Have a Friend Officiate Your Marriage Ceremony? Maybe Not

Have a Friend Officiate Your Marriage Ceremony? Maybe Not

Couples today want wedding ceremonies that reflect their personalities, love story, and romantic journey that led to marriage. Naturally, many couples think that having a friend marry them is the answer. But asking a friend to perform your marriage ceremony can cause unexpected problems.

If you choose a friend to perform your ceremony, your ceremony might not be valid.

The bride and groom planned their perfect destination wedding. They met in a romantic town in Mexico and decided to return for their wedding. They asked their dentist (a cousin and friend), who obtained an online minister’s certificate from the Universalist Life Church, to officiate the ceremony at that location. The dentist knew nothing about the rules for a legal marriage in Mexico, and the couple did not check the requirements either. Both assumed the online minister’s certificate was enough. The wedding went seemingly well. Unfortunately, sometime later, the couple decided to divorce, and a legal battle ensued over the couple’s substantial property. Ultimately, the court decided that the marriage was never valid and held that “where there is no valid marriage, there can be no divorce.”

Couples must do their due diligence to check the rules of their wedding location to learn who is legally allowed to perform marriages there. They must then follow these rules carefully.

If you choose a friend, their lack of experience may ruin the ceremony.

It is customary for the officiant to ask the guests to rise when the bride enters during the procession. Sometimes the friend/officiant does not ask the guests to stand, which creates an awkward and embarrassing start to the ceremony.

Worse still are the occasions when the guests are asked to stand for the bride’s entrance but never told to sit down when the bride arrives at the altar. As a result, guests are left standing for the entire ceremony!

The friend may make inappropriate and embarrassing remarks about the couple during the ceremony.

Perhaps the parents of the couple thought that a mutual friend of theirs had introduced the bride and groom. In reality, however, the couple met on a “hookup website” where they identified themselves with sexy usernames and did not want anyone to know the truth. Unfortunately, in his opening remarks at the ceremony, their officiant/friend divulged the secret to the great embarrassment of the couple.

Ceremonies can be ruined by friends who:

  • Do not speak loudly enough to be heard or do not know how to use a microphone.
  • Do not give the couple a microphone when they are exchanging vows, so the guests cannot hear this important moment in the ceremony.
  • Make a long boring speech, cut the ceremony too short, stumble over words, or forget some meaningful parts of the ceremony.
  • Treat the ceremony as a joke or consider this to be their chance to be a stand-up comedian.

If you choose a friend, they may not understand the needs of other vendors, which impacts everyone’s ability to perform a competent and flawless job.

Working With the Photographer

At the end of a recent wedding ceremony, the couple’s first kiss—a photographic moment that professional photographers want to capture—was ruined by the intrusion of the officiant’s smirking face directly behind and between the bride and groom.

An experienced officiant will work with the photographer and videographer to know where to stand, when to step aside, and how to position the couple during the ceremony. This communication enables the photographers and videographers to do their jobs.

Working With Musicians or DJs

After a couple shared their first kiss, which often marks the end of the ceremony, the musicians began to play the recessional march for the bridal party. However, the friend/officiant neglected to inform the musicians that he wished to make announcements first. The bridal party and guests began to exit to the music, and chaos ensued as the friend yelled his announcements over the music.

It is the officiant’s responsibility to give accurate information to the musical team to coordinate the verbal and ceremonial cues with the playing of the music.

Working With the Caterer

A caterer recently told me that he was shocked when a ceremony officiated by a friend of the couple ended abruptly after just five minutes, even though he had been told by the friend that the ceremony would be 20 minutes long. People descended on the cocktail hour only to discover there was nothing to eat or drink. The hungry and thirsty guests waited 20 minutes for refreshments to arrive.

Food and drink are essential to start the party! The caterer needs to know how long the ceremony will be so that the cocktail hour and dinner will be ready at the right time for the reception and celebration to begin. It is the officiant’s responsibility to let the caterer know how long the ceremony will be and to be accurate in that assessment.

In conclusion, it is possible to have a friend officiate your wedding ceremony under the right circumstances. However, any couple choosing to do so should carefully consider the risks! Your wedding ceremony is a defining moment, and you want to make sure to do it right.

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Iris Marrus

Iris Marrus is the CEO and founding president of JUDGES FOR LOVE, one of New York’s leading wedding officiant services providing New York State Supreme Court Judges to create unique, personalized civil wedding ceremonies. We service New York State, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington DC, and Maryland.
September 28, 2021

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