For many, a fun alternative to the hassles of wedding planning is to marry at sea — but most ship captains can’t legally marry you. For a ship’s captain to legally officiate a wedding, they’ve got to be a member of clergy, a judge, a justice of the peace, or, in some states, an officially-recognized officiant like a Notary Public.
However, Notary Publics can’t officiate a wedding in all states across the United States (or its surrounding oceans). Couples in most states must rely on members of the clergy – priests, ministers, rabbis, and other head religious figures – or public figures like judges, court clerks, and justices of the peace to perform weddings.
In states where Notary Publics are allowed to officiate a wedding, however, there are certain requirements both the Notary official and the couple need to follow. There are also ways in which a Notary Public can, if he or she is interested, apply to become a wedding officiant.
How Notaries Can Offer Wedding Officiant Services
States allowing Notary Publics to solemnize the rites of marriage are the exception, and these include:
- South Carolina
Notaries acting as wedding officiants in these states are able to perform both the religious aspects of the ceremony while also presiding over related matrimonial documentation.
For Notary Publics in all other states, however, there are ways to offer these wedding officiant services as part of their repertoire. The details of each state’s requirements for marriages varies, so it’s best to check your state’s policies through your State Secretary.
Know Your State’s Requirements
Each state controls the services of their designated Notary Publics. Notaries looking for a way around this, have one of two options open:
- They can opt to get ordained to perform wedding officiating services along with standard Notary duties.
- They can apply in your state for a temporary, one-day marriage designation. This usually happens if an individual who is a Notary Public wants to officiate a family member’s or friend’s wedding.
The one-day designation still calls for extra paperwork, so you’ll need to make sure you’re approved prior to the actual wedding day. Otherwise, the marriage could be considered null and void.
Get Your Paperwork Lined Up
Regardless of whether or not a Notary Public can officiate your wedding, you’ll still rely on Notary officials to notarize your life documents, witness signatures, and even certify copies of a wedding license (which is a requirement in California if the couple wants a confidential wedding license).
Legal name changes or related documents may also call for a Notary Public to preside over. It’s sometimes advantageous for a Notary Public to be ordained, as they’ll be able to offer this full “suite” of services as a seamless experience for the couple.
If a Notary Public is ordained or receives a one-day officiant designation, they can also perform the ceremony and solemnize the wedding rites. Otherwise, there will be two individuals: a member of the clergy performing the ceremony, and a Notary Public offering these specific tasks for documents. Either way, both couples and Notary Publics will need to get their documentation and paperwork lined up and ready to go prior to the ceremony.
Requirements For Notary Publics Who Officiate Weddings
If you’re getting married in one of the four states of Nevada, South Carolina, Florida, or Maine, your Notary Public can officiate your wedding. However, there are a few requirements they’ll have to follow and that you should also know about yourself.
1) Location, Location, Location
Mobile notary publics such as Superior Notary Services offer couples a smooth and stress-free approach to notarizations. However, whether these individual Notary officials can also perform your wedding ceremony depends on the state they’re in and the state where your marriage license was issued.
In Florida, for example, a mobile notary can perform a marriage ceremony anywhere in the state of Florida – but they can’t do it for an out-of-state couple if the couple has obtained a license from another state.
It’s also up to the notary to ensure that a complete marriage license is returned to the issuing clerk’s office – and this may be a different county clerk than where a notary performs the ceremony. To avoid hassle, some notaries may opt out of your marriage ceremony if it’s too far out of the way.
2) Marriage Licenses
There are waiting periods for marriage licenses that differ from state to state. Many states have a three- or four-day waiting period for the license to be effective. Some states like Florida allow couples to take a four-hour course which, upon completion, allows the couple to receive their marriage license on the same day.
A Notary Public who is ordained or allowed to perform marriages should have this marriage license in hand, along with the issue date, effective date, and expiration date. The ceremony needs to occur within the effective and expiration dates.
Many states outline what a Notary Public can charge for “regular” duties or Notarial Acts. These can run anywhere from $5 to $25. Beyond this, it’s up to the Notary Public to charge what they will for any corollary services they provide.
If you choose to go to a Notary Public for your marriage ceremony, keep in mind that you don’t need witnesses present. Some states’ marriage licenses will have a space for witnesses to sign, but in most cases the newlywed couple can choose to have a secret ceremony – just them and their chosen Notary Public.
5) “Solemnizing The Rites Of Marriage”
Notary Publics who can officiate weddings are actually solemnizing the rites of marriage. Besides writing and reading vows for the couple, the Notary Public will ask both the bride and groom if they “take each other” as husband and wife and each party will answer with, “I do.” The Notary Public may then ask each individual to place a ring on the other’s finger and repeat an oath. Finally, the closing of the ceremony may call for the Notary Public to “pronounce” the couple as married.
There is no signing, affirming, or witnessing of signatures during this portion of the ceremony.
There are positives and negatives to your Notary Public also being able to officiate your wedding ceremony. Using a Notary Public may not be for you if you’re part of a specific religion or culture that has particular rites and rituals around the wedding. In these cases, even if your Notary Public can legally marry you in one of the four exception states, you may still choose to go with a member of clergy instead.
Ease and convenience are two of the most significant advantages of using a Notary Public who is either ordained or allowed to perform marriage ceremonies. It’s even better when you can access these services at the same time and if your notary is mobile enough to come to your venue.
Superior Notary Services offers on-demand mobile notaries throughout the U.S. for couples who value speed and convenience on their special day.
Can A Notary Public Legally Marry A Couple?