Find out what's involved with having your pal head the service.
Credit: Ryan Ray

If you'd prefer to have a family member or friend perform your marriage ceremony instead of asking a traditional clergy member, judge, or justice of the peace, you're not alone. More and more weddings are being officiated by someone close to the bride and groom who got deputized just for the occasion. While it's simple, in most cases, to be deputized, there are a few critical questions you need the answers to before proceeding. Before tapping a friend to officiate your wedding, make sure you understand everything you need to know.

Who would make a good officiant?

The best person would be someone who is at least 18-years-old, knows you and your groom well, and can comfortably speak about your relationship and future. Opt for a family member or friend who can deliver a heartfelt speech and touch the crowd rather than the comedian who keeps everyone in stitches but doesn't say much worth remembering.

How does my friend get deputized?

Go online and research the type of ministry you're interested in-many are nondenominational and interfaith while others are religion-based. Some groups, like the American Fellowship Church, ask applicants to sign a statement of beliefs and code of ethics before being ordained. Some organizations just have you fill out a form while others require training in how to conduct a wedding ceremony.

Do all states recognize an online minister as legally authorized to perform weddings?

Laws vary from state to state. While most states recognize someone who's been ordained by established groups like the Universal Life Church, others may not. Check with your city or county clerk's office for requirements in the town where you're applying for a license.

Can he or she sign the marriage license?

Yes. An ordained online officiant who can legally perform a marriage ceremony is authorized to sign the marriage license. Before he or she officiates, he or she should look over the license to make sure everything is correct. When it's completed, the license should be sent to the marriage license bureau or other government issuer.

How much do they charge?

The ordination is usually free, though if you want a high-quality printed license or a business card that shows you're ordained, some ministries charge a small fee.

How long is the license good for?

With some groups, the deputized person is ordained for life; with others, it's for a specific amount of time. Check policies with any organization you're considering.

Does my friend have a say in the ceremony's design?

Not really, though you wouldn't want him or her leading a service he or she's uncomfortable with. Discuss the text of the wedding-any readings, songs, poems, or prayers-you're considering. Most times, the friend's only job is to perform the ceremony, but if yours wants to help you craft the service, consider his or her opinions. Run through the ceremony together before the rehearsal, paying careful attention to the order and pacing of the proceedings and where each participant should stand. Since this is your friend's first time as an officiant, he or she's got to learn all the little things that the job entails!


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