How to get Ordained in Virginia to Officiate
Written and reviewed by the wedding law liaison team at the Universal Life Church.
Welcome to the Virginia marriage laws guide. Officiating a wedding for a friend or family member can be a great honor, but one that comes with some share of responsibility. We highly encourage you to review the steps in the guide below and follow the instructions thoroughly to ensure that everything goes smoothly. This page will inform you how to become a wedding minister, how to marry someone, and what you must do to make sure the marriage is legal in Virginia.
Here are the basic steps one must follow to officiate a wedding:
Getting Ordained in Virginia
Signing up to be a marriage officiant with the Universal Life Church is very simple. The online ordination process is easy, fast, and cost free. Legally licensed ministers of the ULC officiate thousands of marriages each year. After you receive your minister license, officiating a wedding is just a few easy steps away! Click the button below to get started.
How Do You Perform a Wedding in Virginia
First things first, you will need to contact the office that will issue the marriage license to the couple. This is typically going to be the county clerk in your area. Tell the clerk you are a minister and ask what documents they might require you to present. There are number of items you could be asked to present to prove your ordination. Always remember that requirements can vary from county to county, so you should make sure to contact this office before each wedding. The documents that you might be asked to present are available for order in the Minister Store here on our site.
Please note that officials in Virginia have a tendency not to recognize ULC ordinations. We suggest you check with the clerk in your county for more information.
Select a county to see contact information for each office:
Select your county to view contact information for each office:
Performing wedding ceremonies is one of the most special and sacred rites a minister can perform. Unfortunately, as you may discover, it can be challenging for a ULC minister, or the minister of any other “non-traditional” church, to perform a wedding in Virginia. If you do attempt to do so and as a result have a positive or negative interaction with a government official like a county clerk, we would love to hear from you directly what you experienced. You can submit your story using the box below.
Virginia Wedding Officiant Requirements
After you've spoken with the county clerk, simply visit our website, sign in to your account, and place a new order for the materials you have been asked to present to confirm your ordination with the Universal Life Church. Based on feedback from our ministers in Virginia, we recommend picking up the Classic Wedding Set and an Official Letter of Good Standing.
In general, ministers are always required to register in Virginia. As requested by county officials, please order your materials well in advance of the ceremony so you have everything you need within the set deadlines. While you are in the online store, be sure to peruse the other minister supplies available there - we offer hundreds of items that may be of interest to you in furthering your ministry!
How to Get a Virginia Marriage License
Marriage licenses are issued by the county clerk's office in Virginia. While the couple being married are the ones who actually pick up the license, the minister should still research and understand the rules for marriage licenses in Virginia and its counties. For example, if the couple is getting a license from Fairfax County, then make sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of Fairfax County to help make sure the couple is doing everything correctly according to the law.
In Virginia, marriage licenses are valid for 60 days. Note that there is not a mandatory waiting period - this means that the couple can immediately get married after getting their license. Once the ceremony has been completed, the signed marriage license must be returned within 5 days.
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How Do You Officiate a Wedding?
After you've ordered your documents and presented them to the clerk (if necessary), then you are ready to perform the wedding! We have several online tools available for any guidance you might need to prepare for the ceremony. These carefully-tailored resources provide helpful pointers and information on all aspects of performing a wedding ceremony. Constructed 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 Virginia
Now there's just one final step - but it's an important one! After performing the wedding, you must sign the marriage license (along with the couple). Your official title will be "Minister"; for ceremony type, put "Religious", and for denomination, write "Non-Denominational". No license number is required.
The name of the church is "Universal Life Church", and if the document asks for the church's address then you should use your personal ministry or home address, not the address of the ULC's main office. Lastly, remember that the signed license must be turned in to the marriage office before the deadline passes!
Virginia Marriage Laws
Virginia marriage laws are governed by Chapter 20 of Title 23 of the code of Virginia. This section explains who is legally authorized to officiate weddings in the State of Virginia. The relevant section is displayed below:
Universal Citation: VA Code § 20-16 (2016) The clerk issuing any marriage license shall require the parties contemplating marriage to state, under oath, the information required to complete the application for marriage license. The parties shall be able to designate themselves on the application for marriage license as spouse, bride, or groom. The clerk shall provide the parties with two copies of the marriage certificate to be completed by the marriage officiant, who shall return the completed certificates to the clerk after the marriage ceremony of the parties. The clerk shall retain one copy of the completed marriage certificate and provide the other copy to the State Registrar of Vital Records. The clerk may provide the parties with a commemorative marriage certificate and the parties may request a certified copy of the official marriage certificate as provided in Article 7 (§ 32.1-270 et seq.) of Chapter 7 of Title 32.1. For the purposes of this section any statement made by such applicant, under oath, concerning the information to be entered on the application for marriage license is hereby declared to be a material matter or thing in any prosecution for perjury for any violation of this section.
View the Virginia Statutes on the official government state website.