An increasingly popular trend is for couples to choose to have a family member or friend officiate their wedding. This is particularly attractive to couples who prefer a non-religious ceremony. Choosing an officiant from among those close to you is a wonderful way to include a loved one in the ceremony - but the job comes with a lot of responsibility and some tricky rules. If you've been asked to officiate, congratulations! VANCARO Jewelry has prepared all the details for you, from the basics to the timeline to what you'll need to do before the big day.
9 months before the wedding
Review the Registration Process
Before you begin planning your wedding ceremony, it is important to check the legal requirements in your jurisdiction. Depending on where you live, there may be specific legal requirements for wedding officiants, such as being licensed as a minister or licensed by a recognized organization. Be sure to research these requirements and obtain any necessary credentials before proceeding. If you have not yet been ordained as a minister, then you will need to do so. You can obtain ordination online through American Fellowship Church, Rose Ministries, and Universal Ministries.
Once you have been appointed as a notary, the next step in the process is to make sure all paperwork and other legal checkboxes are checked. Some jurisdictions require the notary to file a certificate with the local court, while others do not. You will want to meet with the couple to discuss their expectations for the ceremony and review any registration requirements. If you must register with the local authorities before the wedding, you will need to make sure you have a copy of the certificate and fill out any necessary applications to complete the registration process.
Meet with the Couple
Once you have confirmed your legitimacy as a wedding officiant, the next step is to meet with the couple and discuss their preferences for the wedding ceremony, as each person will have different requirements. For religious ceremonies, there is a reasonably set pattern and format, but for secular weddings, couples sometimes want to throw out the whole script. The key is to talk to them ahead of time so you can get a sense of how they feel about the ceremony. This is a great opportunity to get to know the couple better and learn about their relationship, values and vision for their wedding.
During this meeting, you should also discuss the structure of the ceremony, including any special readings, music or rituals that the couple would like to include. You may also discuss any special guests or family members who may play a role in the ceremony, such as parents, siblings or close friends. You can use this information to create a ceremony script that reflects their wishes and helps make their day special.
6 Months Before the Wedding
Write the Ceremony
As not only the officiant but, presumably, a close friend or relative of the couple, you're in a unique position to craft a personal and poignant wedding ceremony. Once you have a good understanding of their preferences, it is time to write the ceremony script. The script should include an opening statement, readings, vows, exchange of rings, and any other rituals or blessings that the couple would like to include. It should also include any legal language required by your jurisdiction. 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. You can include personal anecdotes or stories that the couple has shared with you, but make sure to keep the focus on the couple and their love for each other. When writing the script, be sure to use language that is respectful, inclusive, and appropriate for the couple and the occasion.
Discuss What You Should Wear
All eyes will be on the couple - and the officiant who will be standing with them. Plan to discuss what you're going to wear so there are no surprises or complaints. You need to think about your dress code in light of your role as the wedding ceremony officiant, not just a wedding guest. There is no need to wear overly ornate jewelry. A simple moissanite ring or stud earrings are great choices. If you want to be a little more sophisticated, wear a flower necklace. You don't want to look overdressed or underdressed compared to everyone else in the ceremony photos.
3 Months Before the Wedding
Practice Your Public Speaking
Before the ceremony rehearsal arrives, take time to practice reading through your script. Make a note of where you need to pause for effect and practice saying words that may get stuck on your tongue. This is a great way to get used to what you're going to say to reduce the emotions you may have on your 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 and practice making eye contact with the couple and the audience. This will allow you to make any necessary adjustments.
Connect With the Wedding Planner
Ask the couple to introduce you to their wedding planner or on-site coordinator so that you can discuss setup and equipment needs. It's important to talk through your needs for the day, such as a microphone or table. It's also crucial to understand how the ceremony will flow—will you walk down the aisle ahead of the wedding party? Are you expected to announce cell phone usage and photography? Going over these details early ensures you have everything you need on the big day.
1 Month Before the Wedding
Finalize the Ceremony With the Couple
Even if you write the ceremony, the couple needs to finalize the plans. While some couples want some surprises at the ceremony, it's always a good idea to let them look at your introduction (because it sets the tone) and any statements you might make about the meaning of marriage and their relationship. If they don't care to be surprised, let them read through it. Be receptive and accommodating to any changes they may want to make (it is their ceremony, after all).
Rehearse the ceremony
During the rehearsal process, you can also help the couple and other participants feel more comfortable and confident about their role in the ceremony. It is important to schedule the rehearsal with the couple and make sure they practice their lines and vows ahead of time as well. It's important to talk through what you need for the day, from knowing where to stand to get the pace just right. Check out the logistics together. This includes ceremony times and tips from the DJ/musicians, as well as asking the couple if they prefer an unplugged ceremony.
The Day Before the Wedding
Attend the Wedding Rehearsal and Practice the Entire Ceremony
Now is the time to triple-check that you are ready. If you're having any other special unification ceremony, you'll want to make sure you have everything ready and prepared. Be sure to ask who will be taking the wedding rings so that there is no confusion when the rings are handed over and exchanged during the ceremony. Wedding rings are a very important item and it is important to keep them safe throughout the exchange ceremony.
Review the Marriage License Together
Review 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 can be done by the officiant, but if it is the couple's responsibility to return the license - make sure they follow the rules. Remember, nothing is official until the marriage license has been signed and approved. Only then will you be able to obtain your marriage license?
The Day of the Wedding
Perform the Ceremony
When the big day arrives, it's time to take action. Make sure you have your ceremony script on hand, as well as a few extra copies in case you need them. If someone forgets these key documents, they may look to you for guidance. Stay calm and confident as you guide the ceremony. You are choosing with love and care because you are special to the couple and you have that ability.
Sign the Marriage Certificate
Once your duties are complete, you will need to sign the marriage certificate. Depending on the rules of your county, the couple, as well as two witnesses, will also need to sign the marriage certificate. You will then need to file the marriage certificate with the county clerk, recorder or registrar. This is a key step in legalizing the marriage.
Performing and officiating at a wedding ceremony is a special honor and responsibility. Performing a wedding ceremony requires careful planning, attention to detail, and a sincere desire to make the couple's special day meaningful and memorable. Be confident that you can help create a beautiful and memorable wedding ceremony that the couple will cherish for years to come.