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How to Officiate a Wedding

You’re just about to officiate the wedding of your best friend in the United States – this is a big responsibility. It’s particularly appealing to couples who prefer a secular or civil ceremony. As an officiant, you may deliver the ceremony to big crowds. If you’re wondering how to officiate a wedding, this post will help you nail the details. 

If you’ve been asked to officiate a wedding, congratulations! It’s an honor to be asked to play such an important role in a couple’s big day. However, if you’re new to this responsibility, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. This beginner’s guide to officiating a wedding in North America will give you a basic understanding of what you need to do to create a memorable and meaningful ceremony.

Beginner's Guide to Officiating a Wedding

What Does a Wedding Officiant Do?

1. Get Ordained to Officiate a Wedding

Before you can officiate a wedding, you’ll need to become ordained. Fortunately, it’s easy to do so online. There are several organizations that offer ordination, including the Universal Life Church and the American Marriage Ministries. The process typically involves filling out a simple form and paying a nominal fee. Once you’re ordained, you’ll be legally authorized to perform wedding ceremonies.

In some states, the process is quick and entirely free. You must have all the documents at hand to avoid any potential hiccups. The process can take a couple of weeks, so this is not a step to leave until the last minute. 

In Australia, you have to complete a Certificate IV in Celebrancy which can take between 3-12 months to complete, and another 3 months to be approved by the Attorney General’s Office.

how to officiate a wedding

2. Meet the Couple and Prepare to Officiate The Wedding

It’s important to meet with the couple well in advance of the wedding day to get to know them and understand their wishes for the ceremony. Ask them about their vision for the ceremony, their beliefs and values, and what they hope to achieve on their special day. This will help you to personalize the ceremony and create something that truly reflects the couple’s unique relationship.
 
You can encourage the couple to write their vows and give a few ideas. Think of it as an opportunity to gather the thoughts you share. If the couple is having a challenge coming up with ideas, ask them to consult family and friends, or you can do some research on their behalf. 
 
Most weddings follow a similar structure, which you can check out in the article Wedding Ceremony Order of Events
What Does a Wedding Officiant Do?

3. Plan The Wedding Ceremony

Once you’ve gotten to know the couple and understand their wishes, it’s time to plan the ceremony. This involves choosing readings, selecting music, and deciding on the structure of the ceremony. Work with the couple, and if they would like, help to choose wedding readings that resonate with them, and select music that has special meaning to the couple. You may also want to consider including rituals such as a handfasting ceremony, quaich ceremony or a Filipino unity ceremony.

Sit down with the couple and decide what to include in the ceremony. Discuss the schedule and sequence of events. This is a collaborative role, so you must liaise with those involved in song performances, readings, etc. If there’s an on-site coordinator, you should note that too. The best approach is to have a template that includes the sequence of events. 
 
Now that you understand what the couple is looking for, it’s time to put everything in writing. The more digging you do in to what they want, and their love story, the smoother it’s going to be on the Wedding Day. 
 
You must be specific on everything that surrounds the exchange of vows, readings, and marriage pronouncement. And how much of their love story they’d like to include. I always include a bit about them, how they met, when they realised they had found their person, and the proposal story.
 
When it comes to the structure of the ceremony, there are several options to consider. The most common is a traditional ceremony that includes a processional, exchange of vows and rings, and a recessional. However, there are many other options, including non-traditional ceremonies that involve audience participation, incorporating cultural traditions or adding a personal touch. Work with the couple to create a ceremony that truly reflects who they are as a couple.
 
 As you plan the ceremony, you must remember all eyes will be on the couple. So at this point, you should discuss what to wear. Think about your role too – choose attire that fits the vibe and colour scheme of the rest of the wedding. 
 
Also, if you want to dress the ceremony script for success, you can:
 
  • Place the script in a book
  • Read the script on a tablet or ipad (my choice)
  • Use a folder or a binder
 
It’s up to you to keep the ceremony running smoothly. 
What Does a Wedding Officiant Do?

4. Rehearse

It’s important to rehearse the ceremony before the wedding day. This will give you an opportunity to practice your delivery and ensure that the ceremony flows smoothly. Rehearse with the couple and any other participants, such as brides gang and groom crew. This will help to ensure that everyone is comfortable with their role and knows what to do on the big day.

You can quickly learn how to officiate a wedding ceremony. Think about it – you’re just about to put your public speaking skills to the test. Take time to rehearse the script and take note of the areas you need to reformat.

You want to familiarize yourself with the lines. Perhaps the best approach is to read the script to a close friend. If public speaking is not your wheelhouse, a little preparation can help you beat the nerves. After all, you’ll be making eye contact with the audience. 

5. Connect with the wedding planner

If the couple has an on-site coordinator, this is the time to introduce yourself. You want to discuss the equipment setup – go over the logistics together. Maybe you’ll be required to make some announcements and learn some insights on how the wedding day will flow. 
What Does a Wedding Officiant Do?

6. Perform the Ceremony and Officiate a Wedding

On the wedding day, arrive early to set up any equipment you may need, such as a microphone or speakers. Make sure to dress appropriately and be prepared with any notes or materials you need for the ceremony. 

Once the ceremony begins, it’s important to maintain a calm and confident disposition, even if things don’t go exactly as planned. You’ll do a phenomenal job, so have fun!!! Remember, it’s all about the couple so focus on them.

 

7. Sign the Marriage License (Officiating a Wedding)

After the ceremony, you’ll need to sign the marriage license. Make sure to check the requirements in your state or province to ensure that everything is done correctly. Typically, the couple will provide you with the necessary documents, and you’ll need to sign as the officiant. You may also need to file the marriage license with the appropriate government office.

Most states require the newlyweds, officiant, and two witnesses to sign the certificate. It’s your responsibility to ensure this is done after the ceremony. After that, you should return the marriage license to the state within the set timeline. Pay attention to the rules so that you don’t miss the window. 

8. Master of Ceremonies at The Reception

Another critical task of an officiant is that you may also be asked to emcee the wedding reception. Some of the roles include:
 
  • Liaising with the venue, vendors and catering staff
  • Facilitating house keeping, introductions, telegrams, cutting of the cake, first dance
  • Making announcements and directing attention
    For more information head to How To Emcee a Wedding Reception

Conclusion

Now you know how to officiate a wedding ceremony. You’ve been chosen by the couple because you’re important to them. In summary, officiating a wedding can be a rewarding and memorable experience. By getting ordained, meeting with the couple, planning the ceremony, rehearsing, performing the ceremony and signing the marriage license, you can help create a special and meaningful ceremony that the couple will remember for years to come.

 

If you’re looking for a fun marriage officiant in Australia, Marry Us Gary will exceed your expectations. Get in touch!

Special Thanks

Photographer: James Day
Celebrant: Marry Us Gary

Marriage Officiant

Gary is dedicated to ensuring that wedding officiants and wedding emcees like you excel in creating unforgettable wedding experiences! With a passion for celebrations, he is an enthusiastic, down-to-earth, and fun Wedding Celebrant and Professional Wedding MC, operating in Australia.

Count on Gary to provide expert guidance and a relaxed approach to help you deliver remarkable ceremonies and receptions. His goal is to empower you to curate the best possible wedding day for couples, where every detail is thoughtfully arranged, and the party atmosphere is electrifying!