Why Do I Need A Wedding Officiant, What Do They Do, And How Do I Hire One?

Photo Credit: Abigail Gowain - Indy Weddings & Brands

An answer to the question: “How do I actually get married?

In order to be legally married, you need a marriage license and someone who is legally qualified to solemnize your marriage and sign the marriage license with you. That person is a Wedding Officiant.


Hi!  My name is Victoria Meyer and I’m a professional wedding officiant.  I’ve been officiating weddings in Indiana for over 10 years. I’ve been a full-time wedding officiant for 8 years.  I lost track of the exact number of couples I’ve married but it’s well over 4000.  I can very safely say I’m an expert when it comes to officiating a wedding in Indiana.  This article is to help you understand what is involved with being legally married in Indiana and what a professional wedding officiant can do to help you.  


Legal Info and Disclaimer:  


This article provides general information about wedding officiants but is geared towards the laws that govern the State of Indiana.  Marriage laws are set forth by the State but the State itself does not issue marriage licenses.  Each individual county clerk in Indiana issues marriage licenses to Indiana residents that live in their county or non-Indiana residents who are being married in their county.  Each county has its own procedures for applying for, issuing, and filing marriage licenses. Some of these procedures are due to COVID 19 and others are simply the way the county operates.  My business is located in Indianapolis.  I am most familiar with the State Laws of Indiana and the Marion and Hamiton County Clerks because that is where I work and live. If you are getting married in another state, you will need to research the marriage laws in that state.  ALWAYS check with the county clerk issuing your marriage license to verify you are following all laws and procedures correctly.  


What is a wedding officiant?


A Wedding Officiant is someone legally qualified to solemnize a marriage.  That person can be A Judge.  A Mayor, within the mayor’s county. A clerk or a clerk-treasurer of a city or town, within a county in which the city or town is located. A clerk of the circuit court. The Friends Church, in accordance with the rules of the Friends Church. The German Baptists, in accordance with the rules of their society. The Baha’i faith, in accordance with the rules of the Baha’i faith. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, in accordance with the rules of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. An imam of a masjid (mosque), in accordance with the rules of the religion of Islam.  


BUT, LIKE, SERIOUSLY… The only part of all of this that matters is probably the “ORDAINED MINISTER” part.  The part where anyone can get ordained online and perform a wedding and sign your marriage license.  The part that sounds so cheap and easy and anyone can do it…


Interesting Facts:


Some OTHER STATES allow notaries or lawyers or other people to also officiate a wedding.  This NOT the case in INDIANA.  

An Indiana marriage license does not need to be notarized.  Wedding officiants do not have a seal they place on your marriage license.  

What does it mean to solemnize a marriage?  


Solemnize means “to go through with ceremony or formality.”  That means a person performs a formal wedding ceremony with two people who are choosing to marry each other.  The person solemnizing the wedding ceremony will also have to complete your marriage license with you to fulfill the legal requirements.  The Wedding Officiant, the person solemnizing your marriage, is taking legal responsibility for your wedding.  


The county clerk issues a couple a marriage license which gives the couple the legal authority to marry.  You cannot be legally married without a marriage license.  Some religions will perform religious ceremonies to marry a couple and their community will consider them married.  The government will not consider you married unless you have a completed marriage license filed with a county clerk.  


Many couples will actually “get married” twice.  They will get legally married – just to sign the paperwork and make it legal with the government – and then they will have another wedding ceremony – either in their church or just have a more formal, fun, meaningful wedding ceremony with family and friends followed by a party.  I perform BOTH of these types of weddings all the time.  If you want to have two weddings – one simple and legal, the other more formal – make sure you check with the person who is performing the formal wedding to make sure it’s OK.  It’s very rare, but some traditional ministers will not do that.  They may want to be the person to sign the license and perform the wedding.


What is involved in the legal process of getting married?


In Indiana, the marriage license process and the legal act of getting married are very easy.  You get a full rundown of how to get a marriage license on my website How To Get Married In Indy.  Once you have a marriage license, you can meet with a person legally qualified to marry you, perform a quick ceremony and complete the marriage license.  It can just be the three of you.  You don’t need witnesses – in Indiana – Many other states require witnesses.  


The couple being married needs to obtain their own marriage license, nobody else can do that for you in Indiana.  


What kind of ceremony needs to be performed?


Your wedding ceremony can be as simple as the wedding officiant asking, “Do you take this person to be your spouse?”  The two of you both say, “I do.” Then, the wedding officiant can say, “I now pronounce you married!”  This is all that is legally required.  You can certainly have much more of a ceremony!!  That’s the other thing you may want to hire a professional wedding officiant to help you with.  

How do we complete the marriage license?


