How to Become a Marriage Officiant in California

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Your wedding is a very special event that you won't soon forget. No matter how big or small, you want to be sure that you cover all of the bases before starting your new life. You have a number of options when it comes to choosing an officiant. However, if you wish to have someone perform the ceremony who is not an officiant, you should be sure they follow the proper steps to make sure your marriage is legal.

Things You'll Need

  • Application for deputy commissioner of marriages for local county in California
  • According to California Family Code Section 400, you have a number of options as an officiant: a priest, minister, shaman or rabbi of any religious denomination; a judge or retired judge; commissioner of civil marriages or retired commissioner of civil marriages; commissioner, retired commissioner or assistant commissioner of a court of record in California; a judge or magistrate who has resigned from office; a justice or retired justice of the United States Supreme Court, court of appeals, a district court or a court created by an act of Congress the judges of which are entitled to hold office during good behavior; a legislator or constitutional officer of California or a member of Congress who represents a district within California, while that person holds office; or possibly a county clerk.

  • If you and your fiancee wish to have someone who does not fall into any of these categories perform the ceremony, he or she must apply to become a deputy commissioner of marriages. Doing so would grant him or her the authority for one day to perform your ceremony.

  • In order to become a deputy commissioner of marriages, your potential officiant should first obtain the application for appointment issued by the county clerk.

  • To complete the application, he or she will need the following information: date and place of ceremony, the bride and groom's names and mailing addresses.

  • He will need to provide a brief description of why he is seeking deputy commissioner privileges, sign and date the application, then return it to the county clerk.

  • In most counties, a fee must be submitted with the application form. The fee may vary, but $75 is a typical amount as of 2009. The application must be submitted at least six weeks prior to the ceremony.

Tips & Warnings

  • Although not required, it may be easier for your potential officiant to obtain and submit his application to the same county clerk's office that issued your marriage license.
  • Have your potential officiant apply for privileges well in advance. It may also be a good idea to have the application submitted at the same time you apply for your marriage license.
  • Authorization of an officiant is a temporary privilege for one day for one ceremony. Any additional ceremonies performed are not authorized and otherwise not valid.

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