About a third of our couples ask a friend to officiate their wedding. This can be a lovely choice especially when the friend is prepared for the task. Today I’ll share our top 10 tips for first-time officiants.
Tip 1: Dress the Part
The officiant should adhere to the same dress code as the wedding party, and lean towards darker, more muted colors. If the bridesmaids are wearing floor-length gowns, choose a black long gown. If the groomsmen are in suits, do the same. Avoid drawing attention, but be well dressed and polished. Officiants end up in a ton of pictures!
Tip 2: Have a backup script
iPads are a common choice for the ceremony script but have a backup plan. Often there are wifi problems or other technical problems that interfere with using the iPad during the ceremony. Your best bet is to have a hard copy printed and ready to go at both the rehearsal and ceremony.
Tip 3: Rehearsal
Attend the rehearsal! Please tell me that was obvious! If there is a planner or coordinator for the wedding, she will help with the processional, spacing for the couple and wedding party, and the recessional. She’ll support you in the flow of everything.
If there is no coordinator, you may be expected to run the rehearsal yourself. If that’s the case, ask a friend to help. Check out our video on processional ordering.
I’ve heard all sorts of reasons from friend officiants for why they don’t need to attend a rehearsal. Ya know, “I’m an attorney or a teacher, I speak in front of people all the time.” “It’s super short, we really don’t need to rehearse.” “I can’t fly in a day earlier to attend.” The truth is that a rehearsal works out many of the kinks that we don’t expect. It’s a chance to check the mic, to review placement, and maybe most importantly to get out all those jitters. Couples, when you choose a friend to officiate let them know you’ll need them for a rehearsal. You may want to offer to cover their hotel for one night to make this financially easier for them.
Tip 4: Let Them Sit
Remember to tell the guests to be seated. As soon as the officiant welcomes guests, she should also have them take a seat. It’s a small detail, but one that is easily missed! You don’t want all those rented chairs going to waste!
Tip 5: Timing is Everything
Practice the timing. We fear that officiants will be too long-winded and bore the guests. But it is also a problem with the wedding ceremony is too short. The wedding day is carefully timed and the various vendors depend on the ceremony ending at the time that is planned. Take too long and you’ll cut into the reception, go too short and the food won’t be ready in time or the band won’t be ready to play. Really work on staying within 5 minutes of the time allotted.
Tip 6: Spacing
Don’t stand between the couple. The couple should be at arms reach, or in other words, they should be able to hold hands at all times. This means the officiant will be partially blocked from the view of the guests. On a few occasions, I’ve seen officiants step between couples or stand too close so that the couple is forced to separate from each other in order to allow space for the officiant. Seems obvious, but nerves block our common sense!
Tip 7: Mic Check
Have a mic and participate in a mic check. I don’t care how much someone’s voice “carries” or how small the guest count is, every officiant should wear or hold a mic. Lapel mics are best for pictures but often the handheld mics offer better sound. Usually, the band or DJ can rent a mic to you and perform a mic check prior to the ceremony. A mic check is a must. No sense in having a mic if you are unable to turn it on or adjust to an appropriate volume.
Tip 8: 3rd Wheel
Move out the way for the kiss! When you tell the couple to kiss, step to the side so that you are not in these pictures.
Tip 9: Keep Track of the License
Have a plan for keeping track of the marriage license. If you plan to party after the ceremony, tuck that marriage license away in your hotel room first. You don’t want to be searching for it the next day when its time to mail it in! Another option is to have a licensed officiant marry you legally and privately before the wedding. Waning Moon, Weddings by Latoya offers this service in New Orleans.
Tip 10: Keep The Focus on the Couple
Avoid talking about your own personal experience or friendship with the bride or groom. The ceremony is a time to focus on the couple’s relationship. Sometimes officiants talk about when they first met the couple or the good times they had with the bride or groom in college, or what it was like being their roommate. Those stories would be perfect for a toast, but for the ceremony, talk more about what you know about the couple and their experience together. Tell the story of the two of them.
Another great resource is the book by Bradley Lau titled Officiate Your First Wedding.