How to Perform and Officiate a Wedding Ceremony (2022)

Having a close family member or friend officiate your wedding is becoming a growing trend among couples. It's particularly appealing to those who are not affiliated with a religious institution or prefer a secular ceremony. But the job also comes with a lot of responsibilities and some tricky rules (not the kind you can break).

What Is a Wedding Officiant?

A wedding officiant is the leader of the wedding ceremony. They work with the couple to prepare materials for the ceremony and perform the marriage on the day-of.

According to expert Natasha Anakotta,an officiant can expect to spend "anywhere from six months to a full year before the ceremony" preparing and officiating each wedding. "This allows enough time for ordering credentials and official documents, completing minister registration, working with the couple on the ceremony creation, practicing, and working out the logistics and details," Anakotta says.

The upsides of getting a loved one or family acquaintance to officiate your wedding are plentiful: It's more intimate and personal than having a stranger officiate, it's less expensive than hiring somebody, and it's a very special way to include them in your big day. Read on for a complete guide to officiating, from getting ordained to writing the actual ceremony.

How to Perform and Officiate a Wedding Ceremony (1)

9 Months Before the Wedding

Review the Registration Process

As soon as the date of the wedding is set, you'll want to meet with the couple to discuss their ceremony expectations and review any registration requirements. "If you have to register with the local government before performing a marriage, you’ll need to make sure you have copies of your credentials and fill out any necessary applications to complete the registration process. Plan ahead so you have extra time to allow for processing the paperwork or any delays," Anakotta says.

(Video) How to Officiate Your First Wedding [6 Essential Pieces of Advice]

Get Ordained

If you're not already ordained, then you'll need to do so. There are many online programs where you can go through a fairly simple application process. TheUniversal Life Church, for example, has ordained more than 20 million people (including Lady Gaga, Conan O'Brien, andPaul McCartney) of all faiths, with wedding ordination packages. You can also get ordained online throughAmerican Fellowship Church,Rose Ministries, andUniversal Ministries.

"The cost to become a notary public or ordained minister will vary depending on where you live or who you choose to get ordained with," Anakotta says. "Becoming a notary public typically requires paying application fees, bonds, and a background check."

Determine If You Need to Register With the Court

Once you've been ordained, the next step in the process is to make sure all the paperwork and other legal checkboxes, if any, are checked off. Some regions require that the officiant file credentials with the local court and others do not. For example, in California, it is not necessary to register, but in New York City, not only do officiants have to register, they have to appear in person at the City Clerk's office to do so.

Discuss the Couple's Overall Vision for the Ceremony

Sit down and walk through the ceremony outline with the couple, as each will want something different. With religious ceremonies, there's a reasonably set pattern and format, but with secular weddings, the couples sometimes want to throw out the entire playbook. It's key to talk to them upfront so you can understand their vision for the ceremony.

Once you've figured out all of the deadlines, write them down. Mark up a calendar to outline when you need to have your documents by, when fees need to be paid, and when you need to have the couple's marriage license turned in.

(Video) How to Perform a Wedding Ceremony (In 4 Simple Steps!)

6 Months Before the Wedding

Write the Ceremony

As not only theofficiantbut, presumably, a close friend or relative of the couple, you're in a unique position to craft a personal and poignant wedding ceremony. Now that you've got a clear understanding of what the couple is going for, you can start writing an introduction and putting together the text that will surround the readings, exchange of vows, exchange of rings, and the pronouncement of marriage. Just don't get too carried away with the reminiscing that you forget about the legal requirements.

As you write the ceremony, infuse it with sweet stories about the couple and heartfelt sentiments. Jokes can be great, too, but don't take it too far. Additionally, don't hesitate to reach out to the bridesmaids and groomsmen—chances are they'll have "how they met" or proposal stories to share.

Discuss What You Should Wear

All eyes will be on the couple—and also on the officiant who will be standing with them. "Plan on discussing what you’ll wear so there are no surprises or complaints. Even if the couple says, 'dress any way you want,' you need to think about your attire in the context of the role you are playing as the wedding ceremony officiant—not just a wedding guest," Anakotta says. While you don't want to clash with the wedding party, you also don't want to appear overdressed (or underdressed), compared to the rest of the people in the ceremony photos. For all these reasons, make sure to have a frank discussion with the couple about the dress code.