Your wedding officiant will complete the marriage license, sign it, and watch the two of you sign it.  The completed marriage license then needs to be returned to the county clerk that issued it to be filed within 30 days.  You are not legally considered married until the completed marriage license is returned to the clerk, accepted, and filed.  


Getting legally married is a 3 step process:


  1. Obtain your marriage license.

  2. Get married and complete the marriage license.

  3. Return the marriage license to the clerk that issued it. You are not considered legally married unless the completed marriage license is filed with the clerk. 

Interesting fact:  Just because you have been issued a marriage license it doesn’t mean you have to get married.  You can change your mind!  An Indiana marriage license expires after 60 days.  


Do I need a professional wedding officiant?


A professional wedding officiant is a person who gets paid to perform wedding ceremonies.  


Anyone who is legally qualified to solemnize, or perform a wedding ceremony can be considered a wedding officiant. The qualifications needed to be a wedding officiant may fall under the skillsets of their regular job.  They get paid for doing their regular job.


If you know the mayor of your town, you can ask them and, they can serve as your wedding officiant.  If your best friend got ordained as a minister online, they can serve as your wedding officiant.   You may live in one of the few counties in Indiana where you can make an appointment with the clerk or a judge to marry you during office hours and they will serve as your wedding officiant.  The minister of your church may marry you in a religious ceremony and serve as your wedding officiant.  All these people have other full-time jobs but can also serve as a wedding officiant for you.  It is very possible you can find someone to marry you for free.  


Why should I hire a professional wedding officiant?


If you need to get a job done right, or the way you want it done, it usually pays off to hire a professional.  


One of the best quotes I’ve heard from a groom at one of my $50 Quickie Civil Ceremonies:  “My friend got ordained online, he could marry us for free, but he’s a crackhead.  I thought it was better to hire a professional.”


I don’t know how many times couples have told me they have a friend that could marry them but they were impossible to pin down to do actually do it. If you need to get married now, most likely, you can hire a professional at a reasonable price to marry you pretty quickly.  


You are a PRO. You CHARGE money.  I can get someone to do it for FREE!


Your friend or family member can get ordained online and legally marry you.  That is true.  And, that might be the very best choice for you.  You might want the person that marries you to know you, give a sermon written specifically for you and your relationship.  You may want your wedding ceremony may be one of the most intimate, memorable experiences of your life that can best be accomplished by someone who knows you that intimately.   I respect and encourage that.  


Each year, I get a number of telephone calls from couples who thought someone was going to be able to marry them but they backed out at the last minute.  Or, what sounded like a great idea in the early planning state is obviously not going to work out now that you look at it a little more closely.  Sometimes I’m available to help, sometimes I’m not.  If you are getting married between 4-6 on a Saturday afternoon between April and October, finding a wedding officiant last minute may be a challenge and stress you don’t need.  


A professional wedding officiant can customize your wedding ceremony exactly as you want it.


A lot of couples don’t want to get married in a church or don’t have a church and don’t want to join a church just to get married.  Many professional wedding officiants can perform a religious or semi-religious ceremony for you.  I originally became a wedding officiant to help couples in this exact situation. I can perform wedding ceremonies with the elements of a religious ceremony to help everyone feel comfortable on the wedding day but not overwhelmed by religious dogma. (I can keep the ceremony short too!) 


You might want a wedding ceremony written just for you, or maybe you want to write your own ceremony and need someone to perform it for you.  A professional wedding officiant will do this for you.  Not every wedding officiant will offer these options, but many do.  My business is based on giving couples the opportunity to create their own ceremony script.  I provide options and direction and couples happily go down the wedding ceremony script rabbit hole finding the best words to express their love and relationship!


A professional wedding officiant can remain neutral and as personal, or as impersonal, as you wish.


Some couples are much more concerned with the party after their ceremony than the wedding ceremony itself.  That’s totally OK! They’ve lived together for a while and they already know how they feel about each other, the ceremony doesn’t really change anything.  As long as they are married in the end, that’s all that really matters. 


You may be practical, or even shy, and just want it over with as quickly as possible! One of the things I offer couples I marry is to take as much pressure off of them as possible during the wedding ceremony.  I can take as much of the focus off of them and put it on something else.  I can engage the guests at the ceremony so they feel like they are part of the ceremony instead of wide eyes looking inside a fishbowl at the couple.  


Sometimes, couples just want a person to arrive on time, perform a “traditional” wedding ceremony, sign the marriage license, and be done.  I provide all the information a couple needs on my websites and allow them to book their appointment directly online themselves.   It is not uncommon for me to exchange a few short emails with a couple, meet them for the first time on their wedding day, perform a ceremony, sign the license and leave.  It’s still a great experience for everyone because the couple was able to get exactly what they wanted or needed without the extra stuff.  When you hire a professional, you hire their years of experience.


