Will You Marry Me?

So it turns out that this question gets asked twice during the engagement process. The first time is the most obvious—it’s during the proposal. But you can’t just decide to get married and then it’s done. To make it legal, there’s got to be that special person known as the “officiant” involved. And when you find the right one, you’ll have to ask the question again. :)


Image from 143 Bridal

Mr. Whale and I didn’t even consider a religious ceremony for a second. He was raised Catholic. I was raised Methodist. But neither of us practices any kind of Christian religion. (We don’t technically practice any other religion either, but Mr. Whale is fairly spiritual, so I don’t want to say that he’s not religious at all.) Overall, the ceremony is very important to both of us, so we really aren’t willing to compromise at all on the things that we want.

But when we started thinking about what we did want in the ceremony, we realized that the officiant really sets the tone. I want people to cry. It’s just not a good wedding without some tears! And it’s really hard for a stranger to set that kind of tone at a wedding unless they’re just really really good. (This is probably one reason why you should meet with potential officiants and decide who is right for you.) But because we’re doing a destination wedding, we just can’t meet with any officiants in person. Bummer.

Lucky for us, the internet has made it possible for non-clergy members to get ordained. For free! I have to admit, I was a little reluctant to think of allowing one of our friends or family members to officiate our wedding. What if they don’t take it seriously enough? It’s definitely going to be their first wedding, so what if they’re really nervous and they ruin it? But even though I was reluctant, Mr. Whale reeeeeally liked this idea. And so, we decided to give it some thought. Our main problem was just that we didn’t know who to ask.

We considered my brother, who really would do a fantastic job. But”¦that makes it more special for me and my family and kind of leaves out Mr. Whale and his family. We also considered and then didn’t choose a few other people based on similar reasons. We really wanted someone that would do a good job but would be nearly equally as close to Mr. Whale as to me. That’s a pretty tall order.

Somehow, we were stuck on thinking about our friends and family from our hometowns and forgot that we have some really great friends right here where we live. In particular, there is only one person who has been friends with each of the Blue Whales since before the Blue Whales met each other. Our Best Manatee! (See here if you’re totally lost.)


Here he is, dressed as Bob Ross for Halloween.

Mr. Whale and I have spent almost as much time with our Best Manatee as we have with each other. That’s because Mr. Whale and our Best Manatee were roommates for two years (and I might as well be considered another roommate, because I basically lived there as well), and now we all live in the same apartment complex!

Mr. Whale and I were super pumped to come up with someone who knew us both, is a super cool guy, and would likely do a pretty awesome job of officiating our wedding. Now, we just had to ask him.

So one evening, we headed to his apartment to hang out and decided that this would be the night we would ask him. It actually felt like we were getting ready to propose to him. We were a little nervous and everything! A little ways into the evening, Mr. Whale tried to ask him (key word: tried). But really, he just started telling this long story about how we weren’t sure who would be officiating our wedding. And every few minutes Mr. Whale would say, “And then we realized _____ might be great.” And he’d talk about that person for a minute and then say why they weren’t right. Then he’d mention another person”¦this went on for many minutes. I could tell Best Manatee wasn’t quite following. So I jumped in and said the only thing that I thought made sense at the time: “Listen, I think what he’s really trying to say is, ”˜Will you marry us?’”

Thankfully, he said yes! A few days later, we had him ordained as a minister of the Church of American Marriage Ministries. Their beliefs are as follows (taken from their website):

American Marriage Ministries (‘AMM’) is built on the belief that all people, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or socioeconomic status, have the right to engage in the marriage contract, that all people have the right to administer the marriage contract, and that it is the right of every couple to choose who will officiate their marriage.

AMM and its ministers believe in the doctrine of marriage, that marriage is a sacred bond, a religious rite to be cherished and respected by the people and the state.

Sounds good to me! The ordination was free, and it took less than five minutes. You can check on their website whether a minister of AMM can perform a marriage in your state. If you’re looking for a place to get ordained, I highly recommend AMM.

We’re still a little worried about designing the entire ceremony ourselves and having Best Manatee lead it. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to have a great wedding when your friend is officiating?


Mrs. Blue Whale

College Park, MD
Wedding Date:
May 2013
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  1. mstoadstool Member
    mstoadstool 2485 posts, Buzzing bee @ 2:13 pm

    I’d love to have one of our friends marrying us, just as your Best Manatee we have a very special friend who’d be perfect, but we need to be married by a law person, so our friend has to settle being the best man.

  2. Member
    ilikeballet 277 posts, Helper bee @ 2:45 pm

    I’m stealing Mrs. Pony’s ceremony because it was just beautiful.

  3. Member
    MissSpark 180 posts, Blushing bee @ 2:48 pm

    We’re doing the same thing! I’m sure we’ll both end up with beautiful ceremonies that really mean a lot. I’m excited to hear how it goes for you!

