In Missouri, a person can become an ordained minister, or officiant, to solemnize a marriage through an online ministry. They can also get ordained through a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other type of religious institution.
In order to have their qualifications recognized by local governments, an ordained minister should provide their identifying information and a physical copy of their ordination record to the county clerk where they want to solemnize a marriage. Any judge, including a municipal judge, can also solemnize a marriage.
Universal Life Church Ministers
The Universal Life Church (ULC) is a nondenominational religious organization with members all over the globe. An ordained minister of the ULC can perform legal wedding ceremonies. Membership in the ULC is multi-denominational, meaning individuals of all backgrounds and belief systems can join. Becoming ordained is free and can be done online.
Catholic Priests and Ordination Process
In order to be ordained as a priest in the Catholic Church, a man must attend and graduate from a seminary for a period of between five and 13 years. A priest must then be ordained by a bishop. Priests who belong to a religious order, such as the Franciscans, take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Steps After Ordination
After a person becomes an ordained minister, they should contact the county clerk to see what information or documents are needed. For example, they may need to provide a letter of good standing from their religious organization. A person can become an ordained minister through multiple ministries.
Wedding License Is Necessary
A wedding officiant needs to be shown a valid marriage license before the ceremony takes place. One or both of the individuals getting married must obtain the license. It is a misdemeanor for a person to perform a marriage ceremony if the license is not presented before the ceremony. A license is valid anywhere in the state of Missouri.
Performing a Marriage Without a License
A person convicted of performing a marriage without a license can be issued a fine up to $500. They may also be subject to a civil action by the parent, conservator or other person who has custody of the individual who is married. The amount of the recovery shall not exceed $500.
A person who fails to return a marriage license to the recorder within 15 days of its issuance is also guilty of a misdemeanor. They may suffer the same penalties as a person who performs a marriage before the license is acquired.
Obtaining a Missouri Marriage License
Marriage license fees vary by county. For example, the license fee in Greene County is $51. In Wright County, the fee is $46.
Missouri has eliminated the three-day waiting period to get a marriage license. A couple that plans to get married within 30 days from their application for a license can pick up their license the same day they apply. They can apply up to three months in advance.
Completing a Marriage License
The couple that is getting married must deliver the marriage license to the officiant. The officiant completes the left portion of the license and has two witnesses sign it. Then they submit it to the recorder’s office within 15 days after the wedding. The license becomes a permanent record on file with the county.
The right portion of the license is the marriage certificate. The minister must complete this. The couple getting married keeps it as evidence of the marriage.
Who May Get Married in Missouri
All individuals who get married must provide identification and proof of age to the recorder’s office. People ages 16 and 17 should provide a legal, certified birth certificate and proof of parental consent, as well as proof of custody. A person 21 or older may not marry anyone under 18. People ages 18 and older should provide a valid driver’s license. A birth certificate may be required if proof of age is in question.
Blood relatives, down to and including first cousins, may not marry each other. A person must be 18 years old to marry without parental consent. People between the ages of 16 and 17 may obtain a marriage license with the consent of a parent or legal guardian.
Parents or legal guardians are required to give consent in person at the time of application. They must show proper identification and proof of custody if they are divorced or never got married. If a legal guardian gives consent, they must show a certified copy of guardianship papers.
Rules for Previous Marriages
A person who was married before must provide the date that their last marriage ended. A person who has been divorced for less than 30 days is allowed to apply for a marriage license. They must acknowledge in writing that they understand the divorce can be appealed or set aside within 30 days by the court with jurisdiction.
Key Elements of a Wedding Ceremony
The critical components of a marriage ceremony vary according to different religions. The ULC requires an officiant to include the Declaration of Intent, meaning the “Do you take…I do” exchange and the pronouncement, in which the officiant pronounces the couple to be officially married. The ULC provides sample scripts for an ordained minister to read for these moments.
A Catholic wedding ceremony typically has multiple steps, including:
- Invocation with a singing of the Gloria.
- Liturgy of the Word, a component of mass.
- Celebration of matrimony.
- Liturgy of the Eucharist.
- Communion rite.
The celebration of matrimony itself is an eight-step process. It involves:
- Questions before consent.
- Declaration of Intent.
- Exchange of vows (optional).
- Reception of consent.
- Blessing and exchange of rings.
- Profession of faith.
- Universal prayer.
Civil Marriage Ceremonies
In a civil marriage ceremony performed by a judge, each judge may create their own ceremony. Personal vows may not be allowed. Rings may be exchanged, but are not required.
Witnesses are allowed but not required. Family and friends may join the couple, but courtroom space may be limited. The average civil marriage ceremony takes between three to five minutes. State law requires that no fees can be charged. Individuals who appear to be intoxicated or high on a controlled substance will be turned away.
- MO.gov: Marriage and Divorce
- Missouri Revisor of Statutes: Section 451.120, Penalty for solemnizing marriage without license, or failing to keep a record thereof
- Universal Life Church: Become a Minister
- Greene County, Missouri: Recorder's Office
- Wright County, Missouri: Recorder
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: FAQs, Priesthood, Ordination, Seminary
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: Wedding Ceremony
- Missouri Revisor of Statutes: Section 451.130, penalty for failure to issue, record or return license
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.