Pennsylvania Wedding Laws
Written and reviewed by the wedding law liaison team at the Universal Life Church.
Welcome to the Pennsylvania marriage laws guide. Performing a wedding ceremony can be a great honor, but being an officiant also comes with important duties. For this reason we've created this guide for both the minister and the couple. So that you are sure everything goes smoothly on the big day, we recommend following this guide. You will read about how to become a wedding minister, how to marry someone, and what needs to be done to ensure that the ceremony is legal in Pennsylvania.
Here are the basic steps one must follow to officiate a wedding:
How Do I Become Ordained to Marry in Pennsylvania
Getting ordained to be a marriage officiant with the ULC is very easy. The online ordination process is simple, quick, and cost free. Legally licensed ministers of the ULC officiate countless wedding ceremonies in the US every year. Once you are ordained and have your minister license in hand that means officiating a wedding is right around the corner! Just click the big button below to get started.
How Do You Perform a Wedding in Pennsylvania
First, you will want to contact the office that is issuing the marriage license to the couple. Let the official know that you are a minister planning to perform a wedding and you want to know what the requirements are for the area. There are several different items you could be asked to present to the county clerk. Make sure to contact this office before purchasing any documents because the requirements vary from county to county. We have any document you could be asked for available in our Minister Store.
Select a county to see contact information for each office:
What Do You Need to Officiate a Wedding in Pennsylvania
After speaking with the county clerk and determining what you need you can move on to ordering, chances are you will need some supplies before you will be permitted to officiate. Simply log in to your account and navigate to the supplies section. Most ministers in Pennsylvania choose to order the Classic Wedding Set and an Official Letter of Good Standing.
In general, Pennsylvania does require registration for ministers. Make sure to place your order well in advance of the wedding ceremony.
How to Get a Pennsylvania Marriage License
Marriage licenses are issued by the county clerk's office in Pennsylvania. The couple picks up the license, but the minister should still research and understand the rules for marriage licenses in Pennsylvania and its counties. For example, if the couple is getting a license from Bucks county then make sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of Bucks county to help make sure the couple is doing everything correctly according to the law.
In Pennsylvania, marriage licenses are valid for 60 days. Note that there is a mandatory 3-day waiting period - this means that the couple must wait a minimum of 3 days after receiving the license before a ceremony can legally be performed. Once the ceremony has been completed, the signed marriage license must be returned within 10 days.
Pennsylvania's Top Wedding Venue
How Do You Officiate a Wedding?
After you've received your paperwork and registered with the county clerk then you are ready to perform the wedding! We've created several online tools to help our ministers prepare for the big day. These carefully crafted guides are helpful for almost any type of wedding ceremony. Created specifically with our wedding officiants in mind, you will find all the info you will need to perform a ceremony.
Many ULC ministers have used these same resources for guidance when becoming professional officiants!
Finalizing the Marriage
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. Lastly, please remember that the signed license must be turned in to the marriage office before the deadline passes!
Pennsylvania Marriage Laws
Pennsylvania marriage laws are governed by Chapter 15 of Title 23 of the code of Pennsylvania. This section explains who is legally authorized to officiate weddings in the State of Pennsylvania. Among those with authorization are ordained ministers of the Universal Life Church. The relevant section is displayed below:
§ 1503. Persons qualified to solemnize marriages.
(a) General rule.--The following are authorized to solemnize marriages between persons that produce a marriage license issued under this part:
(1) A justice, judge or magisterial district judge of this Commonwealth.
(2) A former or retired justice, judge or magisterial district judge of this Commonwealth who is serving as a senior judge or senior magisterial district judge as provided or prescribed by law; or not serving as a senior judge or senior magisterial district judge but meets the following criteria:
(i) has served as a magisterial district judge, judge or justice, whether or not continuously or on the same court, by election or appointment for an aggregate period equaling a full term of office;
(ii) has not been defeated for reelection or retention;
(iii) has not been convicted of, pleaded nolo contendere to or agreed to an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or other probation without verdict program relative to any misdemeanor or felony offense under the laws of this Commonwealth or an equivalent offense under the laws of the United States or one of its territories or possessions, another state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or a foreign nation;
(iv) has not resigned a judicial commission to avoid having charges filed or to avoid prosecution by Federal, State or local law enforcement agencies or by the Judicial Conduct Board;
(v) has not been removed from office by the Court of Judicial Discipline; and
(vi) is a resident of this Commonwealth.
(3) An active or senior judge or full-time magistrate of the District Courts of the United States for the Eastern, Middle or Western District of Pennsylvania.
(3.1) An active, retired or senior bankruptcy judge of the United States Bankruptcy Courts for the Eastern, Middle or Western District of Pennsylvania who is a resident of this Commonwealth.
(4) An active, retired or senior judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit who is a resident of this Commonwealth.
(5) A mayor of any city or borough of this Commonwealth.
(5.1) A former mayor of a city or borough of this Commonwealth who:
(i) has not been defeated for reelection;
(ii) has not been convicted of, pleaded nolo contendere to or agreed to an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or other probation without verdict program relative to a misdemeanor or felony offense under the laws of this Commonwealth or an equivalent offense under the laws of the United States or any one of its possessions, another state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or a foreign nation;
(iii) has not resigned the position of mayor to avoid having charges filed or to avoid prosecution by Federal, State or local law enforcement agencies;
(iv) has served as a mayor, whether continuously or not, by election for an aggregate of a full term in office; and
(v) is a resident of this Commonwealth.
(6) A minister, priest or rabbi of any regularly established church or congregation.
(b) Religious organizations.--Every religious society, religious institution or religious organization in this Commonwealth may join persons together in marriage when at least one of the persons is a member of the society, institution or organization, according to the rules and customs of the society, institution or organization.
(c) Marriage license needed to officiate.--No person or religious organization qualified to perform marriages shall officiate at a marriage ceremony without the parties having obtained a marriage license issued under this part.
(June 22, 2000, P.L.443, No.59, eff. imd.; Nov. 30, 2004, P.L.1618, No.207, eff. 60 days; Dec. 1, 2004, P.L.1777, No.232, eff. 60 days; July 14, 2009, P.L.81, No.18, eff. imd.)
2004 Amendment. See sections 28 and 29 of Act 207 in the appendix to this title for special provisions relating to applicability and construction of law.