Choosing an Officiant: Would You Like to Phone a Friend?

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to celebrate two people I think are awesome."

When my husband and I got married, we had a huge initial hurdle: we didn't share a religion, and we had no idea who to ask to officiate our wedding. That's actually how I met Angie and Alicia (hi, guys!). They wrote a gorgeous ceremony that left plenty of room for all the religious traditions we wanted to incorporate, and they saved us from an ongoing nightmare scenario we dreamed up where no one in the entire world could marry us.I don't know anyone who has gotten married and said, “I just really don't care about the ceremony.” Everyone wants it to feel unique to them, whether they're incorporating a lot of old traditions or blazing a totally new trail. So why not turn to a friend for help with that whole “actually getting married” part of the wedding?

Having a friend officiate your ceremony means you get to be married by someone you already know and love, plan out the details with someone who totally gets you, and enjoy a lot of the personal touches that come from someone who knows all the best things about you.

Lauren & Charles-148
Lauren & Charles-148

But how do you actually make this happen (and with the least amount of stress for everyone involved)? Here's what you should consider:

1. Choose wisely. When you're thinking about who to ask, consider folks who not only know you well, but who would genuinely like standing up in front of a bunch of people and talking about you. Some of your friends might love YOU a lot but hate public speaking.

2. Tell them why you're asking them. Not just because compliments are always nice but because it'll give them a sense of what you're hoping they'll bring to your wedding. When a friend of mine was asked to officiate, the couple told her they were inspired by her — the subtext between those lines being that she felt like a valued friend. 

3. Don't leave them in the dark. Are you hiring someone to write the ceremony and just need your friend to perform it? Are you writing it yourself? Do you want your friend to write it? Maybe a mix of all of the above? Giving your friend clear ideas about what you want in your ceremony (especially if they’re new to officiating) will help them feel supported and ensure you wind up with a ceremony you love.

4. Give them lots of time (and practice!). Get together with your friend and put some dates on the calendar for first, second, and final drafts of the ceremony if you're asking them to write it. That way you're not up till 2 AM together the day of the wedding finalizing word choices. If they're just performing it, talk about doing a rehearsal so you can hear everything out loud and make sure it sounds the way you pictured it when it was just words on a page.

5. Make it all legal. If you're having a legally binding ceremony, your friend needs to get the proper credentials. Check out your local and state laws (usually found on the county clerk’s website). Some states require your friend to be deputized, others allow for your friends to become ministers (free!) through the Universal Life Church. There’s an awesome run down on California officiant information at Offbeat Bride.

Pro tip: When your officiant and witnesses sign your marriage license, be sure there are no smudges or crossed-out words! The clerks are 100% particular about these documents.

Having a friend perform your wedding means it's totally personal and uniquely you. And hey, if they need some help getting all their ideas in order, send them our way!

Has anyone performed a wedding or had a friend officiate theirs? What advice would you add to this list?

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Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.

Sara Kendall

Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.