Rules on Ceremony Locations?

Q.
What are the rules if we want to get married someplace fun - meaning, not in a town office?
A.

You can be married just about anywhere you like. On the beach, or anywhere else you can think of! You can get married at the top of a mountain or even while skydiving! Each of the officiants on findaJP are commissioned to perform a wedding ceremony anywhere in the state. They want to help you make your day just the way you want it, and as special as possible.  

Search findaJP.com for JPus Members by state, county, town, or name to find a JP near you.

Back to the Top


JP or Notary – What’s the difference?

Q.
Why are notaries listed sometimes and JPs listed others? What is the difference?
A.

When it comes to marriage ceremonies, it all depends on the state. In Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, justices of the peace perform civil weddings. But, In Maine and Florida civil officiants are called notary public, or notaries.

Back to the Top


When the Officiant and Wedding Vendors Disagree

Q.
I'm in a bind. My wedding vendors aren't in agreement on how the ceremony should proceed. What do I do?
A.

The number one rule to remember is that you are the client, and final decisions must be made by you, and with your approval. There is no “right” or “wrong” in wedding ceremonies. Whatever feels right to you and your fiancée should be what the vendors provide.

Some venues may have preferred choreography for the wedding ceremony. Ask if there is a reason (e.g. Fire Marshall requirements) that would dictate where the officiant stands, or the photographer is positioned. Then, have a clear discussion that addresses the division of responsibilities to ease any stressors that may arise during the rehearsal or wedding.

When you are clear about your expectations, then all parties will know how to adjust. Your officiant will want to make your day special, and just the way you want it. The more you share about your vision, the more successful they can be.

Back to the Top


Can a JP do only the Legal Part of the Ceremony?

Q.
Can a JP or notary make our marriage legal, but my friend or family member lead the ceremony?
A.

Yes, we recommend this as a solution for couples who want a friend or family member to lead their public wedding. The JP or notary does the legal side of things before, during or after a non-officiant leads whatever sort of ceremony the couple would like. As long as a legally commissioned officiant witnesses the affirmation and completes the paperwork, the marriage will be legal.

Lay officiants frequently make errors completing the legal aspects of a marriage – thus, invalidating the marriage and making a host of other problems. We have more information about this, and solutions to avoid problems in these two blog articles:

★ Why asking a friend or family member to marry you jeopardizes the validity of your marriage

★ The difference between a legal marriage and a marriage ceremony

Back to the Top


Are Contracts Necessary?

Q.
Are contracts required when hiring a marriage officiant?
A.

A formal contract isn’t necessary, but you or the JP may want one.

If the ceremony is very soon, a formal agreement may not be feasible, but a simple written confirmation certainly is. This could be something as simple as an email or text outlining services including date, time, fees, and contact information.

If the wedding is scheduled for down-the-road, some sort of written confirmation is advisable. Especially if the wedding is large and formal. This protects both you and the officiant. Most JPs will require a deposit to hold the date.

In general, a contract makes sure that both parties understand that a commitment was made. It protects the couple by making sure the Justice of the Peace or notary remembers that s/he made a promise to be there, and it spells everything out in detail. Things to look for in a contract include fees, optional additional fees, payment schedule and details about the marriage license. You’ll also want to know what will happen if your plans should change. You can be assured that a JP who uses a contract is a professional who wants to work with you to ensure your needs are met and that there aren’t any surprises.

Back to the Top


Online Ceremonies

Q.
Are online ceremonies allowed? If so, in what states?
A.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, online marriages were not permitted in the United States. In order to accommodate weddings during lockdowns and social distancing, a few states did allow these to take place: New York, New Jersey and Colorado, to name a few. Sometimes these were temporary allowances. None of the states that findaJP.com or the Justice of the Peace Association is active in allows these ceremonies.

In these states, the bridal couple and officiant must be together in the same place. But, friends and family can Zoom in to participate in the ceremony remotely.

★ This article gives tips on live-streaming your ceremony.

Additional FAQ about getting married during the pandemic.

Back to the Top


Does the JP need to be local?

Q.
My fiance and I live in one part of the state, but we're getting married in another. Does the JP need to be from the town where we are getting married?
A.

Justices of the Peace (and notaries in Maine and Florida) receive their commission from the state where they live. This means that they may perform ceremonies anywhere in that state. Just ask them if they are willing to travel to your location.

Back to the Top


Getting married during COVID-19

Q.
I want to get married, but then the coronavirus happened. What should I do?
A.

See our COVID-19 FAQ page. It is loaded with the answers you are looking for to help you navigate marriages during this challenging time. We answer everything from securing your marriage license to wearing a face mask: https://www.findajp.com/covid-19/

Back to the Top


Witnesses for a Marriage

Q.
We want to limit the number of people at our marriage ceremony. Especially because of the pandemic. Do we need to have a witness?
A.

