Information For Wedding
Officiants and Ministers

Do you have a question for us? Below, we've included a list of the most common questions we receive, but you can contact us at any time by clicking here.

Free Minister Ordination InformationQ: I can obtain a ministerial credential elsewhere for free. Why should I pay for ordination through First Nation?

A: To be blunt, you get what you pay for. Many states simply do not recognize instant "online ordination" as being legally valid. And while the basic Internet "wedding minister credential" may be accepted in many states, ordination as a ceremonial minister through First Nation Church and Ministry, along with certification by the American Council of Wedding Officiants, is accepted in virtually every local jurisdiction across the United States. (Ordination by First Nation Church is legal and valid anywhere in the world.) Beyond that, the nominal administrative fee you pay includes full membership in ACWO, which averages out to about $1.35 per month.

Please note that some locations, including Nevada, Louisiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Virginia, West Virginia, Hawaii and New York City, have additional registration requirements that must be handled separately with local officials. You should familiarize yourself with your local regulations prior to requesting your credential through any service.

After you've performed your first wedding ceremony, you may be excited to do more and it's common to consider doing weddings professionally. If this is the case, you may be interested in reading How To Become A Wedding Officiant by our friends at


Q. I'm being told by my County Clerk that my wedding minister credentials are not valid. What should I do?

A. Please contact us immediately. Often, a local official may not recognize your credentials due to an internal policy. Internal policies are not laws and, as part of our commitment to you, we do everything possible to cut through any red tape you may run into. Please be assured that this is a rare circumstance, and you will generally not encounter any bureaucratic obstacles.

Please note that First Nation does not offer instant "online ordination," which is not recognized in most jurisdictions. Ordination through First Nation is granted in full compliance with local laws in all fifty states in the United States, as well as all U.S. territories.

Q. What documents are included in my credentials package?

A. A listing of the documents that are included in our complete wedding minister ordination package may be viewed by clicking here.

PLEASE NOTE that other ordination services may require you to pay an additional fee  for some of the documents that are included at no extra charge from First Nation Church and Ministry.

Q: I understand that Virginia is very strict regarding who can perform marriage ceremonies there. What does First Nation have to say about this?

A:  You are correct -- Virginia does put up numerous hurdles for ceremonial ministers hoping to serve in the Commonwealth. However, Virginia law also provides a significant workaround that perfectly covers situations such as this.

Code of Virginia § 20-31 ("Belief of parties in lawful marriage validates certain defects") states that "No marriage solemnized under a license issued in this Commonwealth by any person professing to be authorized to solemnize the same shall be deemed or adjudged to be void, nor shall the validity thereof be in any way affected on account of any want of authority in such person, or any defect, omission or imperfection in such license, if the marriage be in all other respects lawful, and be consummated with a full belief on the part of the persons so married, or either of them, that they have been lawfully joined in marriage."

What does this mean? Quite simply, if the ceremonial minister is legally and lawfully ordained (which First Nation ministers are, in accordance with Virginia law) and if the bridal couple accepts him or her as their officiant to solemnize their marriage license, then the marriage is completely legal in the eyes of the Commonwealth.

Our Virginia information page is at:

Q: As ordained clergy, what title may I use when referring to myself?

A: You may employ any title that you are legally permitted to use, including Reverend, Minister, Deacon, Brother, Sister, etc. However, you may not use any title, such as Doctor, that you are not entitled to use unless you have had the degree or professional standing conferred upon you.

Q: My fiancé cannot be present at the wedding. Are proxy marriages acceptable?

A: A proxy marriage is one where someone stands in for the absent party, or where the absent party participates via telephone or video conference (including Skype). Under the bylaws of First Nation Church, if one of the parties to the marriage is unable to attend for any reason, including military service, incarceration in jail or prison or inability to travel, the couple may designate another person to stand in for the absent person. The standard Marriage License from First Nation Church is acceptable for proxy marriages.

For a proxy marriage to be legally recognized, the signature of each party to the marriage must be witnessed by two adults who must be present. The proxy (person standing in for the absent party) and the Officiant may not sign as witnesses.


Q: Can you recommend a standard ceremony that I can incorporate for a wedding?

A: If you prefer a traditional approach, the most common ceremony "scripts" are derived from traditional sources, including the Anglican Wedding Ceremony (1662) and the Book of Common Prayer Wedding Ceremony (1945). While the former has largely fallen into disuse — mostly because the bride declares that she will "obey" her husband — both form the structure from which many current ceremonies are derived. You may also search the Internet for "wedding ceremonies" (we suggest using Google) to find an assortment of scripts that others may have used.

Q: What is the standard structure of a wedding ceremony?

