How to find a wedding officiant - or how to make your friend a holy father (Updated for 2021)
Getting a wedding officiant or a minister
In the state of Washington, you can only be legally married by a judge/justice or a wedding officiant. The issue of finding someone to marry you is automatically resolved if:
- The ceremony/reception venue you selected provides a wedding officiant, or
- You are planning to get married in a church, or
- You are planning to get married in a courtroom on a weekday (courtrooms work Monday to Friday... that's a shocker).
If, on the other hand, you are planning to have the ceremony outdoors or if you want to get married on a weekend at a ceremony/reception site (say, winery or a restaurant) that does not have a wedding officiant onsite, you have a few other options:
Get a wedding officiant to come to you
Some judges or justices will perform the ceremony outside the courtroom for a hefty fee of a few hundred dollars (the exact amount will depend on factors such as the location of the ceremony, date, time, etc.).
Most minister wedding officiants would be happy to do it for free but will expect a small donation for the church. How small? Neither we at WeddingVenture.com nor most of the brides here on the site can't seem to agree on a specific minister wedding officiant cost :)
Unfortunately, this may not be an option at all for you in case you are no strongly affiliated with a particular religion or because many mainstream religions only allow for marriage ceremonies to take place inside a religious building (wedding churches, temples, etc.).
To get you started, we have compiled a great list of local wedding officiants recommended by past brides: Take a look at some example photos from past weddings, different styles, client testimonials and reviews, pricing, etc. to get an idea of what it is you are looking for. Contact a few of the officiants and get a few quotes - you can still save some money during the negotiation process (read our How To Negotiate With Wedding Vendors article above for more.
Get one of your friends to be the wedding officiant
There have been a lot of discussions and speculations on this, and we cannot really vouch for legal aspects of this (ie, consult an attorney), but a number of brides report in the post-wedding surveys using this option and this option has worked out for them. So here it goes anyway:
Believe it or not, these days you can apparently become a wedding officiant in a matter of a few minutes by getting ordained online. For example, https://www.themonastery.org will help you legally become a wedding officiant in just a few short clicks (and at no charge). A growing number of people have already become religious affiliates with the exact purpose of performing as a wedding officiant for their friends. It's possible one of your friends is already a wedding officiant, so ask around!
If not, think of a responsible close friend you would like to have as your wedding officiant and ask if they would agree to perform the ceremony. You can provide them with a sample text for the ceremony - put it together to be completely personal wedding vows and tailored or searching online for the generic wedding officiant script.
As far as the words were spoken during the ceremony, the only legal requirement is that both bride and groom assent or confirm (in the physical presence of the wedding officiant and at least two attending witnesses) that they take each other to be husband and wife. Yes, it turns out that the famous "I do" is actually a requirement by law, not a matter of romance. Other than that, the wedding officiant script is whatever they like, just like the happy couple can recite any wedding vows they want.