You’ve Been Asked to be the Officiant : What Now?

 

So, two people who dearly love each other care about you enough to ask if you would be the officiant at their wedding. Congratulations! You’ll get to be the person who pronounces your friends are married. In fact, you’ll be running the whole show, from the “Dearly beloved” to the “I present to you for the very first time.” When you think about it, the whole wedding relies on you doing a good job. But no pressure; just keep in mind the following tips and you’ll do just fine.

Make sure you know what the couple wants

Sit down with the couple and have a thorough conversation about what they want out of the wedding ceremony. This is the single most important part of the whole process. Do they want a funny ceremony, or a solemn one? Do they have a favorite reading they’d like to have read, song lyrics they’d like to include, or a favorite poet you can quote?  Try and get a clear idea of their expectations. That’s not to say you can’t include a surprise or two, but make sure they’re in keeping with the couple’s mental picture of the day.

 Get legal

This is the second most important step–making sure that when you say, “by the power vested in me by the State of New York,” you actually have the power vested. Marriage laws can vary from state to state, so take a look at a few websites to see what legal hurdles you might have in the state you’ll be performing the ceremony. In most states, you can legally perform weddings if you’re an ordained minister, and the Universal Life Church is the easiest way to get ordained. Basically, you’re paying a nominal fee for the ULC to certify you to perform weddings.

Start with a template

You may end up embellishing or speaking off-the-cuff, but it’s a good idea to start with a basic template for a standard wedding. This outline is a good one to get you started. It’ll give you a good idea of the basic elements that should be present in any wedding ceremony–welcome, vows, rings, and kiss. As long as you have the basics committed to memory, you can ensure the ceremony goes smoothly.

Add personal touches

Depending on your conversation with the bride and groom, you can add some personal touches to make the ceremony unique to them. You can share an anecdote about the bride and groom (a romantic memory, not an embarrassing one), say a few words about how you’ve observed their love, that kind of thing. Optionally, you can arrange a special feature like conducting a sand ceremony, having the couple light a unity candle, or even something more modern like having all the guests light sparklers before the big kiss. One unique touch we’ve seen done was at the very beginning of a friend’s wedding. The officiant had the bride and groom take a moment to look out at all of the smiling faces waiting to see them get married, just a moment to reflect and drink it all in. It was a lovely reminder to not let the day go by too fast.

Practice, practice, practice

It’s worth running through the whole ceremony privately in front of a mirror. You may feel a little silly, but it will drastically improve your delivery. You don’t have to memorize everything you’re going to say, but you should be familiar enough with it that you can speak naturally and look at the bride, groom, and guests from time to time. Try to do a run-through every night on the week leading up to the wedding, and you’ll be much more natural and engaging.

Relax

Above all, when the big day comes, try to relax and enjoy the unique honor you’ve been given. The wedding couple chose you because they knew you’d rock it. Even if there’s a stutter or a missed line or two, it’ll be a wonderful day and you’ll be a part of it. So get out there and do some marrying.