How to Become an Ordained Minister Online for Free
How Do I Become an Ordained Minister?
You can easily become an ordained minister online for free and use your online ordination to officiate at funerals, baptisms, and weddings. Many people who are getting married aren't part of a church but still want to have an ordained minister officiate at their wedding. And sometimes the bride and groom may want a friend or family member to officiate the wedding—that's where online ordination comes into play!
Where to Become Ordained Online
There is no shortage of websites that offer online or mail-order ordination—a simple Google search for "online ordination" will return a whole slew of results.
One of the most well-known and longest-standing nondenominational churches offering online ordination for free is the Universal Life Church Monastery at themonastery.org. They have ordained over 20 million ministers all over the world, and most U.S. states recognize their ordinations for wedding officiants. The ULC Monastery states on their website:
The Universal Life Church is the only religious and spiritual denomination in the world that opens its door to all and welcomes all who ask to get ordained, granting ordination without questions as to religious and spiritual beliefs.
The Universal Life Church has been ordaining "regular" people as ministers for decades. Among some of the celebrity ministers listed on their website are such diverse characters as Fox News' Glenn Beck, comedians Kathie Griffin and Denis Leary, all four of the Beatles, and Carson Kressley from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy!
Another nondenominational church site that can make you an ordained minister online for free is Spiritual Humanism, at spiritualhumanism.org. Their ordinations are also recognized by most U.S. states, and they define their philosophy on their website:
As Spiritual Humanists we believe that every person has innate right to make a spiritual connection to the rest of the cosmos . . . Spiritual Humanism allows everyone to fuse their individual religious practices onto the foundation of scientific humanist inquiry.
In addition to these free ordinations, many churches offer ordination for a fee, ranging from just a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. Some will ordain anyone, while others require a statement of intent or even some level of training before bestowing an ordination from their church. These tend to be more "traditional" churches than the two mentioned above, and for some, this might lend a bit more credibility to the whole process. For those seeking a more "legitimate" ordination, this may fit the bill.
Is Online Ordination Legal?
A few states, particularly North Carolina and Pennsylvania, are more strict regarding who can legally perform weddings, and some other states and/or municipalities may require that wedding officiants be registered. If you're interested in officiating at a wedding, you should check with the local government where the marriage license will be issued to see what their requirements are.
If you live in a state that doesn't recognize your ordination, you can still perform wedding ceremonies. They just won't count in the eyes of the state until a marriage license is submitted by someone who is recognized by the state—a justice of the peace, the mayor of your town, etc. The couple can have this done before or after the ceremony that you officiate.
Many folks who get ordained online do it for a specific occasion—to perform the wedding ceremony for a friend or loved one. If this is the case, most free online ordinations should be sufficient—just be sure to check with the local state agency to make sure you will be able to file the marriage license on the couple's behalf.
Are Online Ordinations "Legitimate"?
The "legitimacy" of the ordination is something that each person needs to decide personally. So if you want to begin your own ministry and preach your religious or spiritual beliefs in your own church, then a paid ordination from a church that shares your views is probably right for you. If you want to perform the ceremony at your cousin's wedding, then a free online ordination should be sufficient.
In the eyes of the law, most states make no differentiation between a Catholic priest who attended seminary, a Rabbi who received a degree in theology from Harvard, or a layman who got ordained online. This is all thanks to the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment—the state can't pick and choose which religious beliefs are legitimate and which aren't, so online ordination is technically the same as that achieved through any other means within any religious belief (or non-belief).
How to Use Your New Ordination
Most often, the process of performing a wedding ceremony is straightforward:
- The couple to be married chooses their officiant
- They apply for a marriage license
- The ceremony is performed
- The officiant and the couple fill out and return the license to the appropriate state agency
Since marriage is both a religious rite and a state-recognized union, which one a couple chooses to do first is a matter of personal choice. And for those folks whose right to marry might not be recognized by their state anyway, an officiant who has been ordained online can perform their "wedding" or "commitment ceremony" or "civil union" (or whatever they want to call it!).
The same goes for already-married people who want to renew their vows - since this is a symbolic ceremony and not a legal proceeding, there is no need to involve the state, so your online ordainment is perfectly suited for such an event!
All of the ordination websites also offer add-ons that will help you to perform weddings. Among these extras are:
- how-to guides for making money as a wedding officiant,
- Information on the laws in each state that can affect your ability to officiate at weddings,
- Certificates and ID cards that identify you as an ordained minister,
- And all sorts of other useful information.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.