A couple may simply prefer someone near and dear take on this role or might have a loved one begging them for the honor. Some couples place a low priority on the ceremony and want to focus on the celebration. That baffles some professional officiants. Yet despite the pride I take in my work, I do understand this perspective. Having a friend or family member officiate your wedding can indeed save money or be particularly meaningful.
There are important considerations you must make if your friend or family member is not experienced with weddings. They probably won't apply if your friend or family member is already an experienced officiant.
1. LEGALITY: Make sure your officiant is authorized to solemnize marriage according to the laws of the state (possibly county and municipality as well) where the wedding ceremony will be held. This individual should be someone who is willing to learn and understand marriage law so as not to make any mistakes with the license.
2. DEPENDABILITY: Choose someone who is a confident public speaker and is reliable. You want a loved one who will take this responsibility seriously. You should select someone who understands that while this is fun, it is also work. He or she should spend time rehearsing before the wedding. You want a low maintenance helpful individual who will bring down your stress levels not raise them when the big day arrives. This is not the time to appease a lovable, but flaky relative by bestowing this honor.
3. DISTANCE: I highly recommend selecting a friend or family member who is relatively local to the ceremony location. Most of the "we were going to have a friend do it, but he/she backed out" calls I get are from couples relying on someone a plane ride or extremely long car trip away.
4. VOICE AMPLIFICATION: Arrange for a microphone if you have more than a handful of guests. Many professional officiants have their own portable PA systems, but chances are your friend or family member will not.
Choosing an inexperienced officiant might mean you are on your own when it comes to putting the ceremony together. Some couples are perfectly fine with this and have confidence they can write their own wedding. Others want guidance or prefer a professional write the ceremony and then turn over the text/script to their officiant. This latter option can strike some professional officiants as odd and they patently refuse to consider doing it, but ceremony writing without officiating the wedding and coaching amateur officiants are services I have provided for many years. It is important to me that each couple have the wedding of their dreams. If that means having Grandma Jane or Uncle Joe officiate the ceremony, than so be it. I do believe weddings I have written have been officiated in at least twelve states, in five countries, and on three continents. I am honored to be part of a couple's wedding day in any capacity that serves their needs.
If you are unsure whether you want a friend or family member or prefer to hire a professional, feel free to browse the "Yes, We're Worth It" page on my website.
Photo Attribute: Shannon Perez of Florida Beachside Weddings
Paul is actually not an amateur, but a consummate professional shown here officiating a wedding ceremony I wrote. Alas, I do not have any pictures from weddings I have written that were officiated by amateurs.