• 03/01/2024

How to Officiate a Wedding in 5 Steps

A wedding officiante marries a bride and groom.

Revivalist is a reader-supported endeavor and our posts may contain affiliate links. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Has a friend, family member or random stranger asked you to officiate their wedding? Maybe think through that last option, but marrying a couple close to you is a rewarding experience. If you’ve never performed a wedding, it can seem daunting. Here is a guide for how to officiate a wedding in just five steps. 

1. Get Ordained

In order to legally perform a marriage ceremony, you must get ordained. There are various online programs that will certify you. Some areas will also let you go to a local government office for ordainment. 

Some programs allow you to fill out a form and will send you the certificate via email. Others require you to complete a training program prior to your ordination. If you need your certification sooner, try to choose an organization that doesn’t require training. Regardless, you should at least get the certificate 90 days prior to the ceremony. Some places will require a waiting period from your registration with the government and when you perform the ceremony. 

There are a few other things to consider. If you want the ordination to come from a religiously-affiliated organization, some offer options. Others are nondenominational or completely non religious. You should also consider if you want guidance on becoming a wedding officiant. It can be an intimidating experience and getting training if you have the time can help.  

Organizations that offer online ordainment include the following: 

  • Universal Life Church
  • American Marriage Ministries 
  • Wanderlust Bay Ministries
  • Christian Leaders Institute
  • First Nation Church
  • Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
  • The Church of Dudeism
  • Christian Harvest Church 
  • American Fellowship Church 
  • Church of the Open Road 
  • National Association 

Once you go through the process, you’re legally allowed to perform a marriage ceremony. 

2. Write the Ceremony 

The next step is to prepare the ceremony order. Religious ceremonies often have a standard order. However, a non traditional wedding can be popular for those who don’t choose to follow religious traditions. Meet with the couple to discuss what they want for the ceremony. They might have family customs or unique touches to add to the lineup. The betrothed will also help choose any special readings and music involved. 

One of the most important things to keep in mind for the ceremony is length. While it’s nice for the wedding to breathe, you don’t want it to feel like it drags. Most ceremonies last between 20 and 30 minutes. Work with the couple to determine what they feel is best for the event. Some ideas could be incorporated into different areas of the night. However, don’t pressure them to give up a portion they desire for that special moment. 

You’ll want to have multiple versions of the final ceremony order printed and ready for use on the day. You have an advantage by knowing the couple and what they may like or dislike but it is essential that you understand what will make the day stand out for them. 

If you feel stuck, there are many online templates that can provide you with a general framework. There are also many blogs, articles and videos with experts and other first-timers giving their tips and tricks to officiants. 

Once you have a draft, review it completely with the couple before the rehearsal to ensure it’s what they want. They get the final “OK.” After that, you don’t have to worry about whether they’ll like it or not. 

3. Keep Your Cool

It’s normal to feel jitters on the big day but it’s vital to remain calm and collected. You are the person in charge of the ceremony and set the tone for it. If you freak out, the couple or guests will likely follow your lead. 

There are many techniques you can use to reduce your stress level during the big day. Write down everything you need to say in a nice notebook or note cards that you can turn to if you forget what to say or do next. If you use index cards, number them in case you drop them. For any written or typed program, always ensure you have multiple copies so if one gets blown away or rained on, you have a backup. 

Breathe. There are many deep breathing techniques you can employ as you take your place at the altar. An easy technique you can use is diaphragmatic breathing, where you focus on breathing slowly and deeply until you feel your abdomen extend before gently releasing the breath. Another option is box breathing, where you try to breathe in at least four counts, hold in the air for the same amount of counts and release it for the same number. 

If last-second panic strikes, try to distract your senses, by sticking a strong mint or sour candy in your mouth. If you have a stand with a program you’re turning pages on, you can use your free hand to fidget with a small amount of putty or a soft “pop it” toy. 

While the ceremony is an important moment, remember that it’s also the shortest part of most weddings. If you stutter or drop a ring, most people will probably forget by the end of the reception. The only people who will likely see the wedding video are the spouses and a small mistake shouldn’t ruin the happiness of the day.

4. Move Out of the Way 

The order of ceremony is something that’s easily forgotten but photos last forever. You’re front and center during the ceremony but once you tell the couple to kiss, it’s best to move aside. 

The newlyweds will only have one picture of their first kiss as a married couple. Do you really want to be in it? Speak to the couple ahead of time about giving you a moment to step out of frame and let the photographer know that you intend to move out of the money shot. You don’t have to leap away from the ceremony. Just step a few feet to the side so some of the images can just be of them. 

5. Fill Out the Marriage License 

Your last official job as a wedding officiant is to sign their marriage license. It’s the couple’s responsibility to get and return a license from a local office. You’ll need to fill out and sign the license in front of the couple as well as any witnesses required by the state’s government. 

Congratulations! You’ve just successfully officiated a wedding. 

The Privilege of Officiating 

Not everyone gets to officiate a wedding in their lifetime and having a couple choose you to run such a special moment shows the love and respect they have for you. Enjoy every moment while keeping the day about the soon-to-be newlyweds and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

We would love to connect deeper with you!

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.