My advice to all couples considering asking their friend to conduct their ceremony is to invite your friends to the wedding, but NOT to be your officiant.
There are a growing number of couples who, for several reasons I’ll discuss below, ask their friend or a relative to officiate for them on their wedding day. Getting “ordained” in order to comply with the laws of the land only costs a small amount. The internet offers an easy path to ordination so your marriage is legal. Seems simple enough. And hey, Liz Lemon got ordained on the internet so why not your friend?
Getting an Earful
In my work, I travel to many different venues, beaches, camps, and homes to conduct a rehearsal and wedding ceremony. Many venue coordinators and owners talk with me during my visit. I get the inside scoop. Sometimes I get an earful. This year, the earful I’ve been receiving is more and more about how unprofessional and confusing it is to have a wedding led by a friend or relative. That person is someone who was recently “ordained on the internet”.
“I’m so glad you are here,” I have been told by my coordinator friends. They know I am a professional, experienced officiant. “Weddings always go so much more smoothly when you are here.” I know I sound like I’m tooting my own horn, but I want you to HEAR what they are saying. Because you want your wedding to be well-done, from beginning to end, don’t you?
Wasting Your Time and Money
The complaints I hear are similar to this: “Last month you wouldn’t believe the mess this wedding was. The couple a good amount of money to rent our venue. Then they skimped on the minister. The officiant was their cousin. He didn’t know what he was doing – no sense of timing, didn’t know what side the bride and groom was supposed to be on, when to put the rings on (etc., etc.) and the rehearsal lasted twice as long. I ended up having to explain everything two and three times. The cousin was so nervous, and the ceremony only lasted 5 minutes, and he rushed through the vows. It was such a waste of the couple’s time and money. I felt bad for them.”
Plus I wonder if the friendship lasted past the wedding date.
To be safe, just invite your friends to the wedding but not to be your officiant.
Getting a Deal
There are details and etiquettes that a professional, experienced officiant and minister can handle well. What you save by paying your friend $50 or so for leading your wedding, and paying a “real and experienced minister” $250 or more to perform your ceremony is not worth the aggravation that may follow. Is this the place you want to get your cost saving”deal”? You have enough to take care of. Cheap often costs more in the long run. Plus you don’t want to add a ceremony that stumbled and strained your friendship to the memories of your special day. Do you????
Toning Down Religion
Some may want their relative or friend to officiate because they don’t want any religion in their ceremony. Most ministers I know who officiate take into consideration a couple’s values and beliefs in creating their wedding. For example, I always give my couples the option to exclude prayer. My prayers are never preachy or guilt-producing anyway, but I still respect their wants. Being a minister does not mean being religious, but it does mean being spiritual. Ask a professional, experienced officiant or ordained minister you are interested in hiring if he or she will work with you in creating your ceremony. “Are you okay toning down the religion and emphasizing the spirituality?” is a good question to ask. You will find a majority of us are.
The Benefits of Friendship
Granted, though we may be a professional, experienced officiant, we don’t know you the way your friend or family member does. This is our loss. But when your friend or aunt goofs up and / or gets nervous on the day of your wedding, they won’t feel much like someone who knows you. Consider the presence an experienced minister who has conducted many successful weddings brings to your ceremony. Plus you can always request more time to talk with your minister/officiant and become better acquainted.
How Confident Is Your Friend?
I’m not saying that every single person who is ordained by some company on the internet does a terrible job. Many friends and family members are spiritually aware, and can do a very nice job. But most of these kinds of relations you already know are grounded in their spirituality and whether they are confident in their leadership abilities. Getting someone to conduct your ceremony because they will do it cheaply and expediently will run you into problems. The adage, “you get what you pay for” applies, even in the ministry.
Take a Look at the Big Picture
Take a look at the big picture called your wedding day. Consider the time and effort you have put into the many expected and unexpected wedding details. There are many elements that come with getting married to the one person you love more than any other. Consider how formal or casual you want your ceremony to be. Take into account the confidence level and experience of the person you want to lead you in one of the most important moments of your life. You love your friends. They want to help you and support you. But leave the marrying to a professional, experienced officiant — like me! Invite your friends to the wedding but NOT to be your officiant.