The task at hand may at first seem a little overwhelming and that is why Tahoe-local officiant Meredith Richmond is here to help. Meredith has performed ceremonies in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Hawaii and she customizes ceremonies for spiritual, interfaith/non-denominational, religious, and same-sex marriages as well as for commitment ceremonies. Meredith also offers services for various wedding rituals and traditions in addition to ceremonies for vow renewals, baby blessings, baby naming, and ceremonies honoring the divine goddess for pre-wedding celebrations. She is our guest blogger today and you can find out more about her work and informative tips on her website.
Since becoming a professional officiant I have had the pleasure of attending many weddings as a guest. While I've observed some folks take on the officiant role as "a one time gig," I have come away with some tips to share on performing a wedding ceremony. The following tips are items to keep in mind; I recommend you write down what you feel seems to flow with your style and go over the details in the rehearsal. That will help you remember on the wedding day!
Performing the Ceremony
- Mic: if the ceremony is outside with more than 35 guests, I recommend that you have an amplified ceremony. The best situation is for the officiant to have a lapel mic and then have one hand-held mic available. The hand-held mic is for the couple to use when they say their vows and if there is a guest offering a reading during the ceremony.
- Digital and hard copy: I use a tablet to read the ceremony, it works well especially if there is wind and you don't need to turn pages. I also always bring a printed copy in a black folder. Ask the couple to send you their vows as well so you can have a printed version available - just in case they forget to bring their copy (it happens!).
- The rings: on the morning of the ceremony, know who is responsible for bringing the rings to the ceremony. Then, 30 minutes before the ceremony, check with that person to ensure that they have the rings for the ceremony.
- Marriage license: on the day of ceremony, receive the marriage license from the couple and keep it with you to sign after the ceremony. This helps prevent anyone needing to hustle around and locate it after the ceremony when everyone is ready to party.
- Starting the ceremony: Arrive to the altar about 5 minutes before the ceremony start time. Your presence at the altar will set the tone that it's almost "go time" and the guests will begin to take their seats and button up. As they get settled in, introduce yourself, your name and your connection to the couple. Also mention how fortunate you feel to be the one to officiate the ceremony for the wonderful couple.
- Unplugged announcement: after your introduction, remind guests to turn their phones to silent. If the couple requests an unplugged ceremony, ask guests to refrain from taking any photos/videos and leave that to the professionals.
- Bride's entrance: ask guests to please stand when the bride approaches the aisle. You will then ask for everyone to take their seat once the bride has arrived to the altar and settles in.
- Giving away the bride: before the ceremony, ask the couple if they want "giving away the bride" to be traditional. This is when the bride is escorted by her father, mother, or both and the question is asked "Who gives this woman to marry this man?" The response is, "I do," "her mother and I do," or "her family and I do".
More than half of my weddings have a nonverbal exchange with just music. The exchange looks like this:
- the bride arrives to the front with her escort
- her fiancee steps forward to receive her
- her fiancee hugs the person who accompanied her
- the bride then hugs her escort
- the couple continues forward and take their place in front of the officiant
- the bride's escort moves off and takes his/her seat.
All this happens seamlessly while the processional music plays, and the music fades out when the couple are in their place in front of the officiant. Then, we start our officiant speech.
- Vows: if the couple says their own vows, give them space and step aside from the alter. You can stand next to the maid of honor or best man. This provides a more intimate moment for the couple and also allows for some photos of the ceremony without having you in all of the pictures.
- The Kiss: when you pronounce the couple as married, move aside as you say "you may now kiss the bride!'" or "celebrate with a kiss!"
- Bouquet hand off: sometimes the bride hands off the bouquet during the ceremony. If so, help her remember to have it back in her hands after the kiss and before she leaves the altar.
- Processional: ask guests to stand in celebration right before the couple exits the aisle.
Still need more tips or a bit worried about preforming on the big day? Meredith Richmond offers complete consultations for officiant coaching, including assistance with writing the ceremony script, guidance for obtaining your ordination and the marriage license, leading the rehearsal, and planning the ceremony. You can get to her website here for more information.