3 Months Before the Wedding

Practice Your Public Speaking

Before the ceremony rehearsal arrives, take time to practice reading through yourscript. Make notes about where to pause for effect (or even consider re-formatting the document with line breaks to encourage yourself to slow down) and practice saying words that might get stuck on your tongue. This is a great way to get used to what you'll be saying to minimize how emotional you may be on the wedding day—you'll be more familiar with the lines, so hopefully, you won't get too choked up. Read through the script in front of a mirror to practice making eye contact with the couple and the audience.In addition, make sure the couple practices their lines and vows in advance, too.

1 Month Before the Wedding

Finalize the Ceremony With the Couple

Even if you write the ceremony, it's up to the couple to finalize the plan. Though some couples want to be somewhat surprised during the ceremony, it's always a good idea to have them take a look at your introduction (since it sets the tone) and any statements you might make about the meaning of marriage and their relationship. If they don't care about being surprised, have them read the whole thing. Be receptive and accommodate any changes they request (after all, it istheirceremony).

Rehearse the Ceremony

The dress rehearsal is not the time to do the first dry run of the ceremony, especially if this is your first time officiating a wedding. From knowing where to stand to pacing it just right, these are just a few of the important details to take into consideration. "Go over the logistics together," Anakotta says. "This includes ceremony timing and cues with the DJ/musicians and asking if the couple would prefer an unplugged ceremony—in which case, you’ll need to ask guests to put away or turn off their phones at the start of the ceremony."

(Video) How to Write an (AWESOME) Wedding Ceremony Script

Who Needs to Be at the Ceremony Rehearsal?

The Day Before the Wedding

Attend the Wedding Rehearsal and Practice the Entire Ceremony

Now's the time to triple-check that you've got all your bases covered. "If you’re performing any other special unity ceremonies, you’ll want to make sure that you have everything set up and ready to go," Anakotta says. "For example, if the couple wants a unity candle ceremony, you’ll need to have matches, a lighter, and a table prepared. Also be sure to ask who will be in possession of the rings (the best man? the ring bearer?), so that there’s no confusion when it comes to the handoff and exchange of the rings during the ceremony."

Review the Marriage License Together

"Go over the marriage license together, and make sure it will be filed with the state according to the instructions provided. This is usually a task that the officiant can complete, but if it’s the couple’s responsibility to return the license—make sure they follow through," Anakotta says. Remember that nothing is official until the marriage license is signed and approved. Only then will you be able to obtain your marriage certificate.

The Day of the Wedding

Perform the Ceremony

When the big day arrives, it's action time. Make sure you have your ceremony script on hand, along with a few extra copies just in case. You'll also want to bring along copies of the couple's vows as a backup, as well as any readings that take place during the ceremony. If anyone forgets these critical documents, chances are they're going to look to you for guidance. Stay calm and confident as you guide the ceremony. You were chosen with love and care because you are special to the couple—you've got this.

Sign the Marriage Certificate

Once your duties are complete, you'll need to sign the marriage certificate. Depending upon your county's regulations, the couple, along with two witnesses, also need to sign the marriage license. You will then need to file the marriage certificate with the county clerk, recorder, or registrar (who you submit it to depends on your county). It's the final step and seals the deal in order to make it official.

(Video) How to Start a Wedding Ceremony (What to Say and Do!)

FAQs

What should my officiant say at my wedding? ›

Do you [Name], take this woman to be your lawfully wedded [husband/wife], to live together in matrimony, to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, to have and to hold, from this day forward, as long as you both shall live?

Do I introduce myself as the wedding officiant? ›

When it comes to an impactful officiant speech, start with the specific and transition to the broad. The audience will want to know who you are and why you're up there. So, start by introducing yourself—briefly—and explain why you were chosen or how you know the couple.

How do I start an officiant speech? ›

Does the officiant introduce themselves? The wedding officiant does not necessarily have to introduce themselves as everyone would know who they are and why they are there. They could start with a few lines such as: 'Welcome everyone and thank you for being here to witness the union of (bride) and (bride). '

What does the officiant say at the beginning of a wedding? ›

Welcome. Officiant: We are gathered here today to witness the sacred union of ________ and ________. We stand here to honor and celebrate the love shared between these two people, as they come together to start their new life with a solemn vow, surrounded by their closest family and friends.

What do you do during a wedding ceremony? ›

When it comes to wedding ceremonies, there's a general outline that's usually followed: Processional, welcome, readings, vows, kiss, pronouncement, recessional—you're married!

Who goes first in a wedding ceremony? ›

Long story short, the groom typically says his wedding vows first in the vow exchange. As is customary, the officiant will give him the floor to speak his piece before giving it to the bride. It's a custom that's carried over from older times in which the husband was more of a focus.

