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Many states automatically allow members of the clergy such as priests, rabbis or ministers to officiate marriage ceremonies. Non-religious persons who want to become officiants face different processes from state-to-state, but the challenges are usually limited to paperwork although some states require networking for signatures or public contact experience. The two main methods of becoming a non-religious officiant or to become a Justice of the Peace or a Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriage.
Become a Justice of the Peace
Contact the Secretary of State's office in your state. This office maintains the Justice of the Peace records for your state and knows where openings exist for a new JP candidate.
Ask if there are any JP openings in your area and for the application details in your state. State or local law typically dictates how many JPs serve in a particular area. For example, Massachusetts allows one JP per 5,000 residents in a city or town while Connecticut leaves the decision for number of JPs to the town or city served by the office.
Verify that you meet state or local JP requirements. For example, in New Hampshire you must swear under oath that you have never been convicted of a crime that was not annulled unless it is a minor traffic violation. Many states also require a multi-year voter registration history as a means of verifying civic involvement.
Apply for a JP position. Each state or, in some instances, town features a slightly different application process. Obtain signatures and endorsements from other JPs and private citizens as required by your application.
Wait for your application to be approved. The state must both review the application and run a criminal background check on a potential JP.
Take the oath of office and sign your oath to accept your position. A notary public and a fellow Justice of the Peace may need to act as witnesses depending on your state of residence.
Become a Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriage
Contact your local county clerk or the local courthouse nearest you and inquire about a Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriage program. States such as Alaska, California and Nevada offer this program or a similar program with a different title that grants an individual the right to marry others on a given day.
Fill out your application for the Commissioner program in your state and return it with all required paperwork to your county clerk or the judicial district office address you were provided with by your contact.
Wait for your written orders to arrive in the mail or for a confirmation letter to arrive. In Alaska, you only need written orders to perform a ceremony while California requires you to visit the county clerk's office and be sworn in.
Attend your appointment and take the oath in states where this is required.
Perform the ceremony, based on your approved commission. States with commissioner programs generally swear you in for one day only. If the event is postponed, contact your clerk of court's office or courthouse to verify your ability to perform the ceremony without obtaining a new commissioner appointment
- Massachusetts Justice of the Peace Association: How to Become a Justice of the Peace
- New Hampshire Secretary of State: Justices of the Peace
- Justices of the Peace U.S.: Become a Connecticut JP
- Alaska Court System: Marriage Commissioner Information
- Now That You Are 18: Marriage and Partnerships
- Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk: Marriage Licenses & Ceremonies