A few weeks ago, I officiated the wedding of some dear friends of mine, and I absolutely killed it. I mean, I was batting 1000, firing on all cylinders, I left the wedding attendees speechless. Now you’re probably thinking, “Russell, do you think I’d be good at officiating a wedding?” And to that I say: Of course you’d be good at it. I have full faith in you. But being an officiant isn’t a job to take lightly. Essentially, you’re the MC of the wedding ceremony. You need to have the right balance of funny and sincere. This is your friend’s big day, and you must make it special for them. Lucky for you, I’m here to guide you on your officiant journey. Just follow these steps, and you’ll have every attendee weeping in their seats.
Step 1 – Learn the Needs of the Bride and Groom: For example, when my friends asked me to officiate, I asked them if I needed to get ordained, how many bits could I do, if I needed to get a special outfit, etc. Chances are that the happy couple will have very specific plans for you in terms of all these things, so this step is usually the easiest. Listen to the couple carefully and take notes. They asked you to do this because they know you can make their day special. So put in an effort.
Step 2 – If They Want You to Get Ordained, Then Do That: For some reason the government will only recognize a couple as “married” if a person of faith demands that they kiss in a room full of people. Now, in my case, I was able to skip this step. My friends had a courthouse ceremony so their actual wedding could be a big blowout. However, if your couple wants you to get ordained, that’s still easy. You don’t have to go to seminary or anything. You just have to find an online ordainment retailer. And there are a lot of them. A friend of mine is ordained by a Big Lebowski themed church, and that’s perfectly legal. So, if your couple is into it, make it fun! Get ordained as a Jedi. Live a little!
Step 3 – Write Your Speech: This step separates the pups from the dogs. As I said earlier, you want a mix of funny and sincere. Remember, you’re not doing your tight five for Jimmy Kimmel, but you’re also not in a walk to remember. I took the route of incorporating some of the instructions I was given into a fun opening. I was told not to make the groom’s mom cry, even though she started crying before the ceremony began, and I was told I couldn’t use I Corinthians verse 13. This got laughs and let me transition smoothly into the actual religious text they wanted me to recite. Whether you go religious or not, you need a theme for the speech. One that has to do with both the bride and the groom. You’ll know you’ve done a good job if fun stories or quirks about the couple sprout up organically in the text. Also, don’t do jokes about how they’ll eventually hate each other. You don’t want that energy out there.
Step 4 – Receive Notes: Some couples really want your officiant speech to be a surprise. I think that’s a bad idea. What if they hate it? They don’t get a do over. So strongly suggest they read what you wrote. They might have notes, that you can take gracefully, to make the ceremony have the feel they’re going for. Remember, it’s their day. Do what they ask you to do.
Step 5 – Practice: Come on. Don’t be lazy.
Step 6 – Do the Ceremony: You got ordained (maybe), you wrote the speech, now it’s time to do the thing. Just relax and have fun. Your friends are happy you’re doing this for them, so don’t worry too much and go with the flow. If you flub a word or forget a part, don’t stress about it. If the couple enjoys themselves, and are married by the end of it, you did your job. And after you’re done, you can hit up the open bar.
Officiating a wedding can seem like a big job. However, if your friends are asking you to do it, it’s because they know you’d be good at it. They want their wedding to be a celebration and they want to you to get the party started. If you take the job seriously, love your friends, and have plenty of stories to share, you’ll knock this out of the park. So put on your Sunday clothes (make sure to get them altered so you look your very best), work on projecting your voice, and have fun being an important part of a beautiful event in your friend’s lives.