Ask Reverend Rob - What Is A Wedding Officiant?
A wedding officiant is a person who has been authorized to perform legal marriage ceremonies. A wedding officiant is also an agent of the state and performs certain functions on the behalf of the state where they perform wedding ceremonies. The requirements for who can become ordained and the requirments of the role of an officiant vary from state to state. I will focus on the legal requirements that I need to fulfill as an officiant in the State of California.
In California, a marriage "may be solemnized by a person 18 years or older who is a priest, minister, rabbi, or person of any religious denomination". State governments do not dictate what the requirements of a religious denomination may be in order to grant a person the ability to solemnize a marriage. California also allows judges and elected officials to solemnize marriages in its state.
California requires that I follow certain steps in order to solemnize a wedding ceremony. Per state law, I am required to obtain the wedding license prior to the ceremony to verify the facts on the license, basically that the people who will be in the ceremony, are the same people on the wedding license. I am also required to gather the witness(es) signatures and information and deliver the license to the county office where it will be recorded.
California also requires that the couple declares their intent to be married in the presence of the officiant, and necessary witnesses. I have often joked that I could perform a six-second wedding ceremony, and meet the legal requirements of the State of California:
Reverend Rob: Do you want to marry him?
Reverend Rob: Do you want to marry her?
Reverend Rob: Your're married!
Following the ceremony, I am also required to gather the witness(es) signatures and information and deliver the license to the county office where it will be recorded.
In addition to the requirements above, I feel a wedding officiant is also part Master of Ceremonies, part counselor and advisor, and is a facilitator.