Written by Isiah Kurz

Weddings are one of life’s most joyous occasions. And elopements are even cooler—in my humble opinion—because it’s all the fun of a wedding day multiplied by an outdoor adventure!

But then there’s all that legal stuff—that boring, complicated, and scary legal stuff, right? I know it’s a bit intimidating, but to be honest, getting legally married ain’t all that bad. If it was, there’d be a lot fewer married people.

Let’s walk through all the need-to-know details for you and your fiancé to be lawfully married.

Don’t You Want Somebody to Love

First things first, you have to find that special someone. Take a quick moment to look at them and realize, “Wow, I found somebody in the world I love enough to marry. And better yet, I found someone willing and eager to marry me!”

That’s a special thing. It takes a lot of luck and dedication to make a relationship work. So, if you’ve done that, the legal stuff is going to be a breeze. Just wanted to build your confidence before we continue.

Getting Your Marriage License

Up next, you’ll need to request a marriage license from your county clerk-recorder’s office. Google your area and you’ll find it. Depending on your area, you might have to go in person or you might have the option to do this online. Interestingly enough, you can finalize your marriage right then and there if you choose. All it takes is your personal information, an oath (“I do”), and you’re good to go. You can still have a ceremony later, of course. This is totally up to you.

If you choose to finalize the marriage at the ceremony, that’s A-OK. Just bring your paperwork to your wedding day for your officiant to sign. This brings us to selecting your officiant...

Selecting Your Officiant

Odds are you’ve been to a wedding before or you’ve at least seen one on TV. At every ceremony, there’s a person who stands at the altar, conducts the ceremony, and pronounces the couple married. That person is known as the officiant.

While officiating a wedding is a sacred and special duty, it’s incredibly easy to find or become an officiant. As a couple, you might have a religious leader, family member, or friend who you think would be perfect to officiate your wedding. That’s awesome! Having someone you already enjoy a connection with makes the ceremony all the more special.

If your chosen officiant is a religious leader, they’re almost certainly prepared to conduct your ceremony. It’s part of the job description.

If you’d prefer a friend or a family member, that’s totally cool. Know they will need to become ordained in order to officiate your wedding. More on that below.

What If I Can’t Find an Officiant?

Don’t have anybody in mind? No matter. Love and Latitudes Wedding and Elopement Photography has an officiant on staff. This is especially helpful for elopements and small adventure weddings. We are comfortable conducting religious or secular ceremonies.

Just let us know that you need an officiant when booking your photographer. We’ll set up a second call to chat through your preferences and work to personalize your ceremony.

Getting Ordained

So, you have someone picked out. That’s great! Unless they are already ordained, they’ll need to go through the process.

There are several websites where they can get ordained online. Personally, we like the Universal Life Church because it’s easy, widely recognized, and we agree with their principles. As stated on their website: “The ULC has only two core tenets that ministers must uphold: (1) Do only that which is right. (2) Every individual is free to practice their religion however they like as long as their actions do not impinge upon the rights or freedoms of others and are in accordance with the law.” That last point is important to us. Everyone has the right to get married—regardless of religion, sexuality, gender, or anything else. 

To get ordained by ULC, they’ll need to fill out some personal information on the website, press submit, and check their email inbox for confirmation. Boom! It’s that simple.

Performing a Legal Wedding: Easy as 1-2-3

Once your friend or family member is ordained, performing a legal ceremony is nice and straightforward:

  1. Double-check your state laws. They may have to prove to their state that they are ordained to officiate the wedding. It’s usually just a little extra paperwork and confirming personal information.
  2. Hosting the ceremony. This is the fun part. Your officiant can talk about you as a couple, your history together, exchange rings, and ask you to share vows. Keep in mind that for a marriage to be legally binding, the officiant MUST include a declaration of intent (“do you take” and “I do”) from both parties and a pronouncement (“I now pronounce you…”). Everything else is optional and customizable.
  3. Filling out the marriage license. Remember that marriage license we talked about earlier? Yup, that one. Fill out the paperwork with names, addresses, dates, signatures of the couple—all that goodness. Depending on the state, you might also need the signatures of one or two witnesses (your photographer can act as a witness). And finally, the signature of your officiant. This form can be mailed (by anyone) to the county clerk-recorder’s office or delivered in-person by either the couple or the officiant.

And that’s it! A bit of paperwork, a few magic words—and you are officially married.

Love and Latitudes Wedding and Elopements

Love and Latitudes believes in giving you the perfect wedding day. We hope this guide clears up some of the legal stuff for you, so you can focus on the excitement of getting married.

Ready to book your wedding photographer or add-on an officiant? Reach out to Love and Latitudes Wedding and Elopements today!