Finding a wedding officiant can be weird for couples not affiliated with a specific religious institution. There are freelance priests and rabbis, but maybe you want someone with a humanist bent officiating your wedding. A justice of the peace or non-denominational officiant is your next best option, but in both cases it’s going to be someone you’ve met only once or twice marrying you. That can feel weird.
Having a friend perform your wedding is another option. Less well known and sometimes much more difficult to pull off, but also a money-saver and a way to give your bestie a role in your wedding beyond ‘attendant’. The question is whether the friend you had in mind is cool with DIYing everything that a professional officiant typically does. Here are the deets so you and your friend can figure out how to pull this one off:
When you ask whether a friend can perform your wedding, the answer is usually yes insofar as your friend can stand up in front of your guests, give a bit of a speech, and help you say your vows. BUT either they or you will be responsible for crafting the wedding ceremony – as in, deciding what rituals you’ll include, what the theme of the ceremony will be, and who will participate.
Does your friend have the right personality in just the right amounts? Professional officiants are usually comfortable with public speaking but not prone to hogging the spotlight. Your officiant will need to be able to engage your guests, to keep them emotionally invested in the ceremony they’re witnessing.
Can your friend write? She or he will need to come up with the wording of your wedding ceremony unless you’re planning to do it yourself (which is okay, too). If you’ve been writing your own vows, you know that it’s not always easy to compose a beautiful script for an event as important as a wedding!
Now I hate to have to ask it, but is your friend reliable. Not just ‘they’ll show up’ reliable, but ‘above and beyond’ reliable. One of the things professional officiants sometimes have to do is damage control. Like when the best man forgets the ring. Or the mother of the bride is hiding in the ladies room and refusing to come out. Will they be able to handle it when things go just a little wrong?
You also need to be 100% sure that it’s legal for your friend to perform your wedding ceremony if you want to be legally wed. In some states, that just means getting ordained through a non-denominational organization – sometimes it’s as easy as filling out a form online. Other states have stricter guidelines about what constitutes ordination. There are also some states where a person can apply for a one-day pass to legally marry a couple. Check with the County Clerk’s office where you’ll be saying your vows to find out who can officiate.
Finally, make sure your friend knows what she or he has to do AFTER the ceremony to make sure that your wedding is binding. Usually this entails making sure the marriage license has been filled out correctly and then filing it as per the state’s requirements.
If you feel totally confident that your chosen friend can do all that and maybe even more, then by all means ask him or her to lead your ceremony! It’s an extra special way for a special person in your life to participate in your happy day!
Photo credit: Annie McElwain