The Dos and Don'ts of Having a Family Friend as Your Officiant

Considering asking a friend or family member to serve as your officiant? This personal touch comes wth its own set of pros and cons. Here, experts share their wisdom.

wedding ceremony
Photo: Janet Moscarello via Cape Cod Celebrations

DON'T have a family friend officiate for larger weddings. "Weddings are fun but they are also a serious business. For smaller events (up to 50 people) go for it. For a higher count, we’d recommend skipping a family friend as an officiant, since you need to be able to control people, organize the crowd and moment, and prioritize efficiency and flow — it can be stressful for the friend that’s officiating to handle all of this with a larger guest count, which adds unnecessary stress to the day as a whole." —Ariel Becker, Executive Planner, Becker and The Co.

DO ask someone that will take it seriously! "This is a HUGE role and requires a lot of love and effort! Whatever they decide to put into your ceremony will be read aloud in front of all of your friends and family, and it better be good! If you can't find the right fit, hire a professional." —Jamie, Cape Cod Celebrations

DON'T assume they know how to create a wedding ceremony. "Work closely with your friend or family officiant to help them draft a comprehensive and personal ceremony for your wedding day. Share fun stories with them about you and your betrothed that can be woven into the narrative of your ceremony. It's important to play a strong role in how the ceremony is drafted and to help guide them through your vision and priorities for this important milestone." —Mandy Connor, Owner, Hummingbird Events & Design

DON'T wait until the last minute to ask someone! "Preparing a ceremony script takes time, so you want to be sure to ask someone in the first couple months of planning and at least by six months before your wedding. This will give them plenty of time to talk with you, get their creative juices flowing and pull together a beautiful ceremony." —Jamie, Cape Cod Celebrations

DO have someone proofread! "If you want the ceremony to be kept a surprise, have your planner or family member or friend proofread it before the wedding to catch any awkward moments or adjust the order of the service if needed." —Jamie, Cape Cod Celebrations

DON'T overlook legalities. "Don't overlook the legal aspects of your marriage. Ensure that your friend-officiant understands and complies with the legal requirements in your jurisdiction. Failing to do so can result in a non-binding marriage." —Jessica Evans, Lead Planner and Designer, First Class Events

DO express gratitude. "A family friend taking on the role of an officiant is a special gesture!" —Misty Damico, CEO & Founder Luxe Event Productions

wedding ceremony
Photo: Linds & Max via Hummingbird Events & Design

DON’T let them wing it. “If they've never constructed a ceremony before, provide a detailed timeline to your friend to ensure that creative milestones are being met. At least three months ahead of your wedding, you should have a rough outline identified and script written. Two and a half months out, have a meeting to go through everything top to bottom and insert any personal anecdotes that you and your SO would like highlighted. One month out, share the run of show with your wedding planner, and do another run through top-to-bottom. At this time, you should also identify the important pre- and post-ceremony announcements your officiant will be taking care of (Are we announcing that there is an unplugged ceremony? Where do guests go once the ceremony has concluded?) If you're having doubts, there are officiants that offer classes for folks that don't do this full-time. My favorite is Emily Sterling's of Rooted and Wild!" —Ashley Lachney, Owner of Alston Mayger Events

DO plan ahead and be on the same page. "We love the special touch that a family member or close friend brings as an officiant for our couples, but not every ceremony goes quite as smoothly as to be expected with a professional. Despite their certification or past experiences at weddings, we always recommend checking in with your officiant to confirm they understand their responsibilities both leading up to the wedding and on the big day. Will they be mailing in your marriage license after the event, do they need a script or documents printed out, and what announcements should their make before and/or after the ceremony? As planners we have seen hundreds of ceremonies, both good and bad, and have tons of resources to utilize for overall ceremony structure, unity celebrations, and even popular readings. We always recommend that couples consult with a wedding professional to ensure that the flow of the ceremony feels personal, but also cohesive .— we love those insides jokes Uncle Steve, but not everyone at the ceremony will want to sit through them for 20 minutes." —Ari Busch, Lead Planner and Operations Manager at Bridal Bliss

DON’T overload your officiant with responsibility. "While it's important to include personal touches, don't burden your officiant with too many responsibilities, such as coordinating the entire ceremony or acting as the event's primary host. Assign different roles to ensure a seamless experience." —Anastasia Shevchenko, Sheff Production Photography & Videography

DO pick someone you can trust. "If you are inviting a close friend or family member to officiate your wedding ceremony, make sure they are comfortable and equipped to take on this important role! If this person tends to get rowdy and inappropriate at celebrations or if they simply don't do well with public speaking, perhaps you reconsider their involvement and try to include them in another way." —Alexandra Denniston, Owner & Lead Planner, Eventlightenment Planning

wedding ceremony
Photo: Sheff Production Photography & Videography | Officiant: Dr. Esther Lopez

DON'T allow them to use an iPad or phone. "This will create a glare on their face in photos!" —Emily Coyne, Emily Coyne Events

DO have a script. "Having someone close officiating your ceremony helps a lot to ease the nerves as you will feel emotionally backed up. Tell your loved one to have a script and a backup copy always." —Cocó, Cynthia and Cristina, Vivid Occasions.

DON'T forget to plan for the unexpected. "Have a backup plan or someone else who can step in if your friend encounters an unexpected issue." —Misty Damico, CEO & Founder Luxe Event Productions