Skip to main content

What's Up Weddings

How to Choose a Wedding Officiant

Mar 19, 2012 10:43PM ● By Anonymous

If you and your partner share the same faith and both know without a doubt that a clergy person authorized by your church is the one to perform the ceremony, then your decision will be easy. Interfaith couples may want to make an appointment with one or both potential vow preceptors to see whether there is the flexibility to unite both religions in a ceremony (or more than one ceremony) that honors both traditions. Maybe the two of you will decide that the ritual that best suits your needs is the one that’s more informal and less spiritual, which makes a civil ceremony a desirable option.

Religious Ceremony

Unlike some states that permit lay people to perform ceremonies, only people authorized by nationally recognized religions may perform legal and binding ceremonies inMaryland(although these authorized folks need not live in the state in order to perform the ceremony).  If you would like to be married by a friend or a family member who was “ordained” by a virtual house of worship over the Internet, you’ll need to cross the state line (into nearbyVirginiaorDelaware, for example) for the marriage to be legal.

If you would like to be married in this state, but do not belong to a church or cannot reserve your own clergy person’s services for your wedding day, there are plenty of authorized folks who perform wedding ceremonies as a business—to people of all faiths and denominations (some even including package deals with music and photography!). A quick search on the Internet will turn up numerous possibilities. The fee for these services can average around $400.

Officiants that belong to a religious order may also require a set fee or “suggested donation amount” to perform the ceremony. Etiquette encourages that the person selected to handle all your financial details for the special day, often either the best man or one of the fathers, deliver a tip to the person performing your ceremony. You will want to choose an amount that is in line with your sense of gratitude and your budget. A gratuity in the $75–150 range is typical. If your officiant journeyed a long way to be there, consider giving more to offset travel costs.

Civil Ceremony

Another option is a civil ceremony. Certain government officials are permitted to perform marriages inMaryland. State rules say that a circuit court clerk, or if the clerk is unavailable, a deputy clerk designated by the county administrative judge may perform the ceremony. Oftentimes, such ceremonies are available only during regular business hours on weekdays. Check with the specific county where you will wed.

Marylandis a popular destination wedding spot, and couples will travel here for the numerous rustic or waterside settings. Plan ahead to make sure your preferred nuptial day isn’t already booked up—particularly if it’s to take place during a busy wedding month (like July or August), or on a holiday (Valentine’s Day is highly sought after).

And sometimes people from other states cruise the Internet for locations to tie the knot and chooseMaryland. Why? One reason is thatMaryland’s law governing the marriage of people under 18 is more liberal than the laws of other states. Occasionally, out-of-state couples come here because one or both of them are in the 15- to 18-year-old age range—yes, it’s legal here to marry that young under certain conditions.

Whether you opt for a civil or religious ceremony, the first step is to contact the circuit court of the county you are planning your wedding to take place in order to apply for a marriage license. (Not the county you or your partner currently live in, nor the county where the two of you plan to set up home.) If it’s not logistically possible for you to make an in-person visit to the courthouse of the county in which you’ll wed, you’ll need to plan ahead and arrange to apply for a marriage license long distance, via postal mail. (See local circuit court addresses and telephone numbers below). If you do physically go to the circuit court to get the license, be prepared to have the following information for with you (for both the bride- and groom-to be):

  •  Full names
  • Ages
  • States of birth
  • Physical addresses, including counties
  • Social Security numbers 
  • The exact date of any divorces (documentation is required in some counties)
  • If widowed, the exact date the death occurred  (documentation is required in some counties)
  • Cash, credit card, or a check to pay for a Maryland marriage license (fees and forms of accepted payment vary by county)
  • If you opt for a civil ceremony, you’ll pay extra (price varies by county)