Wedding Officiants

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Liberal Priest for Outdoor Wedding?

April 2008

My sister and her fiance were raised Catholic, but have not been actively practicing for many years. Nontheless, they are wanting a ''spiritual'' wedding and have been searching to find an open-minded priest/minister (CURRENTLY affiliated with a church) who would be willing to officiate at their outdoor wedding. Any recommendations? They're aware that the vast majority of Catholic priests will not agree to do the wedding, but they would also be open to recommendations for Episcopalian priests/Protestant ministers who fit the bill. Thanks! anon

Perhaps this is not what your sister has in mind but keep in mind that a ''spiritual'' friend of the family can be deputized by the county to officiate the ceremony. They just have to obtain a one-time license from the county where the wedding will be performed.

We had a double wedding with dear friends - they hired someone to marry them and that person didn't know anything about them and it wasn't the best experience. We, on the other hand, asked a family friend (who I had known for 30+ years) to officiate our wedding, and wrote our own vows. I thought it was much more meaningful to have a loved one, rather than a stranger, perform the marriage - it was one of the best decisions we made. Still married after 11 years!

Officiant for Vow Renewal

March 2005

my husband & I are celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary this summer (!) & want to renew our vows. we would love a woman, perhaps a Universalist Unitarian (that's who we had the first time around, though neither of us is UU)... basically someone very open/accepting who will incorporate those values into the ceremony. thanks! Virginia

We chose interfaith minister Heron Freed Toor as our marriage celebrant, and she's wonderful. She lives in SF and travels everywhere. My mom commented that Heron approached our wedding utterly fresh, as though she herself were hearing the words of the ceremony for the first time, and as if the event were the most important she'd ever been part of. After our wedding, not one but THREE other couples who are friends of ours asked for Heron's contact info and were subsequently married by her. Here's how Heron descibes her work: ''For fifteen years, I have officiated at weddings and presided over baby blessings, renewal of vows, memorials and other ceremonies. I honour the passages in people's lives and the commitments of all people ~ regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.'' telephone: 415.563.0498

Someone to perform wedding at our home


I am getting married in a couple of months and am looking for someone who could come to our house and perform the task of making it all legal. We are not planning a ceremony, but mainly want to have someone legally marry us prior to our planned reception. I am assuming that a judge could do this, but don't know where to even start looking.

I believe that after you actually get your license in the state of California, you're married. For your ceremony, you can have anyone perform your vows- a relative, friend, etc. There's no need to hire an official, you can craft your own ceremony. Kristy

Just to correct an earlier post -- getting a marriage license does NOT make you legally married. An appropriate official (judge, clergyman, deputized person) MUST sign the license and it must then be recorded with the county recorder in the county where the marriage took place. Wendy

You are absolutely NOT married just because you get your license. You do need an official to marry you legally. This can be a judge, legallly ordained minister, or, in the state of California, anyone who is deputized to perform a one-time ceremony. The exact procedures and fees vary by county. You can call up the county recorder's office and they will give you the information. In Alameda County, at least at the Oakland office, they are extremely helpful and will send you all the necessary information in writing ahead of time. Basically your deputy will set up an appointment to get deputized for performing the ceremony. You can go too, and I thought it was very interesting, and wish I'd brought my camera. There is a fee (which varies slightly by county, but expect about $70 in Alameda county). Your deputy fills out the paperwork, is informed of the procedures (including several things that must be stated during the ceremony, which are not intrusive at all), and is sworn in for the official duties. Your deputy is required to send the completed and signed (by the deputy and the couple) marriage certificate back to the County within a certain amount of time. Alameda County also gives you a ceremonial marriage certificate for everybody to sign. The official, legal marriage certificate willbe sent to you after the paperwork is sent in to the county.

The deputization is good for a specific ceremony (i.e., a specific couple) for a specific date and location, and must be done ahead of time--possibly no more than 3 months ahead. You must have your marriage license before the ceremony. I can't remember exactly, but you probably need to have the license prior to the deputization. (The license is also good only for a certain period of time--possibly 3 months) Alternatively, you can just go to the county office and make an appointment for a civil ceremony. They are actually very nice there, and you gotta figure that the wedding ceremonies and deputizations are the easiest part of their jobs since everybody is usualy pretty excited and optimistic.

