You need to make sure it’s legal. Each state and municipality has different laws regarding marriage and officiants so you need to do a little research. Don’t rely on blogs or word of mouth for this, go directly to the state, city, county’s website. Laws also differ if you’re a member of that county/state or not so make sure you read all the fine print!
Some states allow online ordained ministers while others just require you register that you are performing that specific marriage. For my wedding all we had to do for Burlington Vermont was have my brother fill out some paperwork and send it in with a check. A few weeks later we got his official paperwork that he could legally marry us and sign off on our wedding certificate. When we sent off the certificate we just had to include his letter and we were good to go!
Some alternatives are having a just of the peace witness your wedding and sign off on the paperwork while your friend performs the ceremony or heading off to city hall a few days early to make it legal first then have your wedding for friends and family. Again with this make sure what ever method you take is legal within the state you are processing your paper work and the ceremony is being conducted.
Who will Perform the Ceremony
Choosing which friend or family member will perform your ceremony might be an easy or a very tough decision. For myself and my husband it was a no brainer we wanted our siblings to perform the ceremony but only one could be the official officiant that did all of the paperwork and signed off on everything. To make our lives easier we chose the most convenient option. My brother is the official officiant, signed off on the marriage, and was the one that pronounced us legally married. Why, because he lives in the same city as us and we could get him to sign the paperwork and send it in a whole lot easier than sending it all the way to California and back.
Performing someones ceremony is a big deal and a huge responsibility. There are a couple of things to consider when picking someone to perform your ceremony:
- Are they a good fit? Just because they are your sibling or your best friend doesn’t mean they will be the best fit for the job. They might be horrible at public speaking or have severe anxiety about speaking in front of crowds.
- Do you have a back up plan? You may have someone in mind but what if they can’t do it. Have an alternative in mind just in case your first choice pick falls through.
- Don’t force it… You don’t want to force a friend or family member to do something they’re uncomfortable with. Although they may love you dearly they might just be uncomfortable with going through with performing the ceremony.
- Do they have the time? Sure you’re writing up the ceremony for them but they need to have the time to practice, maybe fit in some good ad libs etc.
Writing your Ceremony
If you’re going with a lay officiant that means that they aren’t coming prepped with years of experience performing wedding ceremonies with 50 stored up scripts for you to chose from. You’ve got to write your own! When we were writing ours we googled on the internet how to write one and adapted it ourselves to meet our needs. In the end the ceremony only ended up lasting 8 min, short and sweet I like to say! You could also chose to let your officiant write the ceremony but I wouldn’t suggest that unless they let you read it over first! Also discuss with your officiant if you’re ok with them ad libbing things during the ceremony or not.
Rehearsal and Day of Preparations
If a friend/family member is performing your ceremony it’s always a good idea to have a rehearsal!
- Make sure that they have the script of the ceremony well in advance to practice.
- Print out a few copies to have on hand at the ceremony written in large legible font for them to read. Don’t expect them to print it and bring it with them!
- Give them a nice binder or case for them the hold the script in so that they aren’t standing there with a few pieces of paper.
- If you are saying your own vows make sure you give them a copy to be able to hand you in case you forget yours or forget what you memorized.
- Be sure you go over with them how to fill out your marriage license.
- Make sure they know which state they are marrying you in, my brother accidentally said the wrong state and we had to correct him… Thankfully it was hilarious and something everyone remembers from my wedding! Love you Scott!
Having a friend or family member is a great addition to any wedding! I don’t regret my decision to have our siblings perform the ceremony for one second. But it does require some extra planning and work for the bride and groom and the person you’re asking to be an officiant. Make wise choices and make sure you get that officiant a nice thank you gift, it’s a scary thing to marry someone no one wants to mess that up!