How do you end a wedding ceremony? ›

You can remove the line altogether or change it to:
  1. You may seal your promise/union/marriage with a kiss.
  2. And now for your first kiss as a married couple.
  3. You may kiss.
  4. You may now kiss each other.
  5. I invite you to seal your promise with a kiss.
  6. Let's begin the adventure of marriage with a kiss.
11 Nov 2017

How long is a wedding officiant speech? ›

It's then the officiant's job to get the bride and groom ready for their journey ahead. This message can be anywhere from 5-15 minutes, depending on the stories they tell and wisdom they inspire.

How do I prepare for a wedding officiant? ›

8 tips for officiating a wedding
  1. Get ordained. ...
  2. Step into your role and take charge. ...
  3. Write the liturgy. ...
  4. Email the couple's friends and family members for inspiration. ...
  5. Interview the couple individually a few weeks before the wedding. ...
  6. Encourage the couple to write their own vows. ...
  7. Write your reflection.
28 Jun 2017

What order is a wedding ceremony? ›

In a traditional Christian processional order, the parents-of-the-groom follow the officiant, then the mother-of-the-bride, the groom, the best man and maid of honor (walking together), groomsmen and bridesmaids (escorting each other), ring bearer, flower girl and the bride and father-of-the-bride walk down the aisle.

What are the parts of a wedding ceremony? ›

What are the parts of a wedding ceremony? In summary, after the processional and the welcome address by the officiant, the wedding ceremony can begin. It would usually involve a reading before the exchange of vows, the exchange of rings, and the declaration of the marriage when the couple is official.

How long should a wedding ceremony be? ›

So how long should your wedding ceremony be? Here's what our experts have to say. Wedding ceremonies usually last between 20 and 30 minutes, which is ample time to cover the basics (words of welcome, a few readings, your vows, the ring exchange, and the final pronouncement).

How do you introduce yourself at a wedding? ›

Welcome to the most important day in the lives of [NAME] and [NAME].” “Today, promises have become permanent and friends have become family.” “Today is a celebration and we are here to celebrate with [NAME] and [NAME].” “Thank you for joining us today on such a wonderful occasion.”

What do you say when marrying someone? ›

Exchange of Vows

Woman answers, "I do." Notary states, "Repeat after me." To the man: "I, (his name), take you (her name ), to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part."

Who says vows first bride or groom? ›

Traditionally, the groom would say his vows first, followed by the bride, according to Nathan. However, there are no rules for that wedding tradition, and many couples now choose other ways to determine who goes first, particularly at LGBTQIA+ and nondenominational weddings.

What are the 7 vows of marriage? ›

"In the name of God, I, _____, take you, _____, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until parted by death.

What is marriage ceremony script? ›

The wedding ceremony script is an outline for what will be said and by who during the ceremony. Once you have an outline and decide on how the ceremony will be structured you can start to assign specific readings, vows, and other elements you would like to have.

What does the officiant say after the vows? ›

After you've exchanged vows, your officiant will begin the ring exchange. They might say something like, “Wear these rings as a reminder of the vows you have just taken.” They will then instruct the bride and groom to place the ring on their partner's finger and repeat the ring exchange promises after them.

What is the most important part of the wedding? ›

34% of couples choose the wedding reception as the most important part of their wedding day. This is the largest spend in a couple's budget and most likely the first supplier they will book. Couples are continuing to opt for quality over quantity when it comes to their guests and their venue spend.

What is the meaning of wedding ceremony? ›

Definitions of wedding ceremony. the social event at which the ceremony of marriage is performed. synonyms: hymeneals, nuptials, wedding. type of: ceremonial, ceremonial occasion, ceremony, observance. a formal event performed on a special occasion.

Who usually speaks at a wedding? ›

Who Traditionally Gives Speeches at Weddings? At a traditional wedding, there are three people who give speeches. These are the father of the bride, the groom, and the best man. If the father of the bride is deceased or not in attendance, someone else may give a speech in his place.

Who gives the ring first in a wedding? ›

Traditionally, the groom goes first in the exchange of rings. Although most couples choose to follow tradition, there's no rule that says you can't switch things up. If one of you is more comfortable than the other in front of an audience, then you might want that person to go first, so the other will be less nervous.

Does the officiant say the vows? ›

Theoretically, they could still write their own and repeat after you, but typically the officiant provides the vows for this style. “Repeat line-by-line” is the favourite option for most couples I marry.

