Having a friend or a family member officiate your wedding is a growing trend among couples, and one that may be particularly appealing to those who are not affiliated with a church or prefer a secular ceremony. After all, getting a friend ordained to do the job is as easy as a few clicks online.
The upsides are plentiful: It's more intimate and personal than having a stranger officiate, it's much cheaper than hiring somebody, and it's a very special way to ask someone who is important to you to be involved in your big day. But the job also comes with a lot of responsibilities and some tricky rules (not the kind you can break), so before you pick up the phone to ask your bestie to do the honors, read the info below.
1. Figure out who is allowed to officiate in your area.
Each state, county, or even city has its own rules on who is allowed to legally make your union official. Check with your city's Marriage Bureau for the complete guidelines before you begin figuring out who should officiate.
Laws regarding the officiant are truly varied: in Colorado couples can solemnize their own marriage, and in parts of other states (such as Virginia) only pastors of certain churches are allowed to perform the wedding — and someone who got ordained online doesn't count. Remember, just because your friend got his uncle to perform his wedding doesn't mean it's allowed where you tie the knot.
2. Get your friend ordained.
Once you've figured out that your friend can officiate the wedding, the next step is to get him or her ordained. An easy way to do this is to point your browser to TheMonastery.org, where you can become a minister of the Universal Life Church. Other places that offer ordination include the Church of Spiritual Humanism, First Nation Ministry, American Fellowship Church, and the Church of Latter-Day Dude — a religion that spawned from the movie The Big Lebowski. (Yes this is legit, but once again, double check your regional laws by calling your county clerk).
3. Determine if the officiant needs to be registered.
Once your friend has 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.
4. 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. But don't get too carried away with the reminiscing and forget about the legal requirements. In Seattle, for example, a marriage is not recognized legally unless the couple declares during the ceremony that they take each other to be spouses. Once again, work with your local marriage-governing bureau to determine requirements for your area.
5. Sign and send in the marriage license.
After the ceremony and reception, it is your officiant's responsibility to send the completed marriage license and return it to the state within the required timeline.