Here’s the Lowdown on Friends Officiating Weddings

Lake Como wedding ceremony by the water

While many couples choose ordained professionals to preside over their wedding ceremony, we’re seeing a growing trend of friends officiating weddings instead. There’s a reason Monica + Chandler chose Joey to marry them in Friends -and not just because he’d look great in the ceremony pics! It’s because of that sentimental factor couples see as a non-negotiable today. Plus, if you have no religious affiliation or prefer a secular ceremony, it can be a much more intimate (and cost-effective) way of sharing these first wedded moments together with your loved ones.

boho wedding ceremony on a creek with an off-the-shoulder wedding dress
Photo by Dylan M Howell

Personalized weddings don’t just refer to the invitation textures or heartfelt favors, my friend. This trend for customization has touched every aspect of a wedding day, including the officiant. So if you’re thinking about bringing someone from your own camp on board for this role, be sure to consider these 9 things below!

Lake Como wedding ceremony by the water
Photo by Jose Villa

1. Familiarize yourself with local laws

First things first: check if it’s even legal to have a friend or family member officiate your wedding. Laws will differ from county to county, so before you begin the whole officiant draft, call up your county clerk to verify if it’s possible. And if so, any additional steps you need to take. Your friend will definitely need to get ordained, but in some states, they may need to register with the court as well. Your local marriage-governed bureau will have the answers for all you need to do, so don’t fret!

2. Be selective about who you choose

Beyond just being someone who knows both of you, choose someone you can trust. You’re relying on them to be there for you, not just in a physical sense, but in a “got-their-ish-together” kind of way too. You’ll want someone who will be comfortable speaking in front of people in a sentimental, but also mature way (hint hint, maybe save the class clown for a speech at the reception).

boho wedding ceremony with pampas grass floral  hoop backdrop and gold wedding dress
Photo by Chris & Ruth Photography

3. Write the ceremony with them and help them understand the tone

One of the biggest reasons you chose them was because you wanted an intimate + personalized ceremony, right? So let them tell your stories throughout, and let them do it in a way that doesn’t seem like a monotoned soliloquy. Create the script with them to make sure all the blessings, readings, verbiage and antidotes about your relationship you want them to highlight are included, but also those legal requirements according to the particular county/city/state you’re getting married in will show up too. As informal as these scripts may be, you’ve still got to check off those legal boxes to make sure it stands up with the local government.

4. Overcommunicate the wedding details

You will want to give them the 411 on all those wedding details that might affect them – even the ones that might seem like overkill. Not only should you email them copies of the vendor contact list, full timeline, processional order, ceremony layout, etc., have copies available at both the rehearsal and the wedding. You can email things all day long, but your friend is probably still relying on you to have printed out versions of these docs waiting for them when they arrive.

Greek chapel wedding ceremony with groom in white tux
Photo by Lennart Bader

5. Conduct a rehearsal for the rehearsal

You heard that right! Since they will be the ones leading the rehearsal, best not to leave them hanging on the flow until then – especially if they’ve never officiated before. So set some time aside to explain exactly what the ceremony will look like for them from the time they arrive to how they enter to how they close. Do they announce cocktail hour instructions to the guests? Do they recess after family? Do they lead guests to the next place? These are just a few of the questions they’re probably wondering.

Then, once you’ve covered all the basics, do a practice run with them so the motions start to sink in. Let them speak through the entire script so they can get the timings down and y’all can figure out all those awkward wrinkles (*ahem* Exchanging of the Rings) without the entire bridal party looking over your shoulder.

6. Discuss their wardrobe

A minor detail in the grand scheme of things, but you will be thankful you put this topic on the table years from now when you’re looking at your wedding photos. They’ll be in 90% of your ceremony photos, so if you have a particular dress code in mind based on your own bridalwear/groomswear, be sure to express that to them in advance. The sooner you can share with them, the better so that they have time to prepare.

forest wedding ceremony with bride in off-the-shoulder wedding dress
Photo by Jordan Voth

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Meaningful Wedding Ceremony

7. Be mindful of their schedule on the wedding day too!

Whether they are a member of the bridal party or not, consider including them in the pre-wedding festivities like getting ready with the gang. They are playing an instrumental role in helping you begin this new season of life together, so they will love the opportunity to feel like a member of the bridal party (if they aren’t technically already).

Plus, it will ensure they get there with ample time before the ceremony – in case you’re someone who likes to keep tabs on these kinds of important life situations 😉 When you’re creating your getting ready schedule, be sure to allow plenty of time for them to arrive at the ceremony site itself to get mic’d up with the A/V team and settle in mentally + physically (many officiants arrive about 45 min prior to ceremony start time).

8. Let everyone know who they are!

Communicate your relationship with them to your vendor team. It’s so important for your photographers + videographers to know, as this might make a difference in the way they capture images during the ceremony. But it’s equally as crucial that you tell your planner, coordinator, A/V team, etc so they can help answer any questions your friend may have and ease them into the role a bit better than if they’re expecting a seasoned pro. You gotta help your team help you!

9. Don’t forget the marriage license

It’s not legal until this pretty piece of paper is signed, sealed and delivered back to the city clerk within the required timeline. Be sure to fill your friend in on all the deets of who needs to sign and where it should be sent post-ceremony so they can complete this step without having to call you on your honeymoon 😉

romantic wedding ceremony with ruffled bridal gown and cathedral veil
Photo by Samuel Lippke Studios

Now that you’re well-equipped to pop the question to your friend or family member, you’re probably feeling a weight like no other lifted. We’re huge fans of this growing trend for couples in 2019 and just love the idea of being married by someone who isn’t, well, a stranger. So get ready to make your guests weep with a ceremony that was made for you… happy tears of course!

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