Is a marriage ceremony performed by a notary public of the State of Florida "legal and binding"? Is a Florida notary public authorized to perform a marriage ceremony outside the state, or may a notary from another state perform a marriage ceremony in Florida?

Florida is one of only three states (the other two are South Carolina and Maine) who authorize their notaries public to "solemnize the rites of matrimony." §117.045, Florida Statutes. The Florida notary may perform a marriage ceremony providing the couple first obtain a marriage license from an authorized Florida official and may only perform such ceremony within the geographical boundaries of Florida. Thus, a Florida notary could not perform a marriage ceremony in another state. Additionally, a notary from another state, including South Carolina and Maine, could not perform a marriage ceremony in Florida. And, a Florida notary may not marry a couple who has obtained a marriage license from another state.

There are many factors which determine the validity of a marriage. Assuming, though, that the notary public is duly appointed and commissioned at the time of the ceremony, that both the bride and the groom are qualified to be joined in marriage, that the couple have obtained the required marriage license, and that the marriage ceremony is performed in Florida, the marriage would be "legal and binding." Florida law will presume a marriage to be legal until otherwise shown. An attorney may be able to be provide more specific information, if required.

What officials are authorized in Florida to perform a marriage ceremony?

Section 741.07, Florida Statutes, provides that the following persons are authorized to solemnize matrimony:

  • State judicial officers (judges)
  • Retired state judicial officers
  • Federal judges serving in a court with jurisdiction over a part of this state (per Attorney General informal opinion, May 14, 1996)
  • Clerks of the Circuit Court. Note: Section 28.06 authorizes Clerks to appoint deputy clerks who have all the same powers of the Clerk.
  • Regularly ordained ministers of the Gospel, elders, or other ordained clergy, if in good standing with his or her affiliate church or denomination
  • Notaries Public
  • Designated members of the Society of Friends (Quakers)

Officials Not Authorized to Perform Marriage

  • State Attorneys
  • Judges of Compensation Claims
  • Administrative Law Judges

According to Attorney General Opinions 072-262 (August 11, 1972) and 92-62 (September 3, 1992), neither a state attorney nor a judge of compensation claims is a judicial officer of this state, and therefore, is not authorized to solemnize marriage.

Is a notary public permitted to perform a marriage ceremony for two persons of the same sex?

No. Florida law prohibits same-sex marriages.

A notary public or other authorized person may not perform a marriage ceremony without a marriage license issued in accordance with the requirements set forth in Chapter 741 of the Florida Statutes (§ 741.08). Florida law further provides that a marriage license may not be issued unless:

  • both parties sign an affidavit reciting their true and correct ages,
  • both parties meet the age requirement or comply with the special provisions set forth for those individuals under the age of 18 years, and
  • one party is male and the other party is female.

See §§ 741.04 & 741.0405, Fla. Stat.

Thus, Florida notaries may not perform a marriage ceremony for two persons of the same sex. If they choose to participate in an unofficial ceremony "uniting" two persons of the same sex, they must not do so in their official capacity as a notary public of the State of Florida.

When "solemnizing the rites of matrimony," is it acceptable for the notary public to complete the marriage certificate without actually performing a marriage ceremony?

No. Completing the marriage certificate portion of the marriage record is not the same act as performing the marriage ceremony. Actually, the certificate is the notary's way of certifying that he or she performed the ceremony. A notary should not falsely certify that a ceremony was performed when, in fact, one had not been.

The ceremony does not have to be in any particular form. Any form of ceremony to solemnize a marriage that the parties choose ordinarily suffices, so long as there is an agreement by words of present assent. The words used or the ceremony performed are mere evidence of a present intention and agreement of the parties. A marriage ceremony is usually performed for the sake of notoriety and certainty and must be conducted by a person authorized by law to perform the ceremony.

See a sample ceremony