Wedding 101

Everything You Need to Know About the Different Types of Wedding Officiants

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Choosing your wedding officiant is a big decision; this person will play a central role in your ceremony and guide you through your vows, the most important part of the day! So who will help you say "I do"? Read on to learn about the four types of wedding officiants, and our tips for choosing the right one for your wedding. 

Religious wedding officiant. 

Many couples choose to be married in a religious ceremony by a religious leader, like a priest or rabbi. You can opt for a religious leader whom you've known for years, or select someone new at your venue of choice. Keep in mind... If you are planning a religious ceremony, talk to the house of worship/potential officiant before booking to find out if there are any restrictions you should know about. Some may require pre-marital counseling or inclusion of certain rituals, or may not allow you to write your own vows. 

Civil wedding officiant.

 If you just need to make things legal, a judge or justice of the peace (found via your local city clerk's office) can do the job. Other civil wedding officiants vary by state, and may include public notaries, retired judges, district court magistrates, or county clerks. While this might seem like an impersonal option, many civil officiants love performing weddings and find a way to connect with couples, even if they're just meeting for the first time. Keep in mind... If you are getting married abroad or by an officiant who is not legally authorized to perform marriage in your state, it may make sense to get married privately by a justice of the peace a few days prior to your wedding celebration. Contrary to popular belief, a ship captain is not authorized by his or her maritime license alone to perform legal marriages (though he or she may be authorized by virtue of other laws in a particular state).

Professional wedding officiant.

 If you want to have a ceremony that's not strictly religious in nature, a professional wedding officiant who caters to secular or spiritual weddings might be right for you. Most professional wedding officiants love weddings and bring loads of personality and grace to the big day. Keep in mind... If you're planning to write your entire ceremony from scratch, choose a professional officiant who has a lot of experience in your desired type of wedding; he or she will be able to provide past ceremony outlines/transcripts to inspire yours. Many professional wedding officiants can incorporate your religion(s) into your wedding even if you don't want an entirely religious ceremony. 

Friend or family member as officiant. 

Asking someone you know to get ordained and perform your ceremony has become popular in recent years, and it can be incredibly meaningful to have someone you care about perform such a special ritual. (We once saw a wedding where the bride and groom's fathers officiated the ceremony together; cue the sobs!) Keep in mind... If you want to have a friend or family member ordained for your wedding, do your homework! Not all states recognize ministers who were ordained online for the sole purpose of performing a marriage. 
Taylor Fordham
About The Author
Creative in New York City.
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