What to Know if a Friend Is Officiating Your Wedding

A bride and groom at a beach wedding laughing in front of their officiant.

One way to personalize your wedding is to ask a close friend or family member to officiate the ceremony. Given the ability to become ordained as a wedding officiant online, your friend can easily prepare for and administer the entire marriage ceremony. That being said, it is possible to quickly create hurt feelings if you don’t clearly express your expectations and accept that some flexibility is also in order. Here are some great tips from start to finish for having a friend officiate your wedding.

Ask Without Expectations, but with Details

When you ask your friend to officiate your wedding ceremony, it should not seem like a foregone conclusion that they will say yes. (After all, people do have lives that don’t revolve around your wedding!) They may have their own valid reasons why they aren’t interested in being the officiant: they may have a different understanding of spirituality than you, or they may hate public speaking—the list goes on. Accept that there may be another role for them in your celebration (or none at all!).

If they are interested in the opportunity, try to have a general picture of what you want from them: will they be reading froma script that you write? Do you want to co-author the ceremony with them? Do you want them to write the ceremony script alone? Beyond the details of the ceremony itself, will they need to be in town for the rehearsal (always a good idea) or even earlier? Try to make the commitment as concrete as possible from the start, so that your friend feels comfortable saying yes to a specific request.

Understand the Non-Traditional Nature of the Choice

A bride and groom being married by a friend in a field overlooking a river.

As you go through other wedding planning, do some research on officiants and the typical etiquette for ceremonies. Talk to important family members and friends and see if there is anything that they expect to be a key part of the ceremony. You don’t have to honor every desire, but the more you understand the standards for traditional marriage ceremonies, the more choices you can make intentionally. This work helps you avoid offending anyone involved for a silly reason.

Evaluate the Costs, Payment, and Thank You Gift

Typically, if your wedding is out of town for your officiant it is customary to pay for or provide a place for them to stay. If you know your friend very well, you can probably get away with finding them a spare bedroom in a family member’s home, but a hotel room would be a nice gesture. It is also standard to pay some form of honorarium to an officiant; this is often appreciated even if your friend would have done the work for free. If your friend insists on no payment or that their work is a “gift” to you, make sure you come up with a thoughtful thank you gift that shows you truly appreciate the efforts they went through on your behalf.

Make Your Directions Open-Ended

A bride and groom in front of their female officiant as they say their vows.

As you begin working on the wedding ceremony, try to offer your expectations with room for the friend to interpret. It can be much harder to feel comfortable officiating a friend’s wedding if you feel like there are a lot of rigid rules for how it must happen. Give guidance and advice, but do so in such a way that your friend can interpret as they wish. If you fear that you’ll want some input (for instance, into the kind of humor your friend uses), ask for the entire ceremony to be at least loosely scripted. That way, you don’t have to restrict your friend in the creative process initially.

Avoid Bossiness and Promote Collaboration

The best ceremonies will combine your creative vision with the unique qualities that made you want your friend as an officiant to begin with. Start with drafting your vows as a couple and having your officiant draft their remarks. Have a coffee date to share each other’s drafts and see how they align and diverge. From there, construct the rest of the ceremony—readings, the exchange of the rings, rituals—and do everything you can to see each other as equals as you make these choices. If your officiant is extremely laid-back, you may have a good reason to “take over” the situation, but in almost every case, people will feel most respected if you all work together equally.

Accept Stage Fright and Other Imperfections

Most likely, asking a friend to officiate your ceremony is saving you quite a bit of money, compared to working with a professional minister. So, there’s a decent chance of something going a little off: a quaver in the voice, a lost note card, or accidentally messing up. Recognize that this is likely and will only endear your guests to your officiant; no one is expecting perfection, just an expression of compassion and deep love. By recognizing from the beginning that a friend as an officiant may result in a less “rehearsed” ceremony, you’ll be more excited and satisfied with the final result.

Find Amazing Vendors