So you want to ask your best friend to officiate your wedding or you've been given the honor of officiating a wedding ceremony and you have no idea where to start. As someone who has officiated many weddings and spoken in front of hundreds of people gathered to witness those sacred moments, I want to help you. We got this. Here's how to get started:
Get Legally Ordained.
Ask Questions. You may think you know exactly what kind of wedding ceremony your friend wants, and you may be right. Just in case, ask them what their ideas for their wedding ceremony are. At Away We Go Weddings, we not only meet in person with our couples to get to know them, we use a questionnaire to get a sense of the things that are important to them to include on their wedding day.
Determine the Ceremony Length. Wedding ceremonies generally range between 10-30 minutes, depending on content. Most couples I meet want a short but meaningful ceremony, and that can be accomplished in 20 minutes.
Do Your Research. There are some amazing wedding websites that give advice on wedding ceremonies and content. The Google can help you, too.
Get Going. Do not wait until the last minute. While I might do some of my best ceremony writing at 3;00 in the morning the day of the wedding, I have been revising and refining content over days or weeks. I start to get ideas for ceremonies right after meeting a couple and I write those ideas down as I go along and incorporate them into the ceremony.
Have a Backup. I print out copies of ceremonies, and I also load them to an iPad. In the event that my paper copies get lost, I can read the ceremony off of my phone or iPad, or vice versa.
Check Your Work. Lots of couples have wedding day nightmares, and wedding professionals can, too. I recently had a dream that I left a ceremony without pronouncing the couple married. Okay, that would never happen, but no matter how prepared I am for each wedding, I worry that I'm going to be late for the ceremony, leave out an important element or pronounce the couple's name wrong ALL OF WHICH MY OFFICIANT DID AT OUR WEDDING. Sorry for the shouty caps, but I think you get it. And confession time: I accidentally omitted the unity ceremony from a wedding once. The couple was happy to do the unity ceremony after the wedding for the sake of photos and they were super happy about the personalized ceremony.
After you've mastered all of the steps above, let's get the elements of the wedding ceremony written. Grab your laptop or a notebook, a beverage and a pug if you have one.
ANNOUNCEMENTS (Optional) This is where you might start everything before the ceremony and where I will announce things like turning off cell phones, how the guests will be released following the ceremony or inviting the guests to the cocktail hour while the wedding party is taking a few photos. 1 minute
PROCESSIONAL Your wedding party lineup. Determine with the couple how the processional should be arranged, whether parents and grandparents will be seated as part of the processional and how the wedding attendants will enter the ceremony. 2-3 minutes.
PRESENTATION OF THE BRIDE In many traditional weddings, this is a seriously big moment. I always try to give a nod to the Mother of the Bride to let her be honored to stand up first before I say, "Please stand for the bride." If the bride is walking down the aisle with a parent, you'll want to determine the hand off to the groom or bride. Will the parent shake hands, hug it out? Does the bride want to be "given away"? 1 minute.
WELCOMING Tell everyone to take a seat and welcome the guests on behalf of the couple. 1 minute
READING (Optional) 2 minutes
SECOND READING (Optional) 2 minutes
WEDDING MESSAGE This is the part of the ceremony where you are going to talk about the couple, their love for one another, their hopes and dreams and unicorns and marriage. And if you've asked questions as advised in step two above, you should be aces. A good mix of solemn and comedy should be utilized, depending on the couple. 5-7 minutes
DECLARATION OF INTENT (So Not Optional) This is the "I do!" part of the day, the reason the dearly beloved are gathered. Don't skip it. 1 minute
VOWS (Optional-ish) As mentioned above, the Declaration of Intent is the legal vows of the ceremony. Some couples like to say additional vows that they personalize or that you write for them. 2 minutes
BLESSING OF THE RINGS (Optional) You can say a few words about the rings, or you can just ask for the rings, traditionally from the best man. 30 seconds
EXCHANGE OF RINGS 1 minute
UNITY CEREMONY (Optional) 2 minutes
BLESSING Final words to bring everything together for the couple. 30 seconds
PRONOUNCEMENT I generally say, "Through the statement of your vows and exchange of rings before your friends and family assembled and by the authority given me by the State of Minnesota, I now pronounce you...." I get goosebumps every single time I get to say this, you guys. 30 seconds
KISS 3 seconds. Your grandmother is watching, for goodness sake.
PRESENTATION OF THE COUPLE 30 seconds
RECESSIONAL Let the couple take their aisle walk, get the wedding attendants on their way and you'll be the last to exit. I usually do not walk back down the aisle if I can avoid it as I want to keep the focus on the couple as much as possible.
When you break it down in to manageable moments, it all seems ridiculously simple, right? You'll do great. Just don't forget to include the unity ceremony.