Once again, I saw this article on Lyssabeth's Wedding Officiants blog and thought it might be of interest to my readers. I have been asked at the last minute or nearly the last minute by couples who have asked friends to get ordained online in order to officiate their wedding. Sometimes it is because the couple starts doubting the legality of doing this and worry about their marriage being "legal" and indeed, online ordinations in North Carolina are quite controversial. Other times the project of writing the ceremony becomes overwhelming and the friend either backs out or "gets sick." Once I was hired just to standby and do the pronouncement at the end and handle the license--which I did. When I asked to see the ceremony they and their friend had come up with, I was appalled and re-wrote the whole ceremony which the couple loved. They simply did not know what they were doing. On another occasion I ended up co-officiating with the friend after the couple and I wrote the ceremony and we alternated sections. That really was a lot of fun and he felt so much more at ease having me there with him.
For a variety of reasons, many couples are turning away from church weddings in favor of nontraditional locations in which to hold their wedding ceremonies. Some couples desire to hold their wedding and reception in the same location. Others opt for outdoor ceremonies. Still others have no ties to organized religion and refuse to compromise those beliefs by marrying in a church. Brides and grooms with different religious upbringing and beliefs (e.g. He is Muslim, she is Christian) often opt for a non-church wedding simply to avoid having to harmonize their different religious philosophies. Oftentimes couples simply want to avoid church-mandated pre-marital counseling.
With more creative options for ceremony locations, it was inevitable that a similar rise in options for ceremony officiants would follow. Couple this with the current precipitous economy, and some brides and grooms are leaning toward asking a friend or family member to officiate at their wedding ceremony.
A good idea? Maybe. It depends on the personality and talents of the person you ask. Here are the pros and cons.
It’s a great way to be married by someone who knows you personally. A friend or family member can share stories about you as a couple from their firsthand experience and really make your ceremony unique.
It’s cost effective if the friend will perform the ceremony for free.
You’ll have free reign to put whatever you want into your ceremony.
Much can go wrong in the delivery of your wedding ceremony. Even those who are proficient speakers under different circumstances may become rattled at the everyday glitches that can crop up in a wedding ceremony. Consider how your friend will do if the groom becomes emotional, the bride flubs her vows, the flower girl is whining, the musicians play the wrong selection, inclement weather conditions suddenly arise for your outdoor wedding, your feuding divorced parents refuse to sit next to one another, the microphone dies mid-sentence, or someone faints. Handling these situations requires a special set of skills. Professional officiants have “been there, done that” with every situation above and more! (Amen!)
Unless one has had experience in writing a ceremony, putting one together can be time-consuming and a lot of work. Don’t expect to find much in the way of innovative ideas on the web without doing a ton of research. Most books deal with writing your own vows, but that is only one part of the ceremony.
Affordable does not mean free. Unless it is your friend’s wedding gift to you, expect to give them the courtesy of compensating them for their time in some manner, be it an outright payment, a gift card or a dinner out.
There is nothing binding to stop your friend from changing his or her mind as the big day approaches. This happens all the time as people get cold feet or egos start to conflict between the couple and the officiating friend. We receive calls all the time from couples looking for an officiant because their friend backed out at the 11th hour.
If your friend or family member is very close to you, consider the possibility that he or she will become overly emotional during the service.
Bottom line advice
Be sure you are 100% confident of your friend’s ability to handle a myriad of circumstances that can creep up on your big day. If you have any reservations at all, then bite the financial bullet and hire a professional.
Consider your own personality. If you and your honey are incredibly laid-back and okay with imperfections in your wedding ceremony, then by all means go for it. But if you are not so inclined, then consider the fact that having an inexperienced amateur facilitating your ceremony may be more stress than you can handle on such an emotion-packed day.
Start the process of writing your ceremony early–at least six months before the wedding date, so that there will be lots of time for research, practice and revisions.
Bear in mind that an online ordination is not recognized as sufficient to legally perform weddings in every state. You must check with your local County Clerk and Recorder to see if your state validates the legality of such ceremonies. In some instances, your aspiring officiant must also register with the county before performing a ceremony, which sometimes requires a fee.
Having a friend perform your wedding ceremony can be wonderfully warm, personal and fun. Just be sure you go into it with your eyes open to the potential pitfalls as well as the benefits. If you go this route, remember to choose your “volunteer” officiant with care, plan for contingencies, and practice, practice, practice until it all flows smoothly.