How to officiate a wedding
Many friends who’ve gotten ordained online have asked me how to officiate a wedding and I lead them through my process.
The main elements of a contemporary ceremony are:
1) Welcoming Guests (thank everyone for coming and let them know how important they are)
2) Opening Commentary (speak to the couple about their relationship and marriage)
3) Reading #1 (can come from anywhere)
4) Imagery (unity candle, blending sand, letter box, champagne toast, etc)
5) Reading #2
6) Exchange of Vows (only around 10-15% of couples write their own)
7) Exchange of Rings (find a tradition that’s meaningful to the couple)
8) Reading #3
9) Pronouncement (send them off smiling!)
There’s no right or wrong way to officiate a modern wedding ceremony. I’ve found this outline to work well and naturally flow from one part of the ceremony into the next. You’ll find other formats online, but this one has worked well for me for almost ten years. Couples are welcome to add or remove readings to play with their ceremonies length, and sometimes have more than one piece of imagery. Interfaith Jewish and Christian couples often light the unity candle and also stomp the glass at the very end of their ceremony. I had one couple who jumped the broom (African tradition) and then both stomped on a glass as their guests yelled, “Mozel Tov!” It was great fun.
Where does one find the material to fill each part of the above outline? My process is stress-free and fun. You can find out more about it here.
How to officiate a wedding? If the ceremony is not a religious ritual, I’m glad to say there’s no right or wrong way. Weddings don’t have to be somber or follow any ancient format. If the couple wants their dog to escort their rings down the aisle, let them. If they’d like one of their grandpas to be their flower girl, awesome! People love it and it makes for great photos. If they’d like to have friends or family members come up to read during their ceremony, that’s okay too.
My experience has taught me that the fewer rules I have as an officiant, the more fun couples have. I dressed up as Julius Cesar and wore a laurel and toga for one wedding and have been asked to dress like Elvis. You got it! Those are amazing life experiences to put on a resume and life is short so I try not to take myself too seriously. I encourage you to do the same. Have fun. Very few people get to officiate a wedding so enjoy it. I do it for a living because it’s so rewarding. Where else can someone consistently get ‘high fives’ and be told how great they are each day at work? Doing a great job is a sober high for me and I truly hope you have the same experience.
How to officiate a wedding
Matt T. Nathanson, 1st Officiant
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