For an intimate, low key wedding, I can tell you that it's SO worthwhile to have a trusted, reliable friend perform the ceremony. Enjoy!

Try the Secular Humanists -- East Bay chapter is 486-0553. Letitia

It is possible for anyone, pretty much, to be deputized to perform a legally binding civil ceremony. I haven't done it, but two different friends had good friends of theirs deputized to perform their ceremonies. You could call the county clerk in your county to ask about the procedure -- I imagine it's not too onerous. Also, any judge can perform marriages. It helps to know them, esp. if you want them to come to your house (which they'd have to do on their own time and might not be willing to do for strangers), but you can be legally married at the courthouse without much difficulty. Again, I'd call the county clerk's office. Wendy

One of the things my husband and I do is what we call intentional weddings. We help couples craft a personal wedding ceremony, incorporating the things most meaningful to each person, and to the relationship as a whole. This usually involves several sessions, and a certain amount of pre-marital/relationship coaching. For a full wedding ceremony, we usually meet about 5 times, for 2 to 3 hours each time. This sounds like more than you were actually looking for, but we might be able to negotiate a reduced number of visits (and cost) if you were interested. Both my husband and I are ordained through the Universal Life Church, and therefore empowered to sign all of the legal paperwork necessary, though usually my husband is the one who performs the ceremony and signs the paperwork. More information, as well as scripts from a couple of the weddings we have done, can be found on our website at Feel free to write us (coaching at or to call (510-562-6417) if you want to talk further about this work. Dawn and Akien

When we got married, I was surprised to learn that at least in Alameda County, just about ANYONE can be certified to perform a legal marriage, just by filling out some (as I recall) fairly simply paperwork. So, we filled out the required paperwork and a friend of ours married us. This was in 1995. Don't know if you're in Alameda County, and don't know if it's the same in all counties, but contact your county courthouse to see what the official procedure is. Colleen

Try the Unitarian ministers. We had one come and marry us in the hills. They'll do whatever sort of ceremony you want. The one we used was in Berkeley, Paul someone. Great guy. Linda

It sounds as though you are mostly seeking some one who can help you formalize your relationship in a legal way. A Justice of the Peace wedding is speedy and gets the deed done and (I think) you just do it by going down to the city hall, getting a marriage certificate, and taking it in to the J.P.If you prefer something a little more personal, I would be happy to talk to you. I officiate for 3-4 couples a year, and really enjoy helping to create a meaningful and personalized ceremony. It is possible to make it very brief and private if that is what you want. Best wishes to you. Elizabeth

I cannot recommend Hank Basayne more highly. Call or email him at the following............... 415-567-7044 415-346-7099 Enfp at ...and congratulations! LRH

Actually, ANYONE can perform the ceremony; all you need to do is have the 'registered' (not the right term, but it's been a few years since we looked into this) with the county. They can only perform the ceremony on one day (you have to pick a date). Go to the County Courthouse, and they will give you the details. It's really easy!!! Leslie

In CA, all you need to do is to go to the county offices and get a marriage license, and have that signed by an appropriate person. Anyone in CA can officiate at (and sign marriage licenses for) marriages, as long as they fill out an application (also at the county, I believe). If you don't have someone in mind for that, you can make an appt. to be married by a judge at city hall. Janet

My husband and I were legally married by a friend of ours in Alameda county. The county allows for a person to be deputized for a day to perform weddings and all that needs to be done is fill out a couple of forms and pay a fee (I think it was $50). The person deputized to perform the wedding has a few standard phrases they must say to make it all legal and the rest is up to you. Having a good friend perform our wedding made it very special and unique and it allows for quite a bit a flexibility. Good luck and congratulations! Kristin

Pretty much anybody can marry you, but they might have to be ordained first? We wrote our own ceremony and then had a friend preform it, and it turned out to be very beautiful. She was ordained first through the internet at Universal Life Church Online( ) where you can become an ordained minister instantly and for free. Don and Anna