What’s the Difference Between a Justice of the Peace and a Minister?

If you are getting married soon, you have probably come across the terms “justice of the peace” and “minister” as they relate to wedding ceremonies. It can be confusing, and between the flowers, the meals, and the band, it can be a lot to think about. If you’re wondering what the difference is between a justice of the peace and a minister, read on for more information.

Justice of the Peace

Essentially, a justice of the peace is a county judge. He is a chosen person who presides over a court. His or her general duties may include conserving the peace, hearing cases for misdemeanors, traffic violations, and petty crime, and presiding over civil court cases.

These are the primary duties of a justice of the peace. Fundamentally, they are civil members of the court, often termed “civil public officers.” They are different from police officers and politicians. Indeed, they are in reality a judge with limited jurisdiction.

They also perform civil marriages. When you hear about small courthouse weddings, this is the officiant that performs the ceremony. If you want to have a justice of the peace perform your wedding, here is what you need to do:

  • Identify the justice of the peace that you would like to perform your ceremony. A list can be had at the county building where you will get your marriage license, usually at least 3 days before your desired wedding date.  
  • Call up the court and make an appointment with the judge.
  • Come to the courthouse and find your judge’s court, chamber, or office.
  • The judge will read or recite the legally binding script and sign your marriage certificate.
  • You may have to pay a fee, usually around $100 for the judge’s time.

And that’s it!


Usually, a minister is a member of a religion and will be ordained by the church to be able to complete a wedding ceremony. Depending on the religion, the minister may have to follow certain guidelines or restrictions. Many churches, for example, won’t ordain women, and some won’t allow ordained ministers to preside over same-sex marriages. While most ministers have to go through a church-based course of study or seminary, there are also non-denominational ministers that have received ordination over the internet or through a non-religious church like the Universal Life Church.

If you’d like to have a minister perform your wedding, here’s how:

  • Make contact with your church of choice, whether it is your own religion or a neutral one.
  • Interview with the minister to see if they would be a good fit for your desired ceremony.
  • Discuss whether you will recite an official church-approved script, or if you can create your own vows.
  • Decide on a fee, if required, and set your date.

Final Thoughts

Getting married is an exciting endeavor, and while there’s a lot to think about and plan for, deciding who will perform your ceremony should not cause too much stress. Overall, make sure that whoever you choose will fit in well with your desired wedding ambiance and enjoy the day!