Who Should Officiate Your Wedding: Family Member or Professional Officiant?

One of my colleagues recently asked me this question:

“Many of my couples ask me how can a wedding officiant who has only met them once make their wedding personal vs. having a family member do the ceremony who has known them their whole lives? What would you say are the pros and cons?”

Choose an officiant wisely!

Choose your officiant wisely!

Let me begin by saying that having a family member officiate your wedding ceremony is a lovely idea.  Weddings are all about bringing family members and friends together to enjoy a personal moment in a couple’s life.  So it would make sense to invite a family member to tie it all together. Having a family member speak about the couple is something that cannot be duplicated by an officiant.  Many of the guests will know this speaker personally and will naturally look forward to hearing him/her share the couple’s story.  Those are some of the pros.

Here are some of the cons:

  1. What if the family member gets cold feet?  Public speaking isn’t for everyone.  If a family member doesn’t have experience with speaking in front of 150-200 people, chances are they are going to be extremely nervous and might freak out at the last minute.  Make sure your family member is really comfortable with public speaking.
  2. What if the family member has a conflict with the couple’s beliefs?  The couple could want a nondenominational ceremony and the family member could have strong religious beliefs and want to incorporate something to that affect.  Make sure your family member is in agreement with performing a wedding ceremony that complements your religious beliefs.
  3. What if the family member has a conflict that day and can’t make it?  While this day is one of the most important days in a couple’s life, not everyone feels the same way – unfortunately, this includes family members.  This person could be travelling from across the country and decide at the last minute that they cannot afford the trip.  Confirm with your family member at least 4 weeks and then again in 2 weeks that they are still on board.
  4. What if the family member just flakes out?  (I don’t mean to sound pessimistic but I have received many calls from brides frantic because their family member changed their mind at the last minute.)  Families…what can I say?  It happens.
  5. Last but not least, what about the paperwork?  Does your family member understand how to fill out the marriage license, including obtaining witnesses?  Do they know little details such as the fact that the courthouse requests that the marriage certificate be filled out in black ink?  Make sure to go over the wedding packet prior to the ceremony.  Call the courthouse with questions if necessary.

Now let’s take a look at the more commonly used option:  hiring a professionally trained, licensed and ordained minister.  I cannot speak for other officiants, but here are some of the pros of working with me:

  1. The first thing you are going to get when you hire me is a prompt reply to your inquiry.  I pride myself on responding to inquiries usually within one hour.  By the time I have received your contact information that you have filled out via my website, I already have 11 pieces of information about you.  This allows me to begin building an outline of what it is you and your fiancé are searching for in an officiant.
  2. Next I will confirm my availability via e-mail and advise you about how to proceed – a quick phone chat is usually the next step where we set up a free one-hour consultation.
  3.  At the consultation the very first thing I will ask you about is “your story”: how and where you met; how long you have been together; the proposal, etc.  Next we will talk about your vision for your ceremony.  Do you want a non-denominational ceremony; do you want me to read something from the bible; do you want a short ceremony or a long ceremony?    I will then go over all the paperwork involved before, during and after the ceremony: the marriage application; whether you are taking your husband’s last name and the process of obtaining a certified copy so that you can legally change your name; filling out the actual paperwork at the ceremony (witness requirements), etc.
  4. The other element to my consultations is that I not only cover the ceremony portion of the wedding, but I also have a wealth of information about local vendors.  Therefore, if you have any missing links for your wedding, i.e. photographer, caterer, etc. I can refer you to someone I know and trust.
  5. Lastly, I will make myself available before, during and after the ceremony by phone, e-mail, or Skype.  When you hire me you get someone who is committed from beginning to end.  There really is no end to our relationship actually.  I am still in contact with many of my couples as they have their first anniversary or celebrate the birth of their first child.
Wedding packet

Making it Legal!

I can’t really think of any cons.  I guarantee that I will be there and while I do have a caveat in my contract that clearly states that if I get hurt and can’t make it, I have six back-up officiants that I work with all year long.  By the way, I have officiated hundreds of weddings and I have never missed one!

In summary, you do not want to – and shouldn’t have to stress out about your officiant.  Whether it’s a family member or a professional like me, you want to feel comfortable that you have chosen someone you can count on.  You want someone who is knowledgeable about the ceremony process before, during and after the ceremony.  So take the time to make the decision of whether you want Uncle Joe or a licensed and ordained minister who has officiated hundreds of weddings and has all the answers you need to enjoy a seamless ceremony experience!

Please feel free to share your officiant experience in the comment section below!

2 replies
  1. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    This really is a very good post about the pro’s and con’s of who to have officiate your wedding day. Some of my favorite weddings have been officiated by family members or close friends, but it’s always great to stop and think over these questions before you pick that person. Maybe there isn’t anyone who fits the bill, or you just want everyone to sit back and enjoy your wedding day by leaving it to the pro’s. Both options can be amazing!

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