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Repeat After Me: Becoming A Wedding Officiant

By Dakota Parks for Pensacola Magazine

Perhaps the two phrases associated with every rom-com marriage scene or romance movie are “repeat after me” and “you may now kiss the bride!” While the focus is always on the gorgeous couple being wed, the wedding officiant standing between them is the conductor of ceremony—the elocutionist of memorable phrases. For many wedding planners booking the minister or officiant is right at the top of the list along with venue and date. Sometimes, however, it slips through the cracks.


When my sister struggled to find an officiant on short notice to ordain her beach wedding during a busy weekend in October 2015, I did what any sister would do: I Googled how to ordain a wedding. Ten minutes later, I became an ordained minister and began writing a custom wedding service.


The average couple spends between $200-450 on a wedding officiant, though the U.S. national average is $300. Having a close friend or family member become an ordained minister, or wedding officiant is not only cost-effective, but it also allows for extremely personal and memorable wedding services. It is easier than ever to become a wedding officiant. Many websites and churches offer a free registration within seconds.


However, officiating a wedding is not always an easy task. The officiant is responsible for writing or borrowing a wedding script, attending rehearsals, signing the marriage documents, and most importantly, speaking slowly and fluently in front of a large crowd. Couples are often emotional and nervous during their service, so the officiant must be able to speak slowly and repeat themselves if needed—especially during the “repeat after me” moments.


Whether the service is traditional, religious, non-religious or downright avant-garde, the service is the foundation of any wedding: the moment a couple is wed. Once someone has gone through the quick online process to become an officiant, it is up to them to plan and orchestrate the service. Officiants work with the couple to decide what type of service they would prefer, what readings or passages they would like and if they have any unity ceremonies or family traditions during the service.


Sometimes officiants even assist the couples in writing their wedding vows. Services all have a general layout to them: The processional, words of welcome/introduction, readings, exchange of vows, exchange of rings, unity ceremony, the kiss and final blessings/readings/declaration of marriage. The order of unity ceremonies and readings always vary slightly.


There are thousands of sample wedding service scripts available online; however, most officiants use templates to write their own service. Services become very personal for couples when officiants use the introduction to tell the attendants about the couple’s history together or hand select passages or readings that remind them of the couple.


The most important things to remember for officiating a wedding are to communicate with the couple, practice reading the service and show up on time to the rehearsal and wedding. Hiccups are bound to happen during an officiant’s first few weddings, but stumbling over a word is quickly forgotten in lieu of the elegant clothing, beautiful venues and decorations.


DO’S AND DON’TS FOR OFFICIANTS

  • Do know the wedding laws for the state you are officiating the wedding in: every state and every county is different. Check the county websites for laws and ensure your ordained ministry company is verified in the state.

  • Do visit the wedding venue and ensure you have everything you need to perform a ceremony: microphones and speakers are a must, especially at a beach wedding or large venue hall. Do consult with your couple on clothing attire and rehearsal.

  • Do print extra copies of your wedding service and practice reading it.

  • Don’t use a quiet or monotone voice during the service.

  • Don’t forget to smile! The officiant will be in the background of every photo of the couple.

  • Don’t assume a poem, piece of literature, or religious text is fitting for every couple. Ensure the script is approved by the couple.

  • Don’t forget to bring a pen with you to sign the marriage license or wedding certificate before the newlyweds embark on their honeymoons.

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