How To Hire A Wedding Officiant


Now that you have a good idea about what you need to do to get legally married, you may be asking, “When can I find a wedding officiant and how do I hire one?”


I’m a professional business owner.  I should say HIRE ME!  I mean, I’ve given you a lot of great reasons – I hope!  But, the truth is, you need to find the right wedding officiant for you.  


I’m a woman and you may really want or need a man to perform your ceremony.  It’s a very personal matter.  Your family dynamics and religious beliefs may come into your decision-making process.  


You may need a bilingual officiant.  There are officiants that speak several languages. If most of your family speaks Spanish, by all means, hire a bilingual officiant!  Often, a couple will come to my office for a simple legal marriage and we can communicate well enough for that process.  But if you are having a wedding ceremony with family and friends, you can find an officiant speaking everyone’s language.  You do not need to settle for less.  Your parents and grandparents should be part of the ceremony too!


You need to hire someone you feel good about.  Yes, it’s a feeling.   You want to make sure you feel comfortable with the person marrying you.  Only you know your comfort level.  Maybe you need to meet face to face with several people to know who’s right for you.  Maybe you need to read an informative website and honest reviews.  I hope couples will come to my website and know if I’m right for them.  I created a website I would want to find in the middle of the night that I could read and get answers to all of my questions.  I include pictures of me and real weddings I’ve performed.  I talk about me and my experiences and what I can offer you.  I’m upfront with my prices, explanations, and payment policies.  There are a lot of pretty websites, but they don’t necessarily have a lot of real, practical information.  You want to be able to trust who you hire. Trust is a feeling.  


You need to hire someone you can comfortably afford.  Generally, you get what you pay for.  But, you need to assess your needs and find services to meet those needs.  Some officiants have one, big price tag.  They perform large, personalized, formal wedding ceremonies.  If you are having an informal wedding in a park or your backyard or in a restaurant before dinner, you probably don’t need to pay that much – because you don’t need that much.  My prices start at $50 and go up to $450+. I can get you legally married for the cheapest price in town and in a safe, professional office.  If you are getting married at 5 PM on a Saturday afternoon in October in a formal venue, you are going to pay more.  Just because a wedding officiant has low prices, it doesn’t mean they are bad or even inexperienced.  Just because a wedding officiant charges the highest price in town, it doesn’t mean they are the best officiant for you.  


Make sure the officiant is comfortable with you and your wedding. I marry anyone pretty much any way they want to be married.  That is not the case for all wedding officiants.  They may have perfectly valid religious convictions that prevent them from performing same-sex marriages.  Or, it may be uncomfortable if you have LGBTQIA individuals in your wedding party or even as wedding guests.  I specialize in helping couples with special needs – either they themselves or their families or wedding guests.  I get it if you have a loud autistic child.  I welcome that.  Others may not. Our world is much more open than it used to be but don’t assume it is, especially when it comes to something traditionally religious – like a wedding ceremony.  


What types of ceremonies will your officiant perform?  If you want a religious ceremony, make sure a professional wedding officiant will perform one.  They may not.  If you want a completely non-religious ceremony you will want to confirm that OK too! 


Understand the Details


Make sure you know exactly what you are paying for and what the officiant is going to provide you.  Maybe they say they will arrive 15 minutes before your wedding starts and you want them there earlier?  Maybe they are only scheduling your wedding for 30 minutes and you know you are going to start late and you need an hour.  Maybe they will charge you extra if you are running late.  Will they file the marriage license for you afterward?  Will they get you copies?  It’s one thing to drop your license in the mail or to return your license for you.  You will need a certified copy of your marriage license to prove you are legally married.  You often need to request those copies and pay for them.  Is a rehearsal included or is that extra?  Or is a rehearsal even necessary?  How much is the deposit?  Is there a refund policy?  A COVID-19 policy? Is there a contract?  


I hope this information is helpful to you.  For the most part, yes, your friend can get ordained online and officiate your wedding for free.  You can pick up a marriage license in a day and get married with very little fanfare. It’s perfectly legal.   People do it all the time and that’s perfectly fine!  This article was to give you the information you will want to know now, instead of finding out the hard way, on your wedding day or when someone is questioning the legality of your marriage.   


I provide much more information on my websites.  My main website is https://www.marrymeinindy.com/.  It will give you an overview of me and my business and link you to my websites http://getmarriedtodayinindy.com/, https://www.elopeindiana.com/, https://www.indianapolisweddingofficiantservices.com/, and https://www.howtogetmarriedinindy.com/.  If I can be of any assistance to you please do not hesitate to reach out!  

John Hobelman Author

Victoria M. is the owner of Marry Me In Indy LLC

She is a dedicated wedding officiant and is a respected member of the Indiana Wedding Community.  She has achieved this by elevating the couples she serves, and the wedding community as a whole!

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