removes all stress from the situation, assuring you of your eligibility to officiate a wedding ceremony.

    The ULC process is structured this way because we believe in granting people the freedom to maintain total control over their spiritual lives – including the ability to preside as officiants of wedding ceremonies – without any burdensome regulations or restrictions.

  6. Applying to Be a Wedding Officiant in New York

    Regardless of if it’s you yourself planning to get married, or if you’re someone who’s been asked to perform a wedding in New York, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the main pros and cons of each method for becoming authorized to officiate in the state. If you determine that online ordination is the best fit for your unique situation, beginning the process is as simple as clicking the button below.

    Become a minister now!

    No matter which path you choose, your choice will allow couples to select a friend or loved one in their lives to stand up at the altar with them on the big day. Ultimately, that’s what’s important: creating a meaningful and memorable experience for the couple as they say their vows and begin the next phase of their life together.

    When it comes to the ceremony, if you're responsible for crafting a script and feel like you could use some guidance or ideas, remember to visit our wedding ceremony script hub.