Who May Perform a Marriage Ceremony
State law prescribes who can perform marriage ceremonies. Specifically, the
Revised Code of Washington (RCW) states the following:
RCW 26.04.050: Who may solemnize.
The following named officers and persons, active or retired, are hereby
authorized to solemnize marriages, to wit: Justices of the supreme court, judges
of the court of appeals, judges of the superior courts, superior court
commissioners, any regularly licensed or ordained minister or any priest of any
church or religious denomination, and judges of courts of limited jurisdiction
as defined in RCW 3.02.010. [1987 c 291 § 1; 1984 c 258 § 95; 1983 c 186 § 1;
1971 c 81 § 69; 1913 c 35 § 1; 1890 p 98 § 1; 1883 p 43 § 1; Code 1881 § 2382;
1866 p 82 § 4; 1854 p 404 § 4; RRS § 8441.] NOTES: Court Improvement Act of
1984—Effective dates—Severability—Short Title—1984 c 258: See notes following
However, the RCW also permits unlicensed clerics to perform marriage ceremonies.
RCW 26.04.060: Marriage before unauthorized
A marriage solemnized before any person professing to be a minister or a priest
of any religious denomination in this state or professing to be an authorized
officer thereof, is not void, nor shall the validity thereof be in any way
affected on account of any want of power or authority in such person, if such
marriage be consummated with a belief on the part of the persons so married, or
either of them, that they have been lawfully joined in marriage. [1975-'76 2nd
ex.s. c 42 § 25; Code 1881 § 2388; 1866 p 83 §§ 10 and 11; 1854 p 405 § 6; RRS §
8442. Formerly RCW 26.04.060 and 26.24.200.] NOTES:
Severability—Savings—Construction—1975-’76 2nd ex.s. c 42: See RCW 26.26.900
Ministers from any state may perform ceremonies. Washington State does not
license ministers; this is a function of religious institutions.
The spouses may not perform their own ceremony.
Attached is a list of persons in San Juan County who are known to perform ceremonies.
The provision of this list does not constitute recommendation or approval of the
officiants (click for list)
, nor does it attest to their credentials
The Marriage Ceremony
There is no prescribed way in which a ceremony must be performed. The Revised
Code of Washington states the following:
RCW 26.04.070: Form of solemnization.
In the solemnization of marriage no particular form is required, except that the
parties thereto shall assent or declare in the presence of the minister, priest
or judicial officer solemnizing the same, and in the presence of at least two
attending witnesses, that they take each other to be spouses. [Code
1881 § 2383; 1866 p 82 § 5;RRS § 8443.]
applicants must agree to take each other as spouses in front
of two witnesses and the officiant.
Proxy marriages are not allowed.
State law (see RCW 26.04.070, above):
- Requires that marriage ceremonies be performed in the presence of two witnesses
- Does not specify the minimum/maximum age of witnesses
All marriage records are a matter of public record. The only exception is for
persons enrolled in the State's Address Confidentiality Program.
Once a marriage has been recorded, it cannot be unrecorded.