Every state, including Texas, has specific requirements that those who wish to marry and those who officiate weddings must follow. If neither party abides by these requirements, the marriage could be deemed illegitimate, and there can also be other legal consequences.
Who Can Officiate a Wedding in Texas?
These individuals can officiate a wedding in the Lone Star State:
- Ordained or licensed Christian minister or priest.
- Religious organization's officer with the authorization to conduct marriage ceremonies.
Judges, associate judges, justices and magistrates currently working or retired may also officiate a wedding ceremony if they are or have been a member of these institutions:
- Texas Courts of Appeals.
- Texas Supreme Court.
- Texas Federal Courts.
- Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
- State, county, district, probate and justice of the peace courts.
- State municipal courts.
Authorized individuals do not have to officially register with a government entity to conduct a marriage ceremony; they just need to review the relevant laws.
Does Texas Accept Ministers Ordained Online?
Online ordained ministers can legally perform marriages anywhere in Texas. They, like other officials, are not subject to legal requirements to prove that they are in good standing as ordained ministers with any government office in the Lone Star State.
They should keep a copy of their ministry credentials on hand because anyone affiliated with the wedding may ask to see proof of their ordination.
Rules for Conducting a Marriage Ceremony in Texas
Texas law does not not offer specifics on how an officiant should conduct a marriage ceremony. The law focuses on specific periods of time leading up to and after the wedding.
Once a couple gets their Texas marriage license, they must marry within 90 days of its issuance. There's a minimum 72-hour waiting period between the time the couple gets the license and the marriage ceremony, with some exemptions:
- If one of the persons getting married is an active member of the military and is on active duty.
- If one of the persons getting married is not an active member of the military, but works for the U.S. Department of Defense as an employee or contractor.
- If the couple getting married obtains a written waiver.
- If the couple completes a premarital education course and shows the county clerk a course completion certificate issued no more than one year before they file the marriage license application with the clerk.
Marriage by Proxy for a Member of the Armed Forces
Marriage by proxy may occur in the state of Texas, but only if the person who is absent is in the active military and stationed outside of the country in a combat support role or in another military operation and cannot attend ceremony in person.
Recording the Texas Wedding on the License
Before the officiant returns the license to the county clerk’s office, they will record on the marriage license the ceremony date, the county where the marriage took place, and their personal information. The license must be returned to the clerk’s office within 30 days of the ceremony. The clerk will then send the license to the address on the application.
Penalties for Officiants Who Act Illegally
When an officiant conducts a ceremony in good faith, the marriage is assumed to be legitimate and will remain so, unless there is a challenge and the union is deemed fraudulent.
Depending upon the wedding officiant’s actions, they may incur penalties for their failure to comply with state law, for example:
- Failing to file a signed marriage license with the county clerk’s office within 30 days of the ceremony incurs a fine of $200 to $500.
- Knowingly officiating an illegal marriage, such as a wedding of minors without parental approval or a court order, or officiating a wedding involving a spouse who has committed bigamy can result in a third degree felony, which carries penalties of two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Conducting a wedding without authorization to do so is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries penalties of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
Applying for a Marriage License in Texas
When applying for a marriage license, couples must go in person to their local county clerk’s office and show the clerk valid forms of ID, like a driver's license, certified birth certificate, passport or military ID, and their Social Security cards.
Those who wish to get married in Texas must be at least 18 years of age. Couples do not have to be residents of the state to get married in Texas.
If they are between 16 and 18, they must have parental consent or a court order to marry, and if they are younger than 16, they can marry only by court order. They are encouraged to take a premarital education course in the year before the marriage ceremony.
Texas Prisoners and Weddings
Texas law once allowed prisoners to marry by proxy, but according to Section 2.203 of the Texas Family Code only active-duty military members stationed in another country currently have this option.
For a person wishing to formally marry an individual who is incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), the ceremony must be conducted on TDCJ property.
The officiant who wishes to perform the marriage must complete an Application of Person Requesting to Perform a Marriage form and send it to: Access to Courts Counsel, Public Officials Department, 1060 Hwy 190, East Huntsville, TX 77340 at least a week before the wedding date. Once the application is approved, the officiant can perform weddings at any TDCJ facility for a year.
- Texas State Law Library: Conducting the Ceremony
- Free Ordination: Texas Officiant Government Registration
- Texas Statues: Penal Code Chapter 12 Punishments Subchapter A General Provisions
- Texas Attorney General: Texas Marriage Requirements
- Texas Statutes: Family Code Chapter 2 Marriage Relationship Subchapter A Application for Marriage License
- TDCJ: Offender Marriages
- TDCJ: Application of Person Requesting to Perform a Marriage
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.