Wedding Officiants: Professional Vs. Friend

There are the 3 people required to get married: the bride, groom, and officiant. Whether you hire a pro or a friend to officiate your wedding, ask yourself these questions. Your officiant is the first person to speak to your guests – do they have a voice and presence for the occasion? Does your officiant’s personality reflect yours? Some couples choose a professional officiant, while others ask a trusted family member or friend. Here are some tidbits for thought to help you choose!

The Pro:

The main reason we’ll always encourage you to leave the majority of wedding day details to the pros—it’s their job. Whatever it is—be it catering, ceremony music, cake baking or event rentals—they love it, and they’re good at it. The same applies to your ceremony officiant too. There’s absolutely something special about asking a loved one to get ordained in order to preside over your nuptials (and if that’s the route you want to take, you should!)—but there’s a level of quality, professionalism and peace of mind you’ll get from leaving your vows to a seasoned vet.

pastor matt skiles indiana wedding officiant at laurel hall

Photo: Natalie Kunkel Photography, Officiant: Matt Skiles, Venue: Laurel Hall

1. They Can Customize Your Ceremony

A professional officiant will have the experience and know-how to help you customize your ceremony so it’s uniquely yours. Are you looking to change a traditional format or join different cultural, or religious traditions? You may find working with a professional officiant extremely worthwhile.

2. They Might Help You Write Your Vows

Experiencing writer’s block? Your officiant is an awesome resource to tap. They can work with you to craft and edit your wedding vows until they’re perfect. They can offer you helpful pointers, traditional examples and even ideas taken from previous experience that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

3. They’re Comfortable in Front of a Crowd

Your closest friend from college might know you the best —but that doesn’t mean he’s equipped to stand in front of 150 people and engage the crowd for an hour. With a hired officiant, you know they’ll be nothing but professional and seamless in their role. You already have enough to worry about remembering where to stand and when to say your “I dos”—you don’t want to worry about your novice officiant’s performance too.

5. Your Friends Won’t Have to “Work” on Your Wedding Day

While it might be wonderful to have your favorite aunt get ordained and marry you, consider that, while it would be an honor, you’re technically giving her work to do. She loves you, but she already has a full-time job—no need to add to her plate. Let your friends and family enjoy your day and leave the serious stuff to the pros.

indy wedding pastors dennie mitchell at indiana landmarks venue

Photo by Sally Jane Photography

Looking for a seasoned wedding officiant? I highly recommend Pastor Matt Skiles and Dennie Michel with Indy Wedding Pastors!

Friend or Family Member:

Having a friend-officiant can be a lot of work — in the end, it is a DIY project. But if it is something that you have your heart set on, there are ways to really make it work, and make it work well.

bride and groom at the willows indianapolis

Photo: Craig Barton, Venue: The Willows

Here are some tips to help guide you (and your officiant) through the ceremony planning process:

1. Check If It’s Legal to Have Your Friend Officiate

Each state, county, or even city has its own rules on who is allowed to legally make your union official. Research the laws of the city or county you’ll be married in before you ask a friend to officiate your wedding.

2. Make Sure Your Friend Gets Ordained

If your friend is legally able to officiate, great! The next step, then, is to get him or her ordained.  Organizations that offer ordination include Universal Life Church & American Fellowship Church. Once your friend has been ordained, the next step in the process is to make sure all the paperwork and legalities are in place. Check with your local court to verify if the officiant needs to file credentials with them.

3. Work with Your Friend or Family Member to Write the Ceremony

Many couples will want to work with their officiant to write the ceremony script, and one of the benefits of having a friend perform the wedding is the ability to highly personalize the ceremony. The best tip to remember is that most people remember the tone and feeling of the ceremony. So, while you can have a well-written ceremony laced with loving, inspiring words, if your officiate doesn’t deliver those sentiments with enthusiasm and conviction, then it all falls flat. Words that are said are very important, but if your officiate doesn’t “deliver” it so that people pay attention, it will look more like a business transaction at the altar.

Did you know?
Marriage is not recognized legally unless the couple declares during the ceremony that they take each other to be spouses through their vows.

4. Review Etiquette

You can never plan too carefully, even when it comes to the little details. As the officiant, your friend or family member is also the “host” of the ceremony.

Here are some thoughts to remember:

  • Are you having an unplugged ceremony? Have your officiant to kindly ask guests to refrain from cell phone photos & videos.
  • Although it’s customary for guests to stand during the bridal processional, sometimes the officiant will gesture or ask guests to “please rise” as the music starts.
  • After the the official kiss, it’s customary for the officiant to announce “I now present <your names>” in order symbolize the conclusion of the ceremony & to queue recessional music.
  • After the recessional, it’s polite to make announcements inviting guests to the next formality, whether it be a couple’s getaway on front steps or invitation to proceed to the cocktail hour.

5. Rehearse Before the Wedding Rehearsal

The dress rehearsal is not the time to do a first dry run of the ceremony, especially if this is your friend’s first time officiating a wedding. An inexperienced officiant won’t know where to stand or how to time things, so it’s important to figure these details out well ahead of time.

6. Mail in the Marriage License ASAP

The marriage license is legal document and should be treated as such. Be sure pre-stamp your envelope and have it ready to be mailed within a week. Ask your officiant to be responsible for possession after signing.

Worried about your big day? Consider hiring a planner or day-of coordinator to help with rehearsal & flow of the events.
Check out our services to help ease your mind during your big day!

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