Smart Start with Susan Southerland: Should You Have a Loved One Officiate Your Ceremony?


officiantCredit: Rachel Robertson Photography |

I’ve shared many ideas on how to make your wedding personalized and memorable. One of the most popular ways to accomplish both is to ask a loved one to officiate your ceremony. This will honor the person you ask and serve as another way to make your wedding special and unique.

Before you decide to ask a close friend or family member to officiate your wedding, however, there are some things you need to consider:

1. Is the person a legal officiant? If the person you ask to officiate is already ordained with an organized church or is an authorized civil servant, such as a notary public, that’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about before the wedding. If he or she isn’t either of those, however, they can become ordained through a service such as the one offered through the American Fellowship Church (AFC), or apply to become a notary in their state.

2. Play by the rules. Not every state permits officiants from out of state to perform ceremonies, and not all states recognize marriages performed by notaries. Be sure to check the laws in the state where your wedding will be held to ensure your ceremony is legally binding. In the event you want someone to perform the ceremony and he or she isn’t legally recognized to do so, you can always visit a local courthouse for the legal ceremony and have your friend or family member officiate the wedding itself. They won’t be able to formally pronounce you, but there are plenty of other touching ways to conclude your ceremony.

3. Practice makes perfect! Especially if your officiant is unused to being in front of groups, you’ll want to practice your ceremony in advance of the big day. This will help your officiant understand timing and flow, and will ensure everyone is comfortable and stress-free when the ceremony finally arrives.

4. Make it meaningful. While traditional ceremony verbiage can be found online, feel free to customize yours. In addition to the required vows of intent that you must recite, consider including readings and/or poems that have special meaning to you and your future spouse. You could also add a creative unity ceremony that your officiant can personalize and oversee.

Having a loved one conduct your ceremony is a great way to keep you and your future spouse encompassed by those closest to you on the most special day of your lives. Although a little pre-work may be required, you’ll find that having a friend or family member legally bind you to the person you love to be one of the most touching and unforgettable experiences of your wedding day.

Do you have any other tips about officiating, or stories that you’d like to share? Also, if you’re looking for a wedding officiant, visit PerfectWeddingGuide to find local wedding professionals in your area.

SusanSoutherlandGetting engaged is such an exciting time. However, the exhilaration of saying “I will” can quickly be replaced by the overwhelming concerns surrounding planning a wedding.

I designed my Smart Start series to take the worry out of planning your wedding. Smart Start will be delivered to your inbox every week filled with tips on the business and the art sides of planning a wedding. It will break up your tasks into easy-to-accomplish segments so you can enjoy the planning process.

If you have questions or ideas, please don’t hesitate to email me at You may also find back issues of the Smart Start series by clicking HERE.


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