Asking a friend or family member to officiate your wedding is a wonderful way to personalize your ceremony and include that special person into your day! However, approaching this responsibility with little to no experience usually means they don't know what could go wrong until it does...and then it is too late. We see the same mistakes made as if on repeat. The good news is that these mistakes can easily be avoided and your ceremony can be seamless.
Here are our top recommendations for unexperienced officiants:
- Write it down. Winging it just doesn't work, period. Even if they are a fly off the cuff type of person, a typed up script is essential. As my Public Speaking 101 class taught me, type the script rather than write it. An obnoxiously large font will be a lifesaver when they look up at you and back down to find their place.
- Don't forget to include the directions for the guests or for the couple in the script. We have lost count how many weddings that the officiant has forgotten to invite the guests to sit back down after the bride arrives at the top of the isle. Guests are famously obedient during a ceremony, so they won't do anything they aren't told to do. At a recent wedding, Sam gestured for everyone to sit since the officiant was oblivious to the guests still standing 7 minutes in. There were some audible sighs and stifled giggles when everyone sat down!
- Write in any pauses or any words that should be emphasized into the script. Again, a public speaking hack is to put those in bold or italics so those directions stand out from what they will read out loud.
- Skip the PG-13 rated stories. Sharing a cute story about your relationship in the ceremony is super sweet and guests love the insight into your unique relationship (so do we). This really isn't the time for "adult" stories and those are best left for speeches!
- Take this amazing script and practice, then practice some more. Practice in front of different people and in front of a group of people. It may seem awkward but it will pay off 100%.
- Slow down and breathe. Nerves kick in and as one friend/bridesmaid asked me after the ceremony, "Did I do ok? I couldn't feel my fingers...I was so nervous!" She zoomed through the ceremony in 5 minutes, which made my job as solo photographer & Sam's job as solo videographer that day extremely challenging. We love a quick ceremony, but when it is unnaturally fast that results in fewer angles of each of your faces reacting to the other, fewer photos in general and the possibility of missing the first kiss. (Don't worry, we have never missed a first kiss!)
- Finally, If they are one of the millions of people terrified of speaking in public, strongly consider including them in a different way on your wedding day and asking someone else. All the guests eyes are you, which feels like all their eyes are on the officiant. Fear will kick in and either result in a super speedy ceremony, mumbling beyond comprehension or just losing control.
Hope this fills you with confidence and excitement as you prepare for your wedding day and plan how to include the ones you love!