Want to officiate a wedding? Start here

Thanks to the power vested in us by the Internet, almost anyone can become a minister these days. If you’re thinking about it, it’s likely because you want to perform a marriage.

We’re not about to tell you which Internet-hosted religion to pledge your allegiance to (and there are some interesting — and sometimes ridiculous — choices out there), but to help get you started, we can recommend the following course of action.

Step 1: Get a little background. Want to get a better understanding of the cavernous world of online churches? Start with Aaron Sankin’s story for The Kernel on the history of the Universal Life Church. It’s fascinating and weird (in the best way possible).

Step 2: Is this legal everywhere? The answer is “almost everywhere,” which also means you can’t skip this step. The best way to find out the local laws is to call the appropriate government office in the jurisdiction where marriage will be performed and ask. A few marriages have been challenged in courts (and declared invalid) over ministers who were ordained online. For a quick, unofficial check, try this map at themonastery.org. But nothing replaces going straight to the government source.

Step 3: Pick an online church. Once you know the local laws, you’ll likely be able to get ordained through whichever online church you choose. Fees vary. Most of the ordinations are technically free. However, if you want paperwork to prove you’re official (which a government registrar may require), expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $50 on average.

Step 4: Get official with the government. Whoever you spoke with in Step 2 should have given you a plan of action to close the loop, if you even need to do that. Once you get ordained online, make sure you go back and register with the proper government authorities if necessary.

Step 5: Game plan. Getting legally ordained is the easy part (as this episode of The Underscore can attest). Pulling off a great ceremony is a lot harder. Read what Noah Rosenberg, one of our guests on this episode, had to say about helping two friends tie the knot in The New York Times.

Bonus step: For Massachusetts weddings only. If you’re marrying a couple in the Bay State, you don’t have to join any religion to legally officiate a ceremony. For one day, at least. You just have to buy one of these.

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