It's incredibly popular to have a friend or family member perform the wedding ceremony. We can credit Joey from NBC's hit Friends for teaching all of America how to get ordained online when he married Monica and Chandler in 2001. That was really the first time most people realized you could be married by somebody other than a real religious person, judge, or Justice of the Peace.
Since then, there has been an explosion of quasi-religious organizations hawking online ordinations, and providing the necessary paperwork for anyone to legally perform weddings. In some places, the officiant needs to register with the state, county, or municipality, but as a general rule, the entire process isn't difficult or expensive. In fact, it's frequently less expensive than hiring a local minister.
We've seen lots of brides and grooms married by friends over the years, and most of the time the ceremony is very personal and touching. Unfortunately, the most memorable wedding ceremonies have been conducted by well-meaning "officiants" who have never performed an actual wedding ceremony before, and essentially have no idea what they're doing. So it make sure your wedding ceremony is the best it can be, follow these five tips if you're using a friend as your wedding officiant.
1. Plan your own wedding ceremony and leave room for your officiant to add their own touch.
As the ceremony probably isn't guided by a particular religious tradition, it's up to the bride and groom to decide which blessings, lessons and, most especially, vows are appropriate for them.
2. Choose someone mature enough.
Your funniest friend may be a better choice for your toast than your actual wedding ceremony. Those vows you're exchanging mean something and shouldn't be treated like a stand-up routine.
3. Make sure you practice with your officiant before the wedding rehearsal.
This is especially important if you don't have a wedding planner running things for you. An inexperienced officiant who doesn't know where to stand, or how to time things, can make your altar area looking like a hokey-pokey dance floor. Also, your wedding party will be looking to the officiant for guidance on the wedding day because you will be busy getting married.
4. Bring extra copies of your ceremony to the rehearsal, and the wedding.
I can't even count how many guest officiants didn't bring a copy of the wedding ceremony that the bride and groom had emailed to them. A wedding planner will likely have a copy with them, but you certainly shouldn't count on that, or you could find yourself in a very difficult situation.
5. Give them some guidance on what to wear.
You don't want them to clash with your wedding party, and you don't want them to appear overdressed, or underdressed, compared to the rest of the people in the ceremony photos.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show Wedding Island, about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques.