To celebrate the rites of marriage in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a person must be authorized to do so by a circuit court within the state. Officiating at a wedding without being authorized by law to do so is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or time in jail, pursuant to Section 20-28 of the Code of Virginia.
For ministers who are both serving as the pastoral leader of a bona fide congregation and have been ordained, licensed, or commissioned to do so, they simply provide their credentials to the Circuit Court Clerk, pursuant to Section 20-23 of the Code of Virginia, along with a letter from church leaders, on church letterhead, declaring that the applicant is a pastoral leader of their congregation. Minister “ordinations” easily obtained online are not acceptable credentials. A suggested application form is available for download here.
Individuals who are not active ministers may apply to become a civil wedding officiant pursuant to Section 20-25 of the Code of Virginia. They must reside within the 28th Judicial Circuit, which consists of Smyth County, Washington County, or the City of Bristol, Virginia. Authority may be granted for a one-time ceremony, or more generally. If granted authority, civil wedding officiants must enter into a bond, securing their faithful performance as such. Interestingly enough, the fees that a civil wedding officiant may charge are limited by Section 20-27 of the Code of Virginia. A suggested application form is available for download here.
Are there civil wedding officiants in Smyth County who are willing to marry folks?
A list of civil wedding officiants in Smyth County is available here.
What are my responsibilities after the wedding ceremony?
The wedding officiant completes the information at the bottom of both copies of the marriage license, and then signs and dates both copies. Within five (5) days of the ceremony, the wedding officiant is charged with the returning both of the marriage certificate copies to the issuing Clerk’s Office.
What is the “Keepsake Certificate”?
One of the documents given to a couple when they obtain a marriage license, and one that is likely passed along to the wedding officiant, is an 8.5 X 11 inch “Certificate of Marriage,” printed on antique white paper. Sample form. Printed in the bottom right-hand corner is a curious statement “This is not a certified certificate.” While this documentation is not an official or legal document, it can still serve to commemorate the occasion. As a wedding officiant, you in your discretion may complete the information and provide it to the newlyweds as a keepsake.