Only about half the states require a witness to verify that the parties are willingly entering into the union. Look up your state to see if your state is one that does.

Back to the Top


Are Vows Required?

Q.
Do we need to say marriage vows? We just want to be married. Ceremony not needed.
A.

None of the states that findaJP is active in requires specific words during the marriage ceremony. Each state is different, though.

Connecticut

No specific words must be said between the couple. Rather, the officiant must make sure that the marriage license has the correct information on it, and verify the couple’s identification and that their signatures match.

Florida

The couple must state their intentions to make a legally binding commitment to each other, however no specific language is required – for the couple, nor the officiant. Before the notary solemnizes any marriage, he or she shall require a marriage license issued according to the requirements of Florida s. 741.01. Within 10 days after solemnizing the marriage he or she shall make a certificate thereof on the license, and shall transmit it to the office of the county court judge or clerk of the circuit court from which it issued.

Maine

There are no specific words that must be said during a wedding ceremony. The notary must make sure that both parties understand the significance of marriage and express their will to be married at the marriage ceremony.

Massachusetts

There are no particular words that must be said during the ceremony, but they must demonstrate a present marriage contract. At the least, an affirmation between the couple that they want to marry each other, and a pronouncement by the JP. We encourage you to have a conversation with the couple to determine what language they would like you to use when you make the declaration (married, husband, wife, spouse, partner…).

New Hampshire

No particular ceremony is required for a marriage in New Hampshire.

Vermont

Vermont law is silent on the mechanics of wedding ceremonies. A JP or other official who solemnizes a marriage must complete a section on the license form and return it to the town clerk within 10 days of the ceremony. 18 V.S.A. § 5131. The JP must sign the form and include his or her official title, “Justice of the Peace.” By signing the license, the JP is certifying that the parties entered into the marriage with mutual consent.

Officiants: Learn more about the Justice of the Peace Association Membership by visiting JPus.org.

Couples: Search findaJP.com for JPus Members by state, county, town, or name to find a JP near you.

Back to the Top


Too shy to speak publicly

Q.
I think it's important to share our feelings about each other during our marriage ceremony, but my fiancé is reserved and only wants to say "I do." What do we do? I want to express our love for each other so it is more meaningful and memorable, both for ourselves and our guests.
A.

Our blog article, Overcoming Stage Fright, has tips that might help. We also asked a few of our JPs for their suggestions.

Most wedding ceremonies, whether it’s an elopement for two or a grand affair for 200, share three basic elements: Intentions, Vows, and the Pronouncement. The “I do” part you’ve mentioned is the Intentions, where each person responds to the officiant, declaring an intent to marry of his/her own free will. It sounds like you’re asking about the Vows, which provide an opportunity for promises to be exchanged. This is the only part of the ceremony when the two people speak to each other, and despite what we see in popular culture, it’s actually quite common for one or both of them to be uncomfortable with expressing their feelings in public.

For those couples I recommend using the simplest of “repeat after me” statements to take the pressure off. It’s also helpful for couples to remember that regardless of whether their vows are short or long, they are speaking to each other, and unless they choose to, they don’t need to focus on whether or not guests can hear them speak.

You and your partner may wish to enhance those moments by inviting a relative or friend to read something meaningful to the entire gathering that speaks to the love you share.

Another possibility is to include a silent ritual – a handfasting or candlelighting. Most JPs will offer samples and ideas. Above all, remember that your officiant is there to support you and help you feel less stressed so you actually enjoy the all-too-fleeting moments of your wedding ceremony.

– Jeanne Pounder, Dover NH

To express one’s true feelings to another is of course the warmest way. But if he is shy, ask him to write his thoughts down and they can become the vows that the JP speaks. Then all he needs to say is “I do.”

–  Patrick Benner, South Burlington VT

No words that an officiant can say are capable of expressing the emotions within each husband and wife. I encourage all couples to consider speaking from the heart but few do. The most common excuse is “I’m afraid I am going to cry.” I believe that tears are an unplanned blessing at a wedding. Rather than a sign of weakness, tears are an affirmation of the deep devotion and emotional commitment that each partner is making. And besides,tears are like yawns: they are “catching.” If you look around when tears are shed by a bride or groom, chances are there will be many others reaching for tissues as well! To sum it up, both parties should agree on whether or not to include this aspect in their ceremony, and no one should feel obligated. However, when it is done, it is often the most memorable and touching part of the entire ceremony.

– Steven M. Dembow, Merrimack NH

★ Other blog articles about writing wedding vows have suggestions on finding one’s voice.

Back to the Top