How To Officiate A Wedding
my husband and i had the distinct honor of officiating our friends’ wedding this past weekend on lopez island, washington! since we had never done this before, i figured i would share with you how to officiate a wedding, should you ever be asked or are curious!
1) become an ordained minister
we received our certification through both the universal life church as well as american marriage ministries because i’m paranoid and wanted to make sure we had our booty’s covered. this is a surprisingly easy (and free) thing to do but by no means should you take officiating a wedding lightly!
it’s also important to understand if you are required to register yourself with the state and/or county where you are performing the marriage. you can check that out here because it varies by each county in the united states.
2) meet with the couple
understand what they are looking for in a ceremony. what type of ceremony are they wanting for their wedding? non-traditional? certain religious aspects incorporated? family or friends to do readings or singing? we met with our friends (hi allison and kane!) four different times to understand the look and feel of what they wanted from their ceremony as well as go over content. we did a mash-up of their words and our words so pitch perfect would be pleased.
since having two people officiate a wedding was new and different for all of us, we decided that my husband would be speaking to the wedding guests, welcoming them and telling the couple’s story. i then spoke to the couple and did the ‘i do’s,’ exchanging of the vows, the rings and ending the ceremony.
a pretty traditional line up of a ceremony goes like this (according to google because remember we had a non-traditional wedding ourselves):
- officiant(s) walk in and stand at the alter
- groom comes to stand at the alter
- his parents parents walk down the aisle
- wedding party walks down the aisle
- bride with parent(s) or whomever she wants, walks down the aisle
- welcome to the guests
- “i do’s” (some states require this to acknowledge the couple knows they are marrying each other)
- exchanging of the rings
- closing words
- passionate kiss between the couple
- pronouncement of the couple (i beg of you not to say “man and wife”)
here’s what we did:
- officiants walk in and stand together trying not cry (we succeeded – yay!)
- handsome groom comes to stand at the alter
- his parents walk down the aisle
- beautiful bride with her parents walk down the aisle
- welcome to the guests
- story of how the couple met and how their relationship progressed from BFFs to now BFFs+marriage
- “i do’s”
- their adorable dog runs down the aisle to deliver rings hidden in a tennis ball
- exchanging of the rings
- closing words
- passionate kiss between the happy couple
- pronouncement of the couple (and then i could finally cry tears of happiness because i had to keep it together for the whole ceremony)
3) understand the timing
this is important on multiple levels. in order to fit within the couples’ requested time frame, you need to know how long they would like the whole ceremony to last. most ceremonies typically run between 10-20 minutes (but i hear catholic ones go on for quite some time). also in regards to timing, know when they want you at the venue for a rehearsal and especially during their actual wedding day. don’t be late because the bride and groom do not need any additional stress!
the couple may have an opinion on what they would like you to wear (and that’s fair…it is one of the most special days of their lives). kane and allison gave us full reign on what to wear, which was great and tricky because i had no idea what to wear. i eventually went with a knee-length navy dress (thanks mom!), a silver bracelet and fancy flat sandals because we didn’t need me tripping down the aisle. my husband wore a black sports coat over a gray button down shirt with dark pants and some fine-leather-brown-shoes.
your clothing options should be solid in color and obviously nothing remotely close to what the couple is wearing. wear something that you feel comfortable in, looks nice and is neutral enough to blend in with the background because the focus should obviously be on the couple!
pro-tip: have a few tissues handy in case the bride or groom tear up! we only realized this in hindsight (rookie mistake).
5) practice the ceremony!
i cannot stress how important this is! you absolutely must run through, out loud, every single word you will be speaking during the ceremony. make sure that you are comfortable with the phrasing that you and/or the couple came up with and know it forwards and backwards. it’s common at weddings to read from something so don’t stress about memorizing every word but you do need to be familiar with it.
i would highly recommend you have the very first line and the very last line memorized so you can gaze at the couple and wedding guests while you deliver it.
6) putting the ceremony on paper
as i mentioned before, no one expects you to memorize the whole ceremony so it’s important you ‘write it down’ in a legible and sturdy way. a good tip is spacing your sentences out like a poem, instead of writing in chunks of paragraphs. this will not only help it stick in your brain better but will also help your eyes and voice flow better when reading the words. press “enter” on your keyboard every time you take a breath or have a pause so it will look like a poem does when printed out.
it’s also important you then paste or tape (or both because i’m paranoid) the ceremony in a sturdy and classy way. we opted for a small black journal and printed out our different parts. you don’t want to laminate the paper because of potential glare from the sun and you don’t want loose pieces of paper because those can get blown away in the wind. i recommend gluing/taping inside a bound journal.
7) sign/handle the marriage license
this varies from county to county but understand what is needed of you after the couple is married. chances are you need to sign their marriage license along with two witnesses. talk with the couple and decide if you will mail in the marriage license or if they will.
8) have fun!
i felt that initial pressure at first because our friends trusted us enough to have this be our first time officiating any wedding ceremony and they asked us both to do it. as the wedding got closer, i maintained the feeling of being so honored they asked us and also reminded myself that weddings are a joy-filled and beautiful event so we needed to have fun with it too.
personal note: allison and kane we feel so privileged and honored that you asked us to be involved in this way and you trusted us to figure out how to officiate a wedding! you are both beautiful, kind and intelligent people that will be even stronger as you embark on your new partnership as husband and wife!
stay tuned for more details on the beautiful lopez island (located in the san juan islands) and why everyone needs to experience sleeping in a yurt!