When You Want Your Relative to “Officiate” Your Wedding

“Do you, Bubba, take Ellie Mae to be your wafflely wedded life…”

Both Wedding Wire and The Knot have recently published survey results that show an increased interest by couples, and particularly by DIY wedding couples, to avoid paying an officiant by using their brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or another relative to officiate their wedding. Sounds like a great idea, right? Maybe on the surface at first look, but you might want to give this option some additional thought.

Even in Oregon and Washington, where there are no actual “licensing” requirements for wedding officiants, hiring a professional usually means that the job will be done right. What do I mean by “right?” First, there’s the creation of the ceremony itself. Will it have a religious or non-religious flavor? Is it intended to be serious or light-hearted or downright comedic — purposefully or by accident? Is the ceremony creator experienced in writing a meaningful ceremony that will meet the wedding couple’s needs, wants, and desires, or will the amateur or one-time “officiant” cobble it together from snippets obtained by searching the web?

Does your chosen DIY ceremony MC have any experience in conducting a wedding ceremony? Is he or she comfortable speaking in front of dozens or hundreds of people, or will he or she freeze up, stumble, get emotional, or attempt to ad-lib the proceedings? Can the chosen person offer help with the vows and any unique ceremony elements like the unity candle or sand, lasso or rushniks, or handfasting or other ethnic or culturally specific rituals, tools, and words? Can he or she help you with the rehearsal?

Can your dear friend or relative coach you in how the processional is typically conducted and who goes where when and in what order? Who’s going to have the rings, mainly if the ring bearer is a young child or a pair of canines? Will he or she help you create and speak your vows, “spoon feeding” if needed and handling any necessary sound equipment? And how will he or she handle the almost inevitable “glitch” that might occur during the ceremony?

Do they know how to correctly complete and return the marriage license so that your marriage is, in fact, legal and so that you can effect any desired or required name changes with the various government entities that want certified copies of the recorded complete license?

It’s a lot to think about, including choosing how to make sure that your officiant is legally “ordained” or otherwise authorized to perform your ceremony legally. While it might cost only $50 or so, or even be free, to get an online ordination or a one-day permit for he or she to solemnize your wedding, what might the cost be to correct the possible errors that an uneducated or inexperienced person might make? And what about passport or other travel document questions related to your honeymoon plans (if any)?

Would you like to speak with an experienced, professional wedding officiant yet? I should certainly hope so! And if you have hired a venue, or a wedding planner, or a day-of coordinator, I’d bet that they’d agree with me. Because they’ve seen the results that can happen when you choose the friend or relative one-time DIY “officiant” instead of selecting and, yes, paying for, a professional. My experience is that your officiant may be the least expensive but most important vendor that you need to hire to make your dreams for your special day come true!

In closing, if you are still dead set on having your best friend from childhood or school or your favorite relative “MC” your ceremony, consider hiring your professional officiant to do the things I’ve talked about in this post, and to make a “cameo” appearance for the “Declaration of Intent” portion of the ceremony. That way you can “have your cake and eat it, too!”   Your friend or relative won’t even have to get ordained and I, for one, won’t even charge you extra for the services I will render you and your MC to ensure that you have a wedding ceremony that is warm, captivating, memorable — in a good way! — and legal!

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