What You Need to Do to Have a Friend Officiate

Here's what you need to know if you're having a loved one perform your ceremony.

Wedding receptions have seen an influx of creativity and personalization in the past couple of decades, and ceremonies have seen a personal touch as well. Some do this by writing their own vows or incorporating a unique unity ritual, while others – especially those without a religious affiliation or in interfaith relationships – choose to have a close friend or family member become ordained in order to officiate the ceremony.

Some say that the television show Friends popularized this idea, as Joey (Matt LeBlanc) led the wedding of Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler (Matthew Perry), but regardless of the trend’s beginnings, it seems to be here to stay. While having a friend officiate can make for a lovely ceremony, there are some things everyone needs to know – both for the legal aspect and to make sure you aren’t taking your friend for granted. 

what you need to know to have your friend officiate your wedding
Photo by Mallory Dawn Photography; Planning & Design by Mindy Weiss Party Consultants; Venue: Vibiana

- Make sure it's allowed. First things first, you need to look up your local laws to see if you are able to have an officiant that was ordained on the Internet. In some locations, your friend also may have to register in person.
- Consider the courthouse. If your state makes it difficult to use a lay officiant, consider if you're willing to have a quick, legal marriage at city hall and then a ceremonial vow exchange on your wedding day.
- Help with research. Work together to find a website or organization that you, your future spouse, and your prospective officiant are all comfortable being associated with. 
- Ask in advance. Give plenty of notice when you ask your friend for the honor, as getting licensed can take time. You should ask about the same time you ask people to be members of your bridal party. Don’t put any pressure on them to say yes – remember that some people are very uncomfortable with public speaking.
- Cover the cost. Be sure to pay any fees your friend may incur while getting ordained. They are doing you an honor and a favor; it should inconvenience them as minimally as possible.
- Write the script. Decide whether your friend will be writing the ceremony themselves, if you and your future spouse will write it, or if the three of you will work on it together. Don’t forget to make sure the service covers all of your bases legally.
- Don't forget the license. They will need to complete your marriage license and send it in on time. Make sure you choose someone responsible enough to do this, or find out if it’s still legal if you send in the license yourself.
- Be thankful. Give a nice gift, at least comparable to what the bridal party receives. This is no easy task you’ve asked your friend to partake in, and it’s important to show your appreciation.
- Have a plan B. You should probably have a backup in place as well. If a professional officiant gets sick or is otherwise unable to attend, they likely have someone they can call to send in their stead. This is not the case for your friend or family member.

For more advice, learn how to write your own marriage vows, what you need to know about eloping, and tips for planning an intercultural wedding. 

Authored by: Emily Lasnier