  4. Guest Icon Guest
    Bsbee, Guest @ 3:11 pm

    We are having our previous youth leader do our ceremony. He knew us before we got together and we decided that it would be special.

  5. Member
    Ms_Maple 115 posts, Blushing bee @ 3:20 pm

    We are having a friend marry us. In the state we live in we can get a temporary officiant’s license. It will be good for our wedding only and our friend doesn’t need to be ordained or anything!

  6. Member
    MrsPhilly 2022 posts, Buzzing bee @ 5:25 pm

    We’re trying to do the same thing. My FI’s mother is actually an officiant and she married his brother and his wife. But we decided right away that we weren’t comfortable with her marrying us. He wants his mother to be able to sit back and just enjoy the ceremony, and I don’t want my mom to feel left out or like she doesnt’ have a special role. The only question then is who?

    We only have one friend that is a truly mutual friend, and she’s the one who introduced us. But she wouldn’t be good for it bc she has serious anxiety issues and IBS and I think would be much too nervous to do it. Then the other day we thought of asking her mom. She speaks both french and english (my FI’s fam is very french. Mine not at all) and my FI grew up knowing her, and while I was in university she cooked all of us girls turkey dinners at holidays, she lent me clothes for job interviews, and is the sweetest kindest woman.
    That being said, university ended 5 years ago and we hardly see or speak to her. She’s super sweet and kind when we see her but we aren’t super close to her. Is it weird to ask our mutual friend’s mom to officiate our wedding?

  7. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 6:49 pm

    @ilikeballet: Aw, what a nice compliment :) Thank you!
    Having our friend officiate was so great for us, especially because we were able to make our ceremony completely personal. Plus, it made our friend sound like a part of the ceremony, rather than following a script of all the things that have to be said.

  8. Member
    anemonie 1578 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:04 pm

    I read The Wedding Ceremony Planner by Judith Johnson, which was incredibly helpful. I also created a Google Doc where we came up with a loose outline of how we wanted the ceremony to flow–all the major highlights–and then cut and pasted passages from or links to sample ceremonies that spoke to us. Our officiant was shared on the Doc and made a full fledged ceremony out of the scraps we gave him.

    I’m really glad we gave our friend/officiant a fair amount of creative control when it came to writing the ceremony, and he didn’t even read most of it at the rehearsal. Hearing all of the personal stories and things about us that he came up with for the first time at our ceremony was really moving for us. If you can give up the reins a bit and let him write some of his own stuff (I struggled with it at first, being anal), I would highly recommend it.

    One thing I didn’t think about at first was the rehearsal. Officiants are sometimes the one to lead the rehearsal and tell everyone exactly what they need to do when, and I didn’t realize before how complex it all is. We lucked out and had an amazing venue coordinator to direct us, but otherwise, I would be prepared to run a lot of the rehearsal yourself. And when you go to get your marriage license, they should be able to check and make sure your friend’s ordination is all filed correctly with your state and explain how he needs to fill out the paperwork (not something you want to find out went wrong too late!).

  9. Member
    village_skeptic 1861 posts, Buzzing bee @ 11:46 pm

    Anemonie’s suggestions above are great. We found “The Everything Wedding Vows Book” at a book sale, which helped us as far as identifying the different parts of a traditional Western/Protestant ceremony, so that we could decide what we wanted to include, tweak, or omit. (There are similar resources on the Internet.) As a result, our wedding was totally secular but still felt “like a wedding.”

    We also did a lot of Googling for sample ceremonies, and mixed and matched and created wording that felt right. The speech that took the place of a pastor’s “homily on marriage” was actually an excerpt from the Massachusetts court ruling on gay marriage!

    Unless your Best Manatee is a comfortable and confident creative writer, I wouldn’t push him to have too much involvement in the writing of the ceremony. We basically wrote ours and gave our officiants veto and review power (which neither of them used). As they told us, it’s a great honor, but a lot of pressure, and they found comfort in knowing that they were fulfilling our requests.

  10. camel Member
    camel 703 posts, Busy bee @ 6:33 am

    Mr. C has a good friend who is ordained and who has already married a few of his friends in the past. It was a no-brainer to choose him as our officiant. We’re in the same boat as you are though, that we aren’t planning a religious ceremony. I’m glad Mr. C has this friend because otherwise I have no idea who would marry us!

  11. Member
    stephk527 987 posts, Busy bee @ 11:16 am

    My cousin and close friend (we refer to each other as “ciffers”) is marrying us and I couldn’t be happier about the choice. FI and I aren’t particularly religious so we knew we’d have to hire/find an officiant from the beginning – um, those suckers are expensive. When she and I were casually talking about the process one evening, she mentioned that marrying a couple is on her bucket list and that was that. She was already a bridesmaid and now she has two roles. :)

    The Bee has been SUPER helpful in terms of how to craft the ceremony. I don’t have any other suggestions, unfortunately, but I’m interested to learn more of your process!

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