Texas, just like every other state, has specific requirements that individuals must follow when officiating weddings. If an officiant does not abide by these requirements when performing a marriage ceremony, the marriage may be challenged and potentially found to be illegitimate.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
In Texas, a wedding officiant must be over age 18 and be either a judge or an authorized religious leader.
Who Can Perform Marriages in Texas?
An individual must fit into one of these categories to be qualified to perform marriages in Texas:
- Judges, either active or retired.
- Religious leaders of any denomination who are authorized to conduct marriages.
Additionally, she must be at least 18 years old, but does not have to live in Texas in order to conduct marriages in the state. She is also not required to register her officiant status with any government office, but before performing a wedding ceremony, she does have to contact the county clerk’s office of the county where the wedding will take place and ask for the documents necessary to perform the wedding. At this point, she may be asked to provide proof of her ordination, so it is in the officiant’s best interest to keep all ordination-related documents on hand.
Getting Ordained in Texas
Anyone wondering who can perform marriages in Texas and how to become qualified to officiate a wedding can find information online easily at websites like the Universal Life Church and American Marriage Ministries. Getting ordained in Texas is a quick, easy, free process when the prospective officiant goes through one of these online platforms to become ordained. All he needs to provide are:
- His legal name.
- His address.
- His contact information.
- Confirmation that he is at least 18 years old.
After getting ordained in Texas through an online platform, the officiant can find valuable resources like guides for writing wedding ceremonies and step-by-step instructions explaining his duties as a wedding officiant through the platform that ordained him.
Wedding Officiants’ Duties in Texas
One of a wedding officiant’s primary duties is to ensure that the weddings she performs are valid, legal marriages. This means that if the officiant has reason to believe a wedding is invalid for some reason, she is obligated to not conduct the wedding ceremony. A wedding may be invalid because: one of the parties is already married to another person; one or both of the parties are unable to consent to the marriage due to cognitive disabilities; or one of the parties is an individual under age 18 attempting to marry without parental approval.
Other duties wedding officiants must follow in Texas include:
- Signing the couple’s marriage license.
- Submitting the completed marriage license to the county clerk within 10 days of conducting the wedding.
Penalties for Officiant Violations
In Texas, knowingly conducting an illegal marriage is a violation of the Texas Family Code. When a marriage is deemed illegitimate, it could potentially be annulled. However, under Texas law, all marriages are assumed to be legitimate as long as they are conducted in good faith and will remain legitimate unless they are challenged and found to be fraudulent.
Officiants can face penalties for specific failures to comply with Texas law. These include:
- Failure to file a signed marriage license within 30 days of conducting a wedding ceremony can result in a $500 fine.
- Knowingly performing an illegal marriage, such as one involving a minor without parental approval or one involving an individual committing bigamy, is a 3rd-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
- Conducting a wedding without being authorized to do so is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
Additionally, an officiant may not perform a marriage if the couple’s marriage license has expired or if their 72-hour waiting period after receiving the license has not yet passed.
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