Being tasked with officiating a wedding is a big responsibility and wonderful honor. But if you’ve never been a celebrant before, you may not know how to officiate a wedding.
Whether it’s your best friend’s wedding or your cousin’s wedding, here is everything you need to know about how to make their ceremony as memorable, amazing, and personal as possible.
Tips for Officiating a Wedding
Officiating a wedding is no easy feat, but it is fun and rewarding. Below is a list of tips and tricks to help you on this path as you prepare to officiate a wedding.
Create a Timeline and To-Do List to Help Prepare
As soon as you are asked to officiate someone’s wedding, create a to-do list of things that you must do as well as a timeline in order to ensure you are prepared in time for the wedding. Officiating a wedding is a process that takes time, and it is necessary to take the time to prepare.
Research State Laws
Approximately nine months before the wedding, begin doing any necessary research on state requirements for wedding officiants. It is imperative that you know your state’s laws about who can officiate a wedding and how to get ordained. This will help make the process easier and more timely.
The sooner you get ordained, the better. If you are not legally ordained, the ceremony you perform will be unlawful and the couple will not legally be married. Only a certified ordained minister can perform a legally binding wedding.
Be sure to get ordained and complete all steps your organization lays out in a timely manner.
Discuss the Couple’s Desires and Expectations for the Ceremony
Before you are able to start writing the ceremony, you must sit down with the couple and discuss their vision, desires, and expectations for the ceremony. It is likely that they will have differing opinions on how they want the ceremony to go.
Religious ceremonies have a pretty standard pattern that you can follow while also adding a bit of personal flourish.
Sometimes with secular ceremonies, couples will want to completely break away from the mold and create a completely unique and one of a kind ceremony. It is up to you to gauge what the couple wants before putting it into practice.
Begin Writing the Ceremony
Once you have discussed with the couple and gathered their opinions and desires, it is time to start writing the ceremony. As the wedding officiant, you are in the unique position to create a beautiful and memorable ceremony for the couple and their guests.
Weddings are filled with traditions old and new, which offers you a plethora of ideas and customs to work with.
Take what the couple has given you and start writing that into an introduction. From there, decide how the ceremony will progress and write the content that will surround the exchange of vows, the exchange of rings, and the declaration of marriage.
Feel free to weave in anecdotes and memories, but do not get carried away. It is important that everything flows well together and moves at a steady pace.
Practice Public Speaking
Officiating a wedding requires you to do a lot of public speaking. You are the voice all of the guests and the couple will hear throughout the entire ceremony so you set the tone.
If you are uninterested or you clearly have not practiced and are stumbling over your words, that will come out in the way you speak and will affect the atmosphere of the ceremony. It is best to come as prepared as you possibly can.
Read through your script and begin making notes about inflection, tone, and where to potentially pause for emphasis or effect. Pace yourself when you’re reading. This is not a race to the end, but rather a time to savor and reflect on the couple and their lives together.
Practice looking out into the crowd and making eye contact with the guests. This will help to engage them more and it will help with your pacing. Practice as much as you can to ensure you are comfortable and confident going into the big day.
Finalize the Ceremony
About one month before the wedding is the time to finalize the ceremony with the couple. It is important to go over it with them to make sure it is everything they want.
Of course, some couples will want to be surprised, but it is still good to get some feedback on your opening address at the very least. If they are comfortable, they can also read the entire piece and give any necessary feedback.
During this time, you have to be practicing as much as you can. Whether it’s in the mirror, in the shower, or in the car, if you have the time then you should be practicing.
Rehearse the Entire Ceremony
You should rehearse the entire ceremony prior to the dress rehearsal. It is best to come to the dress rehearsal with as much knowledge as possible about how the ceremony will go. Meet with the couple to go over the logistics of the wedding, any timing, or necessary cues you, the couple, and any musicians need to be aware of.
Perform the Wedding
You’ve written a killer ceremony, you’ve practiced your script forward and backward, and now it is time for the big day. This is the culmination of all of your hard work.
Have your script printed out as well as a few extra copies just in case. It is better to have more and not need them then to need them and not have them. You should also bring extra copies of the couples’ vows, any readings, and any other important documents.
If anyone forgets anything, you will be the one they will look to. Be more prepared than anybody else in attendance. Remember to be calm, steady, positive, and confident. You were chosen for this because the couple loves you and believes in you. You will blow this out of the water!
Sign the Marriage Certificate
Now that the ceremony is done, it is time to make the marriage official by signing the marriage certificate. You along with the couple and two witnesses must sign the marriage certificate.
This will then get filed with the couples’ county. The specific person it is submitted to depends on the laws of that county. Once the certificate is signed, your duties as the wedding officiant are complete and the marriage is official.
Have you been asked to officiate a wedding but you have no idea what that means or what it entails? Look no further! Here are the answers to any and all questions you might have about being a wedding officiant.
What Is A Wedding Officiant?
A wedding officiant is the person who leads the wedding ceremony. They work closely with the couple to craft a personal, meaningful, and memorable ceremony that they perform the day of the wedding.
Who Can Be a Wedding Officiant?
The rules for who can be a wedding officiant vary from state to state, but generally, anyone can be an officiant so long as they are a legally ordained minister, a clergyman, or a justice of the peace. Most states allow residents to become a certified ordained minister.
How Do I Become a Wedding Officiant?
The steps to become a wedding officiant are varied depending on your state and the service you are using to get ordained. Some places will allow you to be ordained online in one day, while others will require additional paperwork, coursework, and training before they will ordain you.
Be sure to research any organization to make sure you can complete their steps and that their values line up with your own.
Why Should Couples Choose Their Own Wedding Officiant?
Having couples choose their own wedding officiant helps to ensure that the ceremony is more personal. A close friend or family member can offer a much more personal and intimate ceremony filled with nuances and talking points that are specific to the couple.
Officiating a wedding is an honorable and large undertaking that the couple will be forever thankful for. This can be a stressful process so be sure to lean on and collaborate with the couple so it is as smooth and easy as it can possibly be.
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