The wedding ceremony can be overshadowed by the dancing, booze, and food of the reception, but ceremonies truly hold the heart of the big day: it's when the couple officially begins the rest of their lives as spouses. The "I dos" are led by the officiant, and selecting the person responsible for that moment should not be taken lightly. And more and more couples are choosing loved ones for this meaningful duty over clergymen. "In the past few years, we've seen a big surge in the number of couples asking a friend or family member to officiate their wedding," San Francisco wedding planner Jubilee Lau of Jubilee Lau Events told us. "It seems as if the consensus for such a decision is to bring in another layer of personalization to the ceremony." If you're planning on having someone you know officiate your wedding, Jubilee shared five tips:
Dad Might Not Be Best
"Normally, we would advise couples to refrain from asking immediate family members, as sometimes they get too emotional to carry themselves well in front of all the guests," Jubilee notes. But if you or your spouse-to-be has a dad who can handle the responsibility without getting weepy, go for it. Jubilee said they had two weddings recently where the groom's father officiated and the ceremonies were a success.
Public Speaking Skills Matter
It's OK to be picky. This isn't a competition for who you're closest to, it's about who would do the best job. Jubilee adds, "We recommend that they invite someone who is normally a good public speaker (they should be eloquent and articulate), that they feel very comfortable with, and who would have the time and patience to work with them on the ceremony content."
It's More Than a Daylong Commitment
This leads us to Jubilee's next point: "A good officiant does more than just read a script." You need to find someone who's willing to put in the time and effort, not just expect to show up on the big day and say a few words. "He/she should be prepared to spend some time with the couple to understand the elements that they want to bring into the ceremony — religion, families, culture, traditions, etc. — and then help them to incorporate it well." No slackers allowed!
Pair Him/Her Up With a Pro
Chances are that the friend or family member you ultimately choose has little to zilch experience officiating a wedding, and you don't want to be babysitting him or her on what goes into the undertaking. Jubilee offers this solution: "What we've done before is to pair the friend/family member up with a professional officiant, who then helps to write the ceremony. That way, they can properly advise on the content, but the clients still get the benefit of having a close friend officiate on the day of." There may be a fee for the professional (around $300-$500), but it's probably worth it to avoid any major slip-ups.
"Short and Sweet" Doesn't Mean Generic
If you've ever sat through a rushed ceremony, you know that short isn't always better. It can result in everyone at the reception feeling like they're just attending a fancy party, not celebrating a personal, significant joining of two people vowing to spend the rest of their lives together. "Although many nonreligious couples opt for a 'short and sweet' nondenominational ceremony, we always remind them that it should still be meaningful and represent who they are," Jubilee notes. "After all, the ceremony is the core of the reason why everyone is there that day!"
— Additional reporting by Annie Scudder