Eight reasons why friends or family members shouldn’t officiate your wedding ceremony

Boho outdoor wedding by Pedro Bellido Photography

I totally get why having a friend or family member officiate your wedding ceremony may feel like an awesomely appropriate choice. I totally get it, the idea that someone who knows you well, who you have a close connection with, would make an ideal person to lead a meaningful wedding ceremony for you.

In fact in the wedding world right now, there is quite a trend at the moment to replace professional wedding suppliers and vendors with friends and family members. Replacing a professional photographer, with a friend with a nice camera, replacing a professional hair and make up artist with an aunt who loves all things hair and make up. Replacing a professional wedding officiant or celebrant, with a friend who’s a good public speaker.

As a wedding Celebrant I’ve seen the choice to choose a family member or friend to officiate a wedding ceremony play out in a number of different ways.

  • I have been there to pick up the pieces of some ceremonies when couples realised that their choice to have a friend do their ceremony was not going the way they had expected.
  • I’ve also been there for some couples who in the run up to their wedding ceremony, their chosen family member realised they’d bitten off more than they could chew and the responsibility of the occasion got too much for them.
  • I’ve also had a situation where I wrote a script for a couple who wanted a friend to officiate their ceremony, but after working with me on the script for a while, they decided to have me lead the ceremony instead because they saw what a professional could bring to the game over that of a friend.

So you see, this isn’t about being anti-friends and family leading wedding ceremonies, but it’s about bringing the realities to the fore and helping couples to make the right choices for their wedding ceremony. And I think that starts with how couples view their ceremony and understand its importance in the first place.

Garden Wedding ceremony with wedding celebrant
Photo by Anna Gazda Photography

So let’s look at some reasons why you shouldn’t ask friends and family members to officiate your wedding ceremony.

1.Friends and relatives may not be the right person for the job

I will say that there most definitely are people out there, (non professional wedding officiants and celebrants) who can do a good, if not excellent job of officiating a wedding ceremony for a friend or family member. But this person is quite rare.

The average wedding officiant and celebrant makes what they do look so effortless and easy, that most people are fooled into thinking that anyone can officiate a wedding ceremony, with zero experience or training.

Wedding officiants draw on a combination of skills, training and experiences to create the ceremony magic that they do, and choosing a friend who is confident and a good public speaker only represents a small fraction of all that is needed to create an amazing ceremony. And let me ask you, how can you choose the right person to officiate your ceremony, if you yourself don’t know what it is that officiants do to create, officiate and lead wedding ceremonies? Sometimes, friends and family members who you think might make a great person to officiate your ceremony, simply aren’t.

2. Officiating a ceremony is not an easy job

I would be a millionaire by now if I had a Euro for every person who thinks that a) officiating a ceremony is easy b) that anyone can do it and c) that all you do is stand and talk for thirty minutes. Gosh. I’d be drinking champagne whilst getting my toe nails painted, right now, if that were the case. It looks easy, because we celebrants make it look easy. Couples (who’ve never used a professional celebrant or officiant before) do not get to see the planning and the processes that go into creating a personalised wedding ceremony, so they don’t appreciate everything that happens to create that wedding ceremony magic. There is an art to creating a ceremony, which involves more than looking for inspiration on the internet.

For a wedding ceremony to be a personal celebration, serious work needs to be done. Stories needed to be shared, ideas need to flow, love needs to be given a home, and laughter needs to find its place. And this does not happen by fluke or with little preparation. This is why wedding officiants and celebrants do what they do, in the way that they do it. They translate the couple’s desires and turn them into a beautiful real-life wedding experience.

3. Friends might not take it seriously (enough)

I am sure that they are friends and relatives who will take their responsibility seriously, but not everyone will. The very nature of asking a friend to conduct a ceremony, might make them feel like you are taking a more relaxed and chilled outlook for your big day, and therefore are expecting a more relaxed and chilled approach to your ceremony. And sometimes with friends, because lines are blurred, they can often feel they can step into that no-go territory more than a professional would, as that’s what friends do, right? Friendship boundaries are far softer, just as they should be. But that might not be what you want for your ceremony, or it may lead to your ceremony not having the gravitas it deserves.

4. Wedding guests might not take it seriously

In choosing a friend or family member to lead your ceremony, you may inadvertently be sending out the wrong signal to your guests that the ceremony side of things is something that you’re not taking wholly seriously, because you’re putting a friend in charge of the proceedings, rather than a professional. Just maybe.

5. It’s a lot of pressure for non professionals

In case you hadn’t realised it is a big ask, to ask a friend or relative to officiate your wedding ceremony for you. I mean, I see friends freaking out when they have to do a reading for a ceremony, let alone leading an ENTIRE ceremony. At first, after the honour of being asked wears off, then comes the moment of truth, when the person you have asked finally gets to see all that they’ve committed to and this will be the moment where they have their eyes properly opened. And in my experience, it’s always later, rather than sooner, when relatives and friends start to feel the pressure and buckle under the weight of it.

