If you have been asked by friends or relatives to perform their marriage ceremony, you might be feeling flattered but also confused as to how to make sure the work you perform is legal. Technically, you need to be a member of a religious organization to perform marriages in Maryland. However, the way that Maryland defines "minister" is not necessarily as strict as the way your church defines it, and regardless of your religious beliefs you can receive a minister's license from a variety of extremely liberal, but still legal, religious organizations.
Who Can Officiate
Maryland law states that you may perform a marriage ceremony if you are an "official of a religious order or body authorized by the rules and customs of that order or body to perform a marriage ceremony." In other words, if within your religion you are someone who can perform binding marriage ceremonies, then you are eligible to perform marriages in Maryland. You will need a certificate from your religious body in order to apply for an officiant license. You can also officiate if you are a clerk or deputy clerk of the Circuit Court, or of any county in Maryland.
How to Obtain a Minister's License
If you are not particularly religious, you can still become ordained as a minister, at least in the technical sense, for officiating at weddings. There are registered churches, such as First Nation Ministry and American Fellowship Church, that will provide you with minister credentials for a small fee. Alternatively, talk to a clergyperson within your religious group to find out whether laypeople can be certified to perform marriages. Once you have the credentials, you must file them with the state of Maryland and, in some counties, with the county clerk in order to be licensed to perform weddings. Call your local county clerk to find out the procedure in your county.
In Maryland, as in most states, the couple must apply for a marriage license about a month before the marriage ceremony. After the ceremony, the officiant and two witnesses sign the license and a marriage certificate, and the officiant must give a copy to the couple and then mail the original to the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas, and in some cases to the county clerk, for recording. The officiant must mail in the license within five days of the ceremony.
Performing a marriage ceremony in Maryland is illegal and results in a fine to the "officiant." If, after the fact, you find out that the person who performed your wedding ceremony was not licensed to do so, do not worry. Your marriage is still valid. The wrongdoing is on the part of the officiant, but if you acted in good faith then your marriage is not void.