District Of Columbia Wedding Laws
Written and reviewed by the wedding law liaison team at the Universal Life Church.
Welcome to the Washington D.C. marriage laws guide. Being the officiant at a wedding is a great honor and responsibility - which is why we've assembled this page to give guidance to ministers and couples. To ensure everything goes as planned on the big day, we encourage you to follow the steps laid out below. The page will explain how to become a wedding minister, how to marry someone, and how to ensure that the ceremony is legal in Washington D.C.
Here are the basic steps to follow for officiating a wedding:
How Do I Become Ordained to Marry in District Of Columbia
Becoming a marriage officiant with the Universal Life Church is quite simple. Our online ordination process is straightforward, fast, and entirely free. Once you have your minister license in hand, your goal of officiating a wedding will be within reach. Legally licensed ministers of the ULC perform scores of weddings in Washington D.C. each year. Click the button below to get started!
How Do You Perform a Wedding in District Of Columbia
The first step will be to contact the D.C. Marriage Bureau (the office that issues marriages licenses there). Explain that you are a minister officiating an upcoming wedding, and that you're curious what documents they'll need in order to verify your ordination. You will likely be asked to present several items proving your status as an ordained minister. Any documents or supplies you might need are available via the Minister Store here on our site.
Select a county to see contact information for each office:
What Do You Need to Officiate a Wedding in District Of Columbia
Once you've spoken with Marriage Bureau officials, simply sign in to your account on our site and order the required documents. In general, ministers are required to register in Washington D.C. Thus, officials will likely request proof of your ordination before giving you the green light to perform the wedding.
But registration purposes aside, having your ordination certificate on hand also gives the couple peace of mind. They'll take comfort knowing that their wedding minister is officially recognized. With that in mind, one of our more popular items in Washington D.C. is the Classic Wedding Set, which comes with everything you'll need to perform a successful ceremony. As requested by D.C. marriage officials, please order your materials well in advance of the ceremony.
How to Get a District Of Columbia Marriage License
Marriage licenses are issued by the D.C. Marriage Bureau. Although it's the couple's job to obtain the license, as the minister, you should check to see if there are any special regulations specific to Washington D.C. that the couple might not be aware of.
Washington D.C. marriage licenses never expire. However, note that there is a mandatory 3-day waiting period after receiving the license before a ceremony can legally be performed. Once the ceremony has been completed, the signed marriage license must be returned to the issuing office within 10 days.
District Of Columbia's Top Wedding Venue
The Willard Intercontinental Hotel
How Do You Officiate a Wedding?
After you have all the paperwork in order, it's time to conduct the wedding! If you need some pointers with this task, don't hesitate to utilize the tools available below. Our carefully prepared resources provide useful tips and tricks for performing a wedding ceremony. Prepared with our wedding officiants in mind, the information contains all you will need to plan the perfect ceremony.
Finalizing the Marriage
Last but not least, after performing the wedding, you will need to sign the marriage license (along with the couple, of course). Your official title will be "Minister"; for the type of ceremony put "Religious"; for denomination, write "Non-Denominational".
If asked to list an address of ministry, put your personal ministry or home address. Do not put the address of ULC. Finally, remember to return the signed license before the deadline passes!
District Of Columbia Marriage Laws
District of Columbia marriage laws are governed by Section 406 of Title 46 of the code of Washington D.C. This section explains who is legally authorized to officiate weddings in the State of Washington D.C. Among those with authorization are ordained ministers of the Universal Life Church Ministries. The relevant section is displayed below:
§ 46-406. Persons authorized to celebrate marriages.
(a) For the purposes of this section, the term:
(1) "Civil celebrant" means a person of a secular or non-religious organization who performs marriage ceremonies.
(2) "Religious" includes or pertains to a belief in a theological doctrine, a belief in and worship of a divine ruling power, a recognition of a supernatural power controlling man's destiny, or a devotion to some principle, strict fidelity or faithfulness, conscientiousness, pious affection, or attachment.
(3) "Society" means a voluntary association of individuals for religious purposes.
(4) "Temporary officiant" means a person authorized by the Clerk of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ("Court") to solemnize a specific marriage. The person's authority to solemnize that marriage shall expire upon the filing of the marriage license, pursuant to § 46-412.
(b) For the purpose of preserving the evidence of marriages in the District of Columbia, a marriage authorized under this chapter may be solemnized by the following persons at least 18 years of age at the time of the marriage:
(1) A judge or retired judge of any court of record;
(2) The Clerk of the Court or such deputy clerks of the Court as may, in writing, be designated by the Clerk and approved by the Chief Judge of the Court;
(3) A minister, priest, rabbi, or authorized person of any religious denomination or society;
(4) For any religious society which does not by its own custom require the intervention of a minister for the celebration of marriages, a marriage may be solemnized in the manner prescribed and practiced in that religious society, with the license issued to, and returns to be made by, a person appointed by the religious society for that purpose;
(5) A civil celebrant;
(6) A temporary officiant;
(7) Members of the Council;
(8) The Mayor of the District of Columbia; or
(9) The parties to the marriage.
(b-1) All persons authorized by subsection (b) of this section to solemnize marriages shall comply with the requirements of § 46-412.
(b-2) The Court shall charge a reasonable registration fee for authorization to solemnize marriages; provided, that the registration fee for a temporary officiant shall not exceed $25.
(c) No priest, imam, rabbi, minister, or other official of any religious society who is authorized to solemnize or celebrate marriages shall be required to solemnize or celebrate any marriage.
(d) Each religious society has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine, teachings, and beliefs regarding who may marry within that particular religious society's faith.
(e) (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religious society, or a nonprofit organization that is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities, or goods for a purpose related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage, or the promotion of marriage through religious programs, counseling, courses, or retreats, that is in violation of the religious society's beliefs.
(2) A refusal to provide services, accommodations, facilities, or goods in accordance with this subsection shall not create any civil claim or cause of action, or result in a District action to penalize or withhold benefits from the religious society or nonprofit organization that is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious society. History
(Mar. 3, 1901, 31 Stat. 1392, ch. 854, § 1288; Apr. 23, 1904, 33 Stat. 297, ch. 1490, § 1; June 25, 1948, 62 Stat. 991, ch. 646, § 32(a), (b); May 24, 1949, 63 Stat. 107, ch. 139, § 127; July 5, 1966, 80 Stat. 264, Pub. L. 89-493, § 13(a), (b); July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 570, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 155(a); Jan. 26, 1982, D.C. Law 4-60, § 2, 28 DCR 4768; Mar. 3, 2010, D.C. Law 18-110, § 2(d), 57 DCR 27; Nov. 5, 2013, D.C. Law 20-36, § 2, 60 DCR 12143.)
View the Washington DC Statutes on the official state site