What to say to end a ceremony? ›

What to say at a ceremony closing
  • Tell a fascinating story. Narration is one of the most powerful and successful techniques to close out your awards. ...
  • Ask a rhetorical question. Rhetorical questions help to convince others. ...
  • Word of wisdom. ...
  • Many thanks.
28 Jun 2019

What does the officiant say before the kiss? ›

We've all heard the classic wedding phrase "you may now kiss the bride." Traditionally, that's the moment when the officiant announces a couple is married, and they lean in for a first kiss.

How do you end a wedding speech? ›

"The end of a wedding speech should summarize the feeling of the speech and the occasion," Chertoff says. "The speaker may want to ask everyone to raise a glass to toast the couple — or they may want to end by saying how much they love the newlyweds." It's really that simple.

What do you say in a wedding speech? ›

  • Start planning early. ...
  • Introduce yourself and how you know the bride and groom. ...
  • Thank hosts, guests, and wedding party; congratulate the couple. ...
  • Make it personal. ...
  • Think of 3 traits with 3 stories. ...
  • Talk about the couple. ...
  • Have a beginning, middle, and end. ...
  • Consider your audience.
29 Nov 2020

How do you write a good officiant speech? ›

Dos and Don'ts
  1. Do include an endearing short story about the bride and/or groom. ...
  2. Don't tell embarrassing stories about the bride or groom. ...
  3. Do write a unique introduction. ...
  4. Don't go into too much detail. ...
  5. Do type up a nice copy of your speech for the couple to keep afterward.
15 Jul 2020

How long is a wedding officiant speech? ›

It's then the officiant's job to get the bride and groom ready for their journey ahead. This message can be anywhere from 5-15 minutes, depending on the stories they tell and wisdom they inspire.

How do I prepare for a wedding officiant? ›

8 tips for officiating a wedding
  1. Get ordained. ...
  2. Step into your role and take charge. ...
  3. Write the liturgy. ...
  4. Email the couple's friends and family members for inspiration. ...
  5. Interview the couple individually a few weeks before the wedding. ...
  6. Encourage the couple to write their own vows. ...
  7. Write your reflection.
28 Jun 2017

Who speaks first at weddings? ›

Whoever is hosting the event should speak first and should take the microphone as soon as guests have found their seats. This first toast is most often made by the parents (or father) of the bride and should combine both a toast to the happy couple and a welcome message to the guests.

What should you not say in a wedding speech? ›

10 Things You Should Never Say At a Wedding
  • So, What's Next? A Baby? ...
  • The Food Was Cold / Bland / Spicy / Anything Else . . . ...
  • How Much Did You Pay For All Of This? ...
  • You Didn't Invite "Jamie" ...
  • The DJ Sucks ! ...
  • I Want To Make A Toast. ...
  • You Don't Mind That I Brought A Guest, Right? ...
  • Can't I Sit At That Table?

What do you say in a short wedding toast? ›

Classic Wedding Toast Quotes
  • "There is only one happiness in life: To love and be loved." — ...
  • "Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction." — ...
  • "The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. ...
  • "Where there is love there is life." —
29 Aug 2022

What do the pastor say at weddings? ›

"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

What does the officiant say when couple write your own vows? ›

If you and your partner write your own vows, you will be speaking directly to one another. Laura: “I, Laura, take thee, Susan.” Your third option to declare, “I do,” to your officiant who recites vows in a question-answer format.

How do you introduce yourself at a wedding? ›

Welcome to the most important day in the lives of [NAME] and [NAME].” “Today, promises have become permanent and friends have become family.” “Today is a celebration and we are here to celebrate with [NAME] and [NAME].” “Thank you for joining us today on such a wonderful occasion.”

How do you introduce a wedding reading? ›

One idea is to simply have your wedding officiant introduce the next reader (“We'll now have a reading by ___________.”) Another option is to have your ceremony musician(s) insert a brief musical interlude (no more than 30 sec. – 1 min.) while a second reader approaches the altar.

What do you say when marrying someone? ›

Exchange of Vows

Woman answers, "I do." Notary states, "Repeat after me." To the man: "I, (his name), take you (her name ), to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part."

Videos

1. 10 Easy Tips for a First Time Officiant
(Uncommon Camellia)
2. How to Start a Wedding Ceremony
(The Wedding Lab)
3. How to Run a Wedding Ceremony Rehearsal: A Step by Step Guide
(Uncommon Camellia)
4. Funniest Wedding Ceremony - Tara and Matt Jarratt
(Tara Jarratt)
5. Tips on How to Officiant a Wedding with Jon Hansen
(The Jam TV Show)
6. HOW TO WRITE A WEDDING CEREMONY for 2020 | Write and Officiate a Wedding Ceremony to Remember
(Brittany Plans a Wedding)

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