6. It can strain relationships

The thing about having a friend or relative do anything for you, and this isn’t only just about leading a wedding ceremony, but anything in general, is that the service or job that is being carried out for you is being done by a loved one. If a friend writes a script that you don’t like, you have to tell your friend. If there is an issue with how they officiate the ceremony, you have to tell your friend. The friend/wedding vendor relationship can be a complex one, and one that you might not be willing to risk, by getting them to take on a professional job on your wedding day.

7. Friends may suffer an attack of nerves on the day

The coming together of your ceremony may go well in the planning stages but what about the ceremony delivery itself? Will your friend manage to overcome those nerves to deliver the ceremony in the way it deserves to be delivered? Have you seen a nervous reader at a wedding before? I have, plenty. Well, imagine a nervous friend leading an entire ceremony. Yup, not great. Professionals don’t get nervous, because erm, they’re professionals.

8. To save money

If one of your main reasons for why you want to have a relative or friend to officiate your wedding ceremony is to save money, ie spend no money, then think again. Having a professional carry out your wedding ceremony gives you a framework for your role as a paying client and your role as newly-weds to be. When there is no financial transaction for a service that you are having, especially on your wedding day, it puts your relationship in a vulnerable position. You have no framework for how your expectations can be managed, you have no framework for how problems are addressed. You have no framework for expressing what you want and getting EXACTLY what you want as a client and someone who is about to get married. And besides, would you not prefer your friend or family member to enjoy the day along with everyone else, rather than have them ‘work’ at your wedding?

Look back at point six. You cannot interact with a friend or relative in the same way that you would a professional because the framework isn’t there. The lack of a financial transaction means there is a complete lack of professional integrity, client-professional expectation and professional guidance. Are you going to pay friends and relatives for rehearsals? Are you going to pay your friends for their time in writing your script? When you want them to change your wedding script, will you pay the for that? How will you communicate negative ideas to loved ones? When the only transactions in a relationship are based on love and friendship, there is only so far these transactions can take you when it comes something as important as your wedding ceremony.

Boho outdoor wedding by Pedro Bellido Photography
Photo by Pedro Bellido Photography

Myths about professional wedding officiants and celebrants

I don’t know why but there are a lot of myths that surround what professional wedding officiants and celebrants do, or what they are like when it comes to creating a wedding ceremony. So I want to bust these two main myths right now, because I feel they can really lead couples down the wrong path when it comes to making their ceremony choices.

Myth 1 – professional wedding officiants and celebrants cannot create a truly personal wedding experience.

Some people feel that the only way a wedding ceremony can truly be a personal one, is if they have someone who is personal to them, a friend of family member to officiate the ceremony, and this simply is not the case! As a wedding celebrant myself and knowing as many celebrants and officiants that I do, I know we are all capable of creating magical ceremonies which are highly personal to the couple, and we do.

The processes we use and the way we work with couples ensure that their ceremony is a personal reflection of them. Many couples who choose a professional wedding officiant, choose people who they like, who they connect and bond with and who they feel can do their ceremony justice and this relationship soon develops in to a close relationship between client and wedding vendor.

I know may of my colleagues finish their ceremonies with the feeling of having helped friends to celebrate their marriage, as far removed from the idea of a cold client-vendor experience that you can get. Many of these relationships continue for years after the wedding day and we are always delighted to hear news from our past couples and see what they’re up to. But let’s also remember that it isn’t about the person who is leading the ceremony and their relationship to you, it’s about how they create your ceremony and bring it to life on the day.

Myth 2 – you cannot have the wedding ceremony that you want with a professional wedding officiant or celebrant.

This again, is completely untrue. There are couples who think that if they have a friend or family member officiate their ceremony, they will be able to completely control the process and effectively shape what they want for their ceremony. But this is what wedding officiants and celebrants also do. And this is why there are some many different types of wedding officiants and celebrants out there who have different styles and who can lead different types of ceremony celebrations which are created completely with your input, your insights, your wishes and your ideas. Wedding officiants will simply guide you and offer their advice and expertise for the best ways to bring your ceremony to life. They don’t create a ceremony for you, they create it with you and for you.

And funnily enough, just as I was finishing off this post, I spotted this feature on Brides Magazine which gives examples of people who regretted asking friends to conduct their wedding ceremony. More evidence that bad things can come from good intentions!

Remember, I’m not saying that friends and family members can’t do a good job when it comes to officiating a wedding ceremony, but I am saying you need to really think hard about what’s involved in putting a ceremony together and whether your loved ones are up to the job.

Are you planning on having a friend or family member lead your ceremony? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. I’ve also got an awesome directory of awesome wedding celebrants and officiants to connect with, so have a browse and find your perfect one there.

About the author

Natasha Johnson

Natasha Johnson is an experienced Wedding Celebrant, blogger and writer on all things related to weddings, in particular wedding ceremonies. Her mission is life is to encourage couples to see the importance of their wedding ceremony and to get married in just the way they want to. Make sure you catch her on the Engaged and Ready Wedding Podcast, here or on iTunes and Stitcher.

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