Thinking about a friend officiating for you? Then you are putting your loved one in a high-pressure, complex, and highly legal position of VERY BIG responsibility … with only ONE shot at it.  And you don’t get that special moment back.  On the surface, it seems a fun idea to use a friend, however a closer look shows many reasons why this is not a good idea PLUS A KICKER IS IN HERE!  But, is it possible to have a warm, comfortable, personalized (and legal) ceremony with a non-relation? OH YES!  Here are 6 main reasons:
1)       In all 50 states, the location state of the ceremony has jurisdiction over the wedding, not your home state. In NC and SC, only a judge or a church-authorized clergy is allowed to officiate a legal wedding.
2) The state courts of North Carolina and Utah have ‘judicial precedents’ which allow their judges to invalidate any online or “mailorder ordinations.” If your officiant’s ordination is judged invalid (at any time, even years later), then your marriage is annulled and invalid too!  This causes you, your business, your property, your insurance, your inheritance, your loans, your children and grandchildren some very serious legal problems if you aren’t really married.
3)     THE KICKER: “Ordained” does NOT equal “legally authorized to solemnize marriages.” Many clergypeople don’t know this!  So couples need to contact the LEADERSHIP of a clergy’s church with three direct questions:

  1. Was my clergy person ordained in-person or no?
  2. Is that ordination current or expired?
  3. Is she or he authorized by THAT church to legally solemnize your marriage or no?

4)     Officiating also requires hundreds of details and skills for a great ceremony. Which ones are you willing to forfeit when an amateur overlooks them? Such as:

  • knows the minimum legal requirements to say/do
  • knows logistics and common sticking points
  • reliable/ on time consistently
  • enjoys public speaking
  • avoids twitching, tapping, scratching, smoking, drinking, waving hands
  • gracefully flexible during sudden changes or surprises
  • patient and friendly around difficult family or guests
  • good problem solving skills
  • appropriate attire and hairdo, neat and clean appearance
  • 100% sober during ceremony
  • appropriate eye contact
  • clear and correct pronunciation with correct grammar, pleasant voice, avoids droning
  • projects clearly without yelling or screeching
  • speech writing and poetry skills for vows, co-writing to YOUR taste not his
  • knows standards for rehearsal
  • knows etiquette and proper exceptions for wedding

5)     Consider letting that person be a pampered guest, or Groomsman or Bridesmaid, or best man, or toastmaster or a be a Reader or Lead a prayer DURING the ceremony.
6)    If your loved one says she or he is already ordained somewhere, are YOU willing to check his/her ordination credentials (those 3 questions to church leadership, above) for the sake of the legality of your marriage?  Moreover, are you BOTH willing to feel vulnerable and weep in front of this person during an intense and personal moment in your lives?
7)  IF the friend totally ruins the moment or embarrasses you or causes a serious legal problem, are you willing to risk your friendship? OR forgive the loss of your ONE shot at your dream wedding?
There are better, safer options. A seasoned, trained, authorized Officiant knows the ropes, logistics, solutions and obligations. Plus they are a wealth of information! A good one know what works and will let YOU choose.

If you don’t want a stranger officiating, or you want more control over the vows, YOU CAN HAVE THAT TOO!
1)     Ask your other wedding vendors. They are going to recommend GOOD ones for their own reputation’s sake.
2)     Ask among your circles. Ask married folks who officiated for them, did they like it, and specifically why or why not? Ask other pals if they saw weddings with a great minister or officiant.
3)     Search reputable wedding websites with vendor listings. This can be VERY FUN!  Read the reviews of the 4 and 5-star ones. Notice the wording and photos of interesting officiant vendors… do they look, read and “feel” good?

The Ceremony is what your wedding day is all about. Give it the respect it deserves as follows: 

  • Contact 3 or more of the best. Ask for a phone interview, or a meeting.
  • Trust your instincts:  how flexible is she?  Is he enthusiastic or friendly? Notice reactions to your wishes and ideas.
  • Speak openly about what you do and don’t want, listen to their questions. Don’t worry if a clergyperson doesn’t share your beliefs … you won’t hire that one.
  • Do you like how she or he sounds? How he looks–he’ll be in half your photos.
  • When you find 1 or 2 favorites, ask for the contact info to the leaders of their churches to confirm their ordination and authorization. If they don’t comply, then say thank you and walk away.  If he or she isn’t authorized, your marriage won’t be legal.

Find someone who is on your wavelength, knowledgeable, experienced, their church leaders confirm, and he or she is happy for you. You both deserve that!