Is It Wise To Ask a Friend or Relative to Perform Your Wedding Ceremony?

In The New York Times and other media I have read about marriages performed by a friend or relative of the bride and groom. Rather than retain a professional officiant to perform a wedding ceremony, some couples decide that it’s more chic to give an inexperienced person the honor. However, there is an old adage, “You get what you pay for!”

           After a few decades of performing weddings in a professional capacity, I have my own perspective on this trend. Some may feel my qualifications give me a slanted viewpoint, but the reality is that I have a unique vantage point for assessing the risks involved in having a friend or relative perform the most meaningful ceremony two people in love will share in their lifetime.

I ask married friends if they still keep in touch with the bridesmaids and groomsmen in their wedding party.  It’s fascinating: Most admit that they do not have contact with any of their wedding party. The best man and the maid of honor, once closest friends or relatives, just seem to have drifted away.  Unless related, many do not keep in touch at all.

This revelation led me to the question: Is it wise to have a friend or relative solemnize a wedding ceremony? I’ve concluded that it’s best to engage a traditional Wedding Officiant, Minister, Rabbi or Priest.  A qualified person lends dignity to a wedding and doesn’t have personal ties to either the bride or groom. This is especially important if the unthinkable happens down the road and the marriage ends in divorce. It’s just “too close for comfort” to have a friend or relative charged with the responsibility of trying to be the “one-wedding wonder” facilitated by a downloaded ceremony from cyberspace. There may be a few benefits, but it can also cause a bride and groom unnecessary stress when they are planning their wedding.

The following is a summary of questions every couple contemplating the idea of asking a friend or relative to officiate will want to consider.

 1.        Does the person know what must be included in a wedding ceremony to make it legal? Will the person handle the marriage license properly and legally? Will the marriage bond be questionable if in the future a divorce is considered?

2.         Will the person lack confidence in the role of a one-wedding minister and back out at the last minute? Will you have a backup?

3.         Will the person feel undue pressure to perform? Might the person get emotional, start to cry or even have difficulty performing the ceremony? Would the person be happier simply watching, along with everyone else?

4.         Will the person use the microphone properly? Will the person talk too fast? too low? too loud? too monotone? Will the person’s voice quiver? Does the person have an accent? Will the person get confused, leave something out or make mistakes? In sum, is the person an experienced public speaker.

5.         Will the person carry all out the duties of a marriage officiant? If not, who will? Will the person instruct the maid of honor, best man, father of the bride and others as to their roles? Will the person know how to handle readings or candlelighting, breaking the glass and other ceremonies? Will the person work well with the photographers and videographers? Will the person know to queue the musician(s) or DJ? Is the person aware of any of the taboos related to to religious or cultural elements of a wedding?

6.         Will the wedding lack dignity? Will the person drink alcohol or use drugs before performing the ceremony? Might the person laugh, joke around or act inappropriately? Will person offer impromptu remarks? Will the person upstage the bride or groom, best man or maid/matron of honor, parents or others in vital roles? Will the person take over and dictate the content and flow of the ceremony?

7.          Will the bride and groom have hurt the feelings of others who were not asked to officiate? Does the person have a negative relationship with certain guest(s)? Would the person be better at filling a more appropriate role in the wedding such as reading a special verse, poem or prayer?

8.          Will the person be capable of handling unforeseen circumstances? For example, suppose the flower girl cries and wonders off, the best man drops the wedding ring, a service dog is the ring bearer, the bride faints, the groom is inebriated, a photographer becomes intrusive, the wedding license is missing, a last-minute change to the ceremony is requested, a guest falls in the aisle or one of a million or more other unplanned possibilities occurs?

9.   How will the caterer react to the arrival of an inexperienced officiant? Venue managers don’t want to have to “hold the hand” of an inexperienced officiant.  They expect to deal with professionals who know what to do.

10. Lastly, and most importantly, will the person be able to help the bride and groom craft the perfect ceremony for their special day? Is the person close enough to the couple to have a deep conversation with them about their spiritual or religious traditions and practices and how to translate those traditions into the ceremony of their dreams? Is the guest officiant versed in how to perform an interfaith ceremony if one is needed?

 There are few benefits to having an inexperienced friend or relative perform the marriage instead of a professional. You may enjoy a savings but only if you do not give the person a gift for their time and effort. A savings might mean nicer favors or flowers, but the benefits are unlikely to be worth the burden and uncertainties that are created.

   My husband, Bill Corbett, and I have performed many weddings over the years. We treasure meeting and working with each couple to help make their wedding day truly special.  We are always honored to perform a wedding ceremony and, of course, happy to witness the married couple’s vows and first kiss. To learn more about us and our services, please see our website WeddingKissNY.com

                                                                                Ann V. Corbett, Marriage Officiant