Yeah Weddings

How To Choose A Wedding Officiant For Your Ceremony

No matter the size of your ceremony, whether you’ve decided to have an intimate event or invite almost every person that you know for your guest list, your decisions during the wedding planning process will impact the experience of your wedding day. Figuring out how to choose a wedding officiant is just one step in the larger planning timeline!

A celebrant, which is the general term for anybody who holds the legal authority to solemnize a marriage, is much more than the person who stands there while couples exchange their vows. He or she is guiding you through an unforgettable milestone in your life. 

Unlike wedding venues or flowers, you might know where to begin when knowing how to choose a wedding officiant. Take a look at our guide to have all of your questions answered!

For couples who are wondering about wedding officiants, the biggest determining factor is the religious or secular plans for their ceremony. Learn everything you need to know about celebrants here at YeahWeddings! 

Religious Options 

wedding priest

Some couples can’t imagine having their wedding ceremony without incorporating their faith into these life-changing moments. If this is the case with you and your partner, a wedding minister, priest, rabbi, Imam, and other spiritual leaders can work as celebrants. 

Clerics differ from secular celebrants because they fulfill specific roles to their religious denominations. He or she may require premarital counseling sessions to observe if the couple is truly ready to tie the knot.

Religious leaders won’t usually deviate from tradition so expect more of a serious ceremony from your special day and be clear on their ground rules. You can find more flexibility with retired clergymen than a wedding priest and other kinds of active clerics. 

wedding priest

Couples who come from different spiritual backgrounds and wish to marry can seek out interfaith ministers as their possible options as well. 

Friend or Family Member Wedding Officiant

If you’re comfortable with leaving religion out of your special day, go with a friend or family member as a potential celebrant. 

Knowing how to find a friend to officiate your wedding starts with realizing if they have enough time to pledge to the role. Skip out on any pals who have overbearing work, school, or family commitments that would prevent them from giving the effort that you deserve for your special day. 

family member wedding officiant

Aside from friends, family members make great choices for celebrants. Both possibilities allow for the ceremony to have a distinct touch since the friend or family member wedding officiant can incorporate personal stories about the relationship before the couple exchanges their vows.

If your friend or family member needs to become a celebrant before your special day, just know that the process is easy and starts online with a non-denominational group like Celebrant USA Foundation & Institute, American Humanist Association, and the American Ethical Union.

Civil Officiant 

Civil officiants include judges, magistrates, justices of the peace, and any other governing authority who is registered with the local city clerk’s office. 

wedding celebrant at a civil ceremony

Their main goal is to witness and validate the shared consent between brides and grooms for their wedding license. 

Civil officiants are a good decision for couples who value experience over personalization when thinking about how to pick a wedding officiant. Since they are a hired service, a wedding budget needs to consider them at a higher price than a friend or family member wedding officiant. 

Do I Need a Wedding Officiant? 

When considering how to choose a wedding officiant, most couples assume that they need one to legitimize their ceremony but that’s not always the case with certain state laws. 

Husbands and wives can self-solemnize their unions in Nevada, Kansas, and Maine if they are affiliated with the Quaker faith. Illinois allows this same process in accordance to religious and First Nations ceremonies. 

couple without a wedding celebrant

Wisconsin allows for couples to skip the process of figuring out how to pick a wedding officiant by allowing them to marry without the presence of a celebrant. Brides and grooms just need to file paperwork that acknowledges that their matrimony might not be recognized in other parts of the country. 

Pennsylvania requires at least two witnesses to sign in place of a wedding priest, family member wedding officiant, or any other kind of celebrant. 

Colorado and Washington allow for couples to self-unify without any other conditions. This option is perfect for husbands and wives who wish to elope instead of having a traditional ceremony. 

Other Considerations

After deciding on the kind of celebrant that they want for their upcoming ceremony, brides and grooms should consider a few more details before making their final decision. 


When thinking about how to find a wedding officiant, couples must be aware that their possibilities might be limited by their location. 

beach wedding officiant

Brides and grooms should double check that a celebrant can legally marry them in the state or country where the union is taking place. If not, they will be unable to sign your wedding license. 


If you have decided to go with a wedding minister, priest, or any other kind of religious celebrant instead of a secular option, make sure he or she is willing to meet with you a few times before the ceremony.

These meetings will let you know if he or she is a good match as an officiant beyond emails and text messages. Having these conversations will also ease you from feeling any potential awkwardness before he or she guides you through a milestone in your life. 

To know if you’ve made the right decision with picking a wedding priest or another religious officiant, he or she should show that they’re interested in getting to know you and your partner as a couple. 

wedding priest

These talks will help you get an understanding of the celebrant’s speaking style. You can recognize from planning these meetings if he or she aligns with the relaxed or formal nature of your special day as well.

Having these conversations allows you to know how much creative control you will have with a wedding minister or celebrant of another faith. You can be aware of how they handle any last-minute mishaps by the way they talk about their past experiences with officiating ceremonies. 

Don’t hesitate to request a sample of their wordings so you can get a preview of your special day before it happens. He or she may even have videos from ceremonies that they previously solemnized.


Be sure to consider the cost of a wedding officiant before deciding on one! Typically, a friend or family member will officiate for free, although you may want to give them a thank you gift. Religious celebrants and civil officiants will have differing costs based on various factors, so be sure to ask about the price!

This page may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, we'll earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you.

Lauren Peterson

Add comment