First things first:
It is perfectly legal and acceptable to have a friend or family member perform your wedding ceremony in Colorado (and most other states for that matter!).
This is a great way to add a personal touch to your ceremony––and cut some of your expenses while you’re at it. Wedding officiants generally cost a few hundred bucks, and you’re cousin will likely do it for free (if you ask nicely).
While this job is not something to take lightly, anyone who’s generally comfortable with public speaking should be able to handle it.
So, how do you do it?
Let’s start by breaking down what the job entails…
Performing vs. solemnizing
Anyone can be the person who stands up from and performs the wedding ceremony, but not everyone can sign the marriage license and “solemnize” the marriage. “Solemnize” is pretty much just a fancy word for “making the marriage legal,” and there are different requirements for this role depending on the state/country.
Most states require the person solemnizing the marriage to either be a judicial figure or to have an affiliation with a properly-accredited religious organization. Assuming the person you want to perform your ceremony isn’t a Justice of the Peace or an active Priest, getting “ordained” is their next best option.
I know getting “ordained” sounds intimidating, but it’s actually an easy process and can be done through a number of organizations online.
Once your friend meets the legal requirements to solemnize the marriage, the couple simply needs to go into their local Clerk and Recorders Office, apply for a marriage license, and have it with them the day of the wedding. After the ceremony, the couple and their officiant will fill out the license and file it with the state.
Again, the exact officiant requirements and license license filling process varies by state and county. If you have any questions, the government employee who issues the license is the expert—have them explain exactly what is required of the officiant and couple when it comes to filling it out.
Don’t Wanna Mess With Getting Ordained?
Have your friend perform the wedding ceremony, and have a legal officiant solemnize (sign) your license before or after the ceremony to make it legal.
The proper signing and filing of the wedding license are the only legal things that matters, and they do not need to be tied to the ceremony. Fly to Mars, have Elon Musk perform your ceremony, honeymoon on the moon for a month, come home, get a marriage license, and find an accredited individual to make it legal. Or––even easier––find an accredited officiant online, meet them at your local Starbucks, and have them sign your license before or after your ceremony. This individual is often called a “Justice of the Peace” and you can expect to pay him about $50.
The “script” is what the officiant will be reading during the wedding ceremony. I’m not going to tell you how to write a script, because there are already tons of resources online to help put together ceremonies of all styles and preferences. Such as this handy Wedding Script Generator.
However, before anyone starts writing the script, the officiant and couple should discuss the following questions:
How long will the ceremony to be?
I suggest 10 minutes for small/informal ceremonies and 20 minutes for regular ceremonies.
Should the ceremony be religious, or secular?
A “secular” ceremony does not involve religious elements, a “religious” ceremony… well obviously, it does.
Is the officiant allowed to make jokes?
Not recommended. Alright, fine… let him make ONE.
Will the couple be writing their own vows?
Will the be reading the vows, or repeating after the officiant?
Does the couple have anything specific in mind?
Unity candle? Mark Twain reading? A special song they want to play during the ceremony?
Once these questions are answered, you can create a script that accounts for all of your preferences.
Tips & Tricks for officiating like a pro
The script should be read and reread and reread. The officiant should know the exact length of the ceremony and be able to get through it without staring at the paper the entire time.
Get Out of the Way
After the couple is told to kiss, the officiant must step to the side for the photographer to get the perfect shot.
The officiant’s hands are easy, they hold the script (and possibly a microphone). The bride and groom’s are a bit more tricky. Once they get up front, I recommend that the bride holds her flowers, and the groom places his hands over each other in front of him—not in pockets! After the introduction, the bride should hand her bouquet to her made of honor, and join hands with the groom. It’s up to the officiant to direct this!
Wear Neutral Colors
The officiant may be the center of the show, but they’re not the center of attention. Think subtle colors like grays, whites, and blacks.
Number Your Pages/Notes
At some point before the ceremony, they will likely be dropped. And when they’re dropped, they will be out of order. But if the pages are numbered, no sweat.
Will the bride be walked down the aisle by her dad? If so, the officiant should ask something like: “Who presents this woman to be married to this man?” The father traditionally replies: “Her mother and I.”
“You May Be Seated”
This is the number one mistake made by first-time officiants! When the bride first appears to walk down the aisle, the officiant will ask everyone to stand. When the bride gets to the front, the officiant should ask everyone to be seated.
These are the little leather notepad holders that you can get at OfficeMax or Staples. If the officiant gets one and prints their script on pages that fit it, their life will be easier (and the ceremony photos will be better).
The officiant should know what the audio setup will be. If it’s a handheld microphone, are they able to still work their notes? Will they hand the mic to the groom/bride when they talk? Or hold it for them? My advice: if it’s possible for everyone to hear the officiant without a microphone, don’t use one. For smaller weddings, they often add unnecessary complications.
Wedding Officiant Coaching
Wanna make things easy?
I offer an over-the-phone coaching session for first-time officiants for $50.
Just shoot me an email MicroWeddings@Gmail.com.