Having a Friend Officiate

I’ve recently noticed that more and more brides and grooms are asking friends or family members to officiate at their weddings.

Many states will grant a one-day license that allows anyone to perform the ceremony. When I first heard about it my initial thought was “Wow, what a neat idea.” Now that I’ve attended several of these weddings, I’m not so sure. Here’s what I’ve learned from my front row seat while leading our string quartet.

Some officiants turned out to be excellent. In most cases, they were already comfortable speaking in front of large groups. They spoke slowly and loudly so everyone could hear. They coordinated with me before we started playing and had good eye contact to cue the music during the ceremony. These were very enjoyable and memorable events. But some of these weddings were memorable for other reasons, mostly noticeable missteps that were, in my opinion, the result of mixing good intentions with a lack of experience.

A bride and groom’s friends and families want their wedding day to be very special and are anxious to help make that happen. But I suspect they sometimes agree to officiate without knowing exactly what’s involved. Too busy to immerse themselves into the minutia and logistics of staging the ceremony, or simply unaware that their role requires that they do more than just read from a script, these are the folks who don’t return my phone calls the week before the wedding, who rush through the ceremony because of nerves, and who sometimes make the bridal couple nervous too.

Some try to inject a little humor into the occasion with a poorly chosen comment that turns out to be embarrassing to the bride or groom. Sometimes the officiant-for-a-day speaks so softly that only the bridal couple can hear what’s being said. This is not only frustrating for everyone in the audience, but a soft-spoken officiant creates a special problem for your musicians who want to ensure that the special music for a unity candle lighting or after readings and vows flows seamlessly with the spoken part of the ceremony.

This is your once in a lifetime day. Be sure the person you choose to officiate is up to the job. If you have any doubts, it’s always safer to use a professional who has the experience gleaned from officiating at hundreds of weddings to make sure that the only hitch at your ceremony is the one between the bride and the groom.

Happy string quartet planning.

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