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How To Get Married in Chicago & Choose the Right Wedding Officiant

How To Choose A Wedding Officiant

The first thing to define is "what kind" of wedding ceremony do you want? This will largely determine the "KIND" of officiant to shop for. 

  • Religious Officiant -  A priest, rabbi, minister or other religious officiant that is part of a particular church group or religious organization or would like to be married in a house of worship. Follow a specific dogma, and possible other requirements like pre-marital classes
  • Interfaith Ministers -  Officiants who work outside the "church walls", usually an independent who brings people of different religions together, and also works with same-sex and nonreligious couples. Many interfaith ministers also provide spiritual counseling, and they're all about creating a special and personalized wedding service for their clients.  Comes to secular locations and well as natural ones. 
  • Civil Officiants - Justice of the peace, a judge, a courthouse wedding.  Primary role is to legalize the marriage—they are responsible for witnessing and validating the consent of marriage between you and your partner for the wedding license, and are legally registered with the local city clerk’s office. You usually go to them. But some travel for a fee. 
  • Your Buddy - Your Pal - Most states allow online certification for wedding officiants and sometimes it can be quite touching to have the brother who just came home from the army to officiate. Or someone to assist the Imam   Muslim ceremony for instance. I personally have written several ceremonies and worked with the family member to help them feel comfortable leading the ceremony, and then they sign and file the license.

Okay, those are the four categories of officiants.  But once you have decided what kind of officiant you want. How do you choose? When I first started officiating here in Chicago-land there were maybe five officiants total. Today; "everybody" is an expert! Here are some wedding ninja types to choose your best. Remember your entire day, the dress, the flowers, the hair and makeup, the photos the cake is ALL ABOUT THIS 1/2 HOUR OF YOUR LIFE.  Your officiant is an important choice.  

Cook County Clerks Marriage License, Illinois.

RULE 1:  You must have a license from the county where the ceremony will take place. 

RULE 2: you can not get married the same day you buy your license,  Unless you're active military, see below.

RULE 3:  You must both be together when you buy your license. Some states offer Proxy Illinois is NOT one of them. 

Rule 4:  You must be 18 years of age or older

and pay the marriage license fee of $60.


YES> You can apply online for the marriage license but still must go together to pick it up

NO> You do not have to show proof of divorce if it has been over 2 years

NO> Blood Test is Required

YES>  1ST Cousin Marriage is Legal if your 50 years old

YES> Active Military Can Marry the Same Day Requires a free stamp on license

YES> if you are age 16 and 17 years old you get married with parental consent

NO> You do not have to change your name. But if you choose to - one, or "both" of you could change your last names. First names are much harder. 

Cook Cnty Courthouse Map

Three Steps To Find Your Wedding Officiant.

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1). Ratings and Reviews

Don't just look at the stars, do your homework. Read what the couple's have to say. Websites like Wedding Wire and Yelp have explicit details about their experience with the wedding officiant. After reading several you will have a really good idea of who you like. Watch videos - do you like their face? Their Voice? Mannerisms? One last thing, Make sure the reviews you are reading are for the wedding officiant you are researching.  There are several officiants in the Chicago-land area who book the wedding, Meet with the couple, but send a stand-in officiant the day of.

  • Create a list of three officiants with exceptional reviews, and go to step two.

 *pictured. Rev Pam Handfasting 

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2). Price and Service

I am sorry to start with a cliche, but you get what you pay for. Bargain level wedding officiants likely don't feel confidence in their skills or are pushing for quantity instead of quality. The more expensive a wedding officiant is, the more likely they feel confident at their craft. But watch for the catch here too, overly expensive officiants often book several weddings the same day, and substitute the officiant at the last minute. or put a cap on how much consultation time they allow. Make notes of the services they provide and make a graph to compare. Look for add-on costs for ritual or added ceremony customization

  •  There is a different between personalization and writing a custom ceremony / adding custom ritual. 

*pictured. Rev. Pam Indian Wedding

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3). The Kiss Photo

I have been doing this long enough to experience the change from people taking pictures of the couple to now-a-days, taking selfies. Somehow the focus has changed. And wedding officiants are no different. In the last several years they have multiplied like rabbits.  Everybody wants to be a wedding officiant, and It is no secret, a wedding officiant is definitely running a business and wants to make a living. But, I also consider what I do a service. It is about the love-birds and their union - not about me! When you look at photos on a wedding officiant's website or profile, the officiant has no business in the background of the Kiss Photo. I mean it. There is no excuse, a wedding officiant should step aside. This will say a lot about the officiant themselves.  The most important pictures of the entire wedding and there is no reason for a wedding officiant to photo-bomb it. 

*pictured. a couple's kiss at Pine Manor Chicago, Destination Wedding Chapel

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