Here’s something we are seeing more and more: couples getting married by a friend who has recently been “ordained” on-line. I actually mentioned this in a blog a few years ago and a professional officiant called our office none too pleased. Since then I’ve seen this phenomenon more and more so I thought it was finally time to devote a whole blog to it. If you are considering going this route for your ceremony, here are the pros and cons.
Cons: Your friend has no experience. Your ceremony will likely be a little (or even a lot) disorganized and not run as smoothly as it would if you hired a professional. I’ve seen a few ceremonies now with friends at the helm that were a bit out of sorts – bridal party members not knowing where to go or stand and readers not knowing when they should get up for their reading. Maybe I’m the only one who noticed since I see about 30 wedding ceremonies a year so I know what to look for. But there’s no doubt that a professional with years of experience will conduct a much smoother ceremony than a person who is doing this for the first (or even second or third) time. The cliche that there is no substitute for experience is certainly true and applicable in this case. A professional will often conduct a rehearsal beforehand or at the very least give everyone clear instructions on where to go, where to stand and when to move etc. And if something happens during the ceremony that isn’t quite right, a seasoned veteran can get the program back on track instantly.
Another con is the planning of your ceremony. It’s doubtful your friend will have everything laid out for you so you can select readings or wedding vows from a list of the tried-and-true. And sure Mother Google can be a great help here but depending on how involved your friend is a lot of that research will probably fall to you. And I’ve never once heard a bride and groom who were planning their big day say, “I just wish we had more things to do.”
Pros: The biggest advantage a friend or family member has when serving as your officiant is he or she knows you. There is a level of personalization that will likely not happen with a professional officiant you’ve hired. Even if that professional officiant does an in-depth interview with you (like so many do) and endeavors to get to know you and personalize your ceremony, that person could never know you like your college roommate or your cousin. I’ve seen a few ceremonies where the “friend/officiant” brings the house down with an inside joke or brings a tear to everyone’s eyes with a beautiful reference that only they would know.
The comfort level during the ceremony of knowing your officiant personally is another “pro.”
I’ve been married twice now. The first time I hired a professional officiant and while it was someone I had worked with numerous times I still didn’t know him that well. The second time I asked our good friend Randy Bartlett to officiate. I can tell you I felt much more comfortable standing in front of my family and friends with a longtime friend as my officiant than I had the first time around (and his inside jokes about my pathetic Mets broke the ice and got everyone laughing). The ceremony can be a nervous time so every friendly face helps.
Ultimately, like everything at your wedding, this decision is entirely up to you. But if you are not getting married in a church or temple and you have a friend who is comfortable with public speaking and who has a good sense of humor it is something you might consider, especially if you’re the type of couple that won’t stress or fret if your ceremony isn’t pitch perfect. Of course, if you’d rather go with a “professional officiant” we’d be happy to recommend someone that we’ve worked with many times through the years (like Father John Michael Sullivan) or you might consider a couple of our DJs who have been ordained and can serve as your officiant and MC (like I’ve done on a number of occasions already). Best of luck making this important decision. We hope this blog helps.