There are lots of reasons that couples these days choose to be married by people they know. For some couples, religion isn’t a large part of their lives and they feel uncomfortable asking a religious officiant to perform the ceremony. In the same vein, hiring judges or court clerks can seem a little unromantic. However, having a close, personal friend or family member can be memorable and touching…not to mention a whole lot cheaper than professional officiants.
You may have heard that it’s not legal for a friend to marry you in your state. The good news is that there is a way to get married by a friend in all fifty states, so if you’re living somewhere in the United States of America, it can be done! The bad news is that each state (and many counties) have their own laws and rules about who can and cannot marry someone. Some states allow people to be ordained through an online religious institution (such as The Universal Life Church) and then those ordained can perform marriages whenever they would like to. Other places only give a temporary one-day officiant license and the process for applying for an officiant license varies from place to place.
You can find general information about getting a friend ordained at www.usmarriagelaws.com, but the best bet is to contact your county clerk’s office directly. They’ll be able to give you the most up to date information and can probably provide you with the step-by-step instructions for having a friend ordained. As it has become more common, your county clerk’s office will be very familiar with the question and will have an answer on hand.
Remember, getting your friend ordained isn’t the only step. You also have to figure out who you would like to choose to marry you. This isn’t a decision that should be made lightly, since the person who will be officiating your wedding will set the tone and mood for your ceremony and the rest of your wedding day. You’ll want to be sure that you choose someone who will have a positive effect on your day…rather than someone who will end up being the one thing you really regret.
When choosing someone to officiate your wedding, keep these questions in mind:
(1) How well does this person know both of you? It’s not enough for just one of you to be close to the person officiating the wedding. The ceremony will be much more meaningful if the person knows both of you well and knows a lot about your relationship. If you have plenty of time left before your wedding day, get started now on getting to know this person better. It will be a lot more important than whether or not this person is funny, entertaining, or has a good stage voice (even if you think it would be great to be married by your favorite celebrity).
(2) Do you trust this person? Someone may have the best of intentions when it comes to your wedding, but if this is a person who is known for being late, forgetting about events, or pulling practical jokes (that nobody finds very humorous), this might be the wrong person to choose as your wedding officiant.
(3) Are they old enough? Some states require that your officiant be 18 years old or older, so although it may be sweet to be married by your seven-year-old daughter, it might not be a great idea. Remember, a lot of kids would also crack under that kind of pressure and may not be able to fairly judge whether or not they’ll be up to it on your big day.
(4) Will your choice hurt anyone’s feelings? Asking one person’s father to officiate the wedding is fine…unless the other person’s father will feel slighted for not being asked. The same goes for favorite uncles, aunts, close friends, and siblings. If your choice will leave another wedding guest wondering why you didn’t pick them, you might want to take that into consideration.
(5) Do they want to do it? Be sure that the person you’re asking wants to officiate your wedding before you make any big plans. They might want to do something else in the wedding instead. For example, it might not be fair to ask the bride’s father to officiate if he’s looking forward to walking the bride down the aisle, unless he gets to do