When you're trying to figure out your wedding ceremony details, there is one very important decision to make -- who will actually perform the ceremony and marry you? Your wedding officiant will set the tone for your guests and can create an incredibly memorable experience for you and your soon-to-be-spouse. When you are choosing a wedding ceremony celebrant, there are a few things to consider. For some, this decision is a no-brainer; for others, it is a daunting, stress-inducing task to check off the wedding To-Do list. Some couples leave this very important To-Do until later in their wedding planning process, but it is can be slightly more involved than one might imagine — so be sure to book your officiant early in the wedding process.
Here are a few ideas on how to choose the right wedding officiant for you
Your pastor / priest / rabbi / clergyman / religious leader
For some, this is the easiest decision -- they have known their pastor or religious leader for many years and want to have this person perform their wedding ceremony.
A judge or justice of the peace
Legally speaking, it is easy to look up who can marry you through your local government. For many, this often involves a trip to the local courthouse. In some cases, you may find a retired judge or a justice of the peace who can legally perform the ceremony for you. In a few states, a notary public can officiate a ceremony.
A family member or friend
For those who do not have a relationship with a religious leader or want their ceremony to be more personal / secular, it is easy to have a family member or a friend get ordained online with a few clicks of a mouse and the payment of a fee. Note: the laws and regulations to be able to perform a marriage ceremony do vary from state to state, so please check out your state’s laws first (or more specifically, the laws of the jurisdiction where you will actually apply for your marriage license and get married).
A few other tidbits to know about wedding officiants…
Your wedding officiant does more than “just” marry you. Typically they are responsible for the actual filing of your marriage license, once signed, as well.
A great wedding officiant has experience with weddings in some capacity and understands the flow of the ceremony, is engaging, and won’t forget to bring copies of readings or other ceremony materials.
Your wedding officiant will usually do a rehearsal with you to ensure you know what to do during your wedding ceremony — after all, while you may have seen or been in other weddings, this is (usually!) the first time YOU have actually been the one getting married. When do you hold hands? When do you hand off flowers? (I’ve personally seen couples standing a solid 6 feet apart during the ceremony. No joke. A quick rehearsal on where to stand could have solved that!)
If you’re having a friend or family member officiate your wedding, work with them on exactly what you want said/performed / instructed during your wedding ceremony. This does typically take more time and legwork than, say, having your pastor or someone with more wedding experience officiate your wedding.
If you’re having a religious leader marry you, be sure that you’re living and engaging in the faith and practices of that religion. Some will refuse to marry those who cohabitate (live together), for example. Others require you to be a member of their congregation for a specific amount of time before you’re qualified to be married within that church or religion. Some religious leaders will not perform ceremonies outside of their actual place of worship.
Some couples want their ceremony to be personal, but don’t want to jump through the legal hoops — so they have a quick courthouse wedding with a justice of the peace to get the legal part out of the way, and then have a family member or friend “perform” the ceremony for fun, but without any of the responsibility legally required.
I hope you find this helpful on your quest to determine who will marry you!