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What You Need to Do to Have a Friend Officiate Your Wedding

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

Some couples choose to have a close friend or family member become ordained in order to officiate the ceremony. Find out what you need to know if you're planning on going this direction.

real wedding photo outdoor wedding klentner ranch tessa lyn events modern tuscan style wedding ceremony arch white flowers greenery groom in burgundy tuxedo
Photo: M. Hart Photography

Wedding receptions have seen an influx of creativity and personalization in the past couple of decades, and wedding ceremonies have seen a personal touch as well. Some personalize their wedding ceremony by writing their own vows or incorporating a unique unity ritual, while other couples – 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 wedding 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; From Real Wedding: Outdoor Jewish Ceremony & Luxe Reception at Vibiana in Downtown LA

Make Sure It's Allowed

First things first, you need to look up the 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 need to register in person. Before asking your friend to officiate, be clear on the rules in your state.

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. This could be a good work-around!

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. Don't leave all of the research to your friend or family member!

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 or may not want the responsibility.

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 Marriage License

Your officiant 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, find out what you need to know about eloping, and get tips for planning an intercultural wedding

Opening photo by M. Hart Photography; Planning and Design by Tessa Lyn Events. See the full real wedding here: Outdoor "Modern Tuscan" Wedding at a Private Ranch in California