Guide to Having a Friend Officiate Your Wedding

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Getting a friend or family member to officiate weddings has proved to be a growing trend in the last few years. Not only is a great way to incorporate someone close to you, but it creates a deeply intimate setting. An officiant who you haven’t known for years will only have a few meetings to get to know you and your fiancé, but a friend or family member knows you individually and as a couple inside and out.

For those of you planning on asking a friend or family member, who isn’t already ordained, to officiate your wedding, here is everything you need to know.

Laws

Before deciding anything, you have to first do your research. Different cities and states have different laws in regards to marriage. For example, some states require your officiant to let the local court know, and may even have to go to the county clerk’s office in person. Make sure you iron out every detail needed to get married in your location before continuing with this plan. If you’re not sure, try googling marriage laws in your state or calling your local county clerk’s office. 

Bride reading vows and groom in blue suit with officiant

Choosing an Officiant

Having someone who already knows you can make your wedding extra special, but it’s also a big decision. You also want to make sure you trust this person completely, as there are several important details that rest on their shoulders. Also, when you ask your chosen person, make sure you aren’t pushing them into something they are uncomfortable with. It must be their choice as well as yours. 

Some good things to keep in mind (but not required) when choosing a friend or family member to perform your ceremony are: 

  • Do they know both of you well and understand your relationship?
  • Can they speak well in front of a crowd?
  • Are they comfortable with any religious aspects you may want for your ceremony?
  • Are they comfortable writing their part of the ceremony?
Wedding with bride and bridesmaids and groom in a black tuxedo and groomsmen and guests

Responsibilities

Before the ceremony, your friend or family member needs to get ordained, so they can legally marry you. There are many places online to get this done quick and easy. Just work together to find the best option for you and make sure there is enough time between this and your wedding in case something goes wrong. One of the most popular options is the Universal Life Church.

During the wedding, of course, it is on them to perform the ceremony and get the marriage license signed (couple, officiant, and two witnesses). See below for more details about the ceremony.

After the ceremony, it is generally up to the officiant to make sure the signed license gets sent to the state or county clerk’s office within the correct amount of time.

Bride and groom in blue suit and groomsmen with officiant at wedding

Ceremony

With plenty of time before the wedding, make sure to discuss attire with your officiant and work with your officiant to write out the words for your ceremony to ensure they have plenty of time to practice. For the most part, what’s included in the ceremony (written or traditional vows, readings and special music, etc.) is up to you, but make sure to check your local laws. Some areas require certain words to be said during the ceremony.

The rehearsal dinner is there for a reason. Make sure to go through all the details with your officiant. Since this may be their first wedding, it won’t be quite as easy to make sure everything runs smoothly the day of.

Here is what an overview of what a wedding ceremony might include:

  • Welcome: The officiant welcomes guests and thanks them for coming 
  • Readings: Friends or family members recite one or two special readings or perform a special song
  • Vows: Either by repeating traditional vows after the officiant or reciting your own written vows
  • The exchange of rings and blessing
  • Conclusion and pronouncement: The officiant declares the couple married and has them kiss. Announces them as husband and wife.

No matter who you get to officiate your wedding you want to make sure they really understand you, your fiancé, and how you want your ceremony to go. It’s important to feel comfortable with this wedding VIP. 

Featured image by Kay Kroshus

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