More and more often, couples are asking a friend or family member to marry them. Officiating a wedding is a big deal. This couple is asking you to be a part of their special day. But don’t worry! You’re going to do great. Since most new officiants aren’t sure how to get started, I’ve compiled four tips for officiating a wedding.
Know the Rules
This might seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning since it’s so important. Make sure you know the laws in your state regarding officiating a wedding. For New Hampshire, you have to be a Justice of the Peace to marry someone. In Massachusetts, you can get a one-day designation to officiate a wedding. So, do your research, and make sure you know what you need to do. This includes after the wedding since you generally need to hand in the marriage license.
Interview the Couple
This might seem strange, especially since obviously you probably know the couple pretty well. But this is the first step when it comes to officiating a wedding. You need to find out what kind of wedding they envision and how they see you as a part of it. Ask them what kind of ceremony they want. Traditional? Casual? Do they want traditional vows or are they writing their own? Do they want to do some kind of unity ceremony? (For those out of the know, a unity ceremony is when the couple symbolically connects their lives. Think mixing different colored sands into a glass.)
Go further than that. Do you know how they met or how the proposal went? You want to really get to know their vision and their story. Trust me. This will help you figure out what you’re going to say. Odds are, you’ll be planning the ceremony directly with the couple, but they still might want you to come up with opening remarks or a speech. An interview will help with this.
Write it Down
Seriously. Write it down. You may think you can memorize what you’re going to say, and maybe you can. But once you’re in front of a crowd of people, it can be a lot harder to remember what it was you were supposed to say. Winging it isn’t a great idea either. Plus, like I mentioned, the ceremony will be a collaboration between you and the couple. Writing it down helps you keep track of everything and allows everyone to see how the ceremony is organized. You’ll probably be writing the text around all the various events like the exchange of vows, ring exchange, etc. (Unsure how a ceremony flows? Brides has you covered.) It can also give you a rough idea of how long the ceremony is going to take.
I cannot stress this enough. Practice will help you get the jitters out. The first few times you practice, you might go too fast because of nerves. Practice will not only help you to relax, but it will help you smooth out the ceremony. We tend to write differently than we speak so saying it all out loud can help you figure out places to improve (even if that’s just adding line breaks so you can read it easily). You’ll want to practice making eye contact with the audience so it doesn’t just look like you’re reading off a piece of paper, and you’ll want to make sure you’re enunciating so everyone understands you. The old adage is true: practice makes perfect.
Officiating a wedding takes time and consideration, but it’s totally doable. One last tip before you go: during the first kiss, move to the side so you’re not in all the photos. There you go. You’re ready now. Have fun with it!
Have you officiated a wedding? Comment with your own tips below!
Blog by: Erin Lafond