Wedding Officiant Information
When should I book my Wedding Officiant?
Wedding Officiants - the person who conducts your wedding ceremony - can often get booked up anywhere from 8-12 months in advance of a wedding. After selecting a wedding date and securing venues, selecting and hiring an officiant whould be one of the very first things you do with your planning.
Like all of your wedding professionals, feel free to meet and speak with your officiant before selecting one to make sure that your views, ideas, and personalities work together.
Who can perform a wedding ceremony in Centre County, Pennsylvania?
Religious Officiants - According to the State of PA, any “Priest, Minister or Rabbi of a regularly established church or congregation” can conduct a wedding ceremony. This means that whoever is in charge of an established and legal religious organization can point you to someone within their church who can conduct the ceremony and handle the required paperwork. If you and your fiance are of different faiths, you will have to discuss that with your church. Most churches or religious ministers do allow for inter-faith marriages, but may require classes or a meeting of some sort and will guide you on how to proceed. Most religious ministers or organizations will require (or at least strongly request) some sort of pre-marital classes, workshops, or counseling before they will consent to officiating the ceremony.
A Judge – Any Judge or Justice of the Peace can legally officiate wedding ceremonies. There is a drawback, however. Technically it is the individual choice of the judge, however it is a widely standardized practice that judges will only conduct wedding ceremonies in their office or chambers during normal working hours. This means that unless you have a family friend or know a judge really well, the chances of being able to have a judge come to your weekend garden wedding are very slim. If you still want to use a judge, you can find a current list of available officiants for Centre County civil ceremonies here: http://centrecountypa.gov/index.aspx?Nid=400 and you would contact their office directly.
Mayors – Another legal official who can conduct a wedding ceremony is the mayor of any city or borough. Mayors do seem to travel a little more and have slightly more flexible schedules than judges, but it is up to the individual if they will travel outside their own city, and their schedules are very busy, so if you want a mayor, call their office to inquire as soon as possible.
Self-Uniting Marriage – The internet provides some conflicting accounts on this, so I directly asked the Register of Wills to get a straight answer. A “Self-Uniting Marriage License” is also known as a “Quaker License” and it is used by members of the Quaker Faith, however you don’t necessarily have to be Quaker to get married this way. It IS legally accepted in Centre County, but not in every county in PA. Here’s how it works: If you don’t want any official officiant to preside over your wedding ceremony, you and your fiance can do it yourself.
This simply means that you and your fiance say your vows and marry each other in front of at least 2 witnesses, no officiant needed. You actually marry each other as opposed to an officiant being the one to “marry” you. You do not need an official officiant to read your vows, however if you want to have someone you know and trust to stand and “conduct” (more like MC) the ceremony, you can. Even though this seems like an easy way to do things, there are a few things to keep in mind with this type of officiating:
You still need to apply at the Centre County Register of Wills for a Marriage License, and all normal Marriage License rules apply.
BEFORE you apply, you MUST tell the clerk that you want a “Self-Uniting” or “Quaker License” so that they can follow the proper procedure and issue the correct type of license.
This information pertains to Centre County. This type of license is not valid in every county in the state of Pennsylvania. My contact was unsure if this type of license is valid in any of the surrounding counties. If you are getting married outside of Centre County, check with the county where you will be getting married.
You don’t need an officiant, but you do need 2 witnesses. These witnesses will also need to sign your marriage license after the ceremony.
**Important**: You (or your witnesses) will need to be responsible for returning the license to the County within 10 days following the ceremony. Even if it is signed, if it isn’t returned to be filed properly, it won’t be valid. (Religious or the other legal officiants already know and automatically do the procedure for signatures, returning the license, etc. If you do it yourself, it is all up to you.)
Visit our Ministers and Officiants Page for more names of PA Wedding Officiants.
For more information about officiants or Marriage Licenses, please contact:
Centre County Register of Wills
Willowbank County Office Building 414 Holmes St.
Bellefonte, PA 16823
Phone: (814) 355-6724