A: Most weddings follow basically the same format, with minor adjustments here and there depending upon the desires of the bridal couple. That format includes:

Ushers seat the guests (accompanied by prelude music selections)
Special wedding music begins
Mothers/parents/VIPs enter and light candles/candelabras
Parents of the Bride and Groom are seated
The Minister/Officiant and Groom enter and proceed to the front
The Bridal Party enters and proceeds to the front
The Ring Bearer and/or Flower Girl enter, proceed to front
Music concludes for Bridal Party
Ushers unroll the aisle runner
The Minister/Officiant asks the audience to rise and welcome the Bride
Music begins for the Bride’s entrance (Processional music)
The Bride and her escort enter, and are met by the Groom
Bride’s music concludes
Opening commentary by Minister/Officiant
Bride and Groom light "family candles" to represent their families
Bride and Groom present flowers to parents and/or VIPs
"Declarations Of Intent" by Bride and Groom
First reading (religious or romantic literature)
Musical interlude (solo, etc.)
Second reading
Special music (musical interlude, or musical and vocal performance)
Exchange of wedding vows (traditional or customized)
Blessing of the rings
Exchange of wedding rings
Minister/Officiant's prayer or blessing for the Bride and Groom
Bride and Groom light Unity Candle (music in background)
Final commentary
Bride and Groom kiss
Introduction of the new couple by the Minister/Officiant
Recessional music begins
Bride and Groom exit
Bridal party exits and forms reception line
Minister/Officiant's instructions to the audience
Audience departs for reception

Q: What is the standard charge for an Officiant's services?
Although there is no set fee for services as an Officiant, the American Council of Wedding Officiants suggests the following guidelines in establishing prices:

BASIC SERVICE: $100-$250
5 to 15 minute ceremony
Basic vows
No in-person meeting/rehearsal prior to ceremony
Discuss details over phone prior to ceremony date

10 to 20 minute ceremony
Phone discussion and/or personal consultation meeting prior to ceremony date
Present at rehearsal (approx. 15 minutes) if required
Pre-written vows/ceremony "script" provided if required

FULL SERVICE: $500 and up
Formal ceremony of 20 minutes or more
One-hour personal consultation meeting with couple
Phone consultation if required
Present at rehearsal/walk-through if requested
Custom vows/ceremony "script" to couple's specifications

The Officiant is generally responsible for his or her basic transportation to and from the ceremony location. Any additional travel charges (such as air or rail fare) required beyond basic transportation are generally the responsibility of the wedding couple; please be certain that you discuss any such charges with the couple prior to settling your account with them.

Q: What is considered appropriate dress for an Officiant?

A: The Officiant must remember at all times that he or she is the presiding authority in attendance at the ceremony, and as such should conduct himself/herself in a professional manner at all times. This conduct includes proper attire and grooming; treating the proceedings with the highest level of respect and honor; and not partaking in post-ceremony festivities or receptions unless specifically invited to do so by the bride and groom.

Your dress for the ceremony should be equivalent to the formality of the occasion, but you must always confirm your attire plans with the couple prior to arriving for the ceremony. If the couple has planned a formal black-tie wedding, you are expected to dress accordingly; consequently, if the couple has planned for an informal wedding on their favorite beach, you may be expected to dress in a more casual manner. Under no circumstances should you assume the preferences of the couple in regard to your attire and, regardless of the formality of the ceremony, under no circumstances should your attire be sloppy, soiled, torn or otherwise inappropriate to the occasion.

The Officiant is permitted to wear a dress suit (or business suit) while performing the ceremony, and may wear, at his or her discretion, vestments, robes, cassocks, paraments or other attire that distinguishes the Officiant as the presiding authority at the ceremony. The Officiant may not wear any attire or decorative device that may lead anyone to believe that he or she is a member of a religious order or professional organization, unless the Officiant is currently permitted to wear attire descriptive of that order or organization; i.e., the Officiant may not wear a Bishop's robes unless he or she is permitted to do so under the authority of the church which has conferred this title.

Distinctive attire for Officiants may be obtained from various sources, including Cokesbury, Exquisite Vestments, Artneedle Robe, as well as local sources in your area.

Q: May I serve as Officiant of a wedding involving same-sex partners?

A: If a wedding between gay, lesbian or trans-gender partners is recognized as being legal within the jurisdiction of the state, county or municipality in which the marriage is taking place, you may officiate at the ceremony. Please note that you alone are responsible for complying with any federal, state or local laws that may be in force regarding marriage.

First Nation Church, the Valentinian Society, the Knights of Saint Valentine and the American Council of Wedding Officiants does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation or age in the administration of its policies, and it encourages its members to recognize and respect the dignity of all persons served through our chosen vocation.

First Nation Church strongly believes that marriage is a contract between two adults, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, and that marriage is based on love, which cannot be limited by law. Committed couples, whether straight, gay, lesbian or trans-gender, may receive a marriage license through the church. For more information, please click here.

Q: Does the church recognize female, gay, lesbian or transgender Officiants?

A. Yes. Any person, male or female, regardless of their sexual or gender orientation, over the age of 18 may apply for ordination and certification as an Officiant.

Do you have questions that were not answered here? Please contact us immediately!

American Council of Wedding Officiants - Marriage Ministers

American Council of Wedding Officiants

Copyright © 2000-2015 by First Nation Church,
the Valentinian Society in the Americas,
Saint Valentine College (Collegium S. Valentini)
and the American Council of Wedding Officiants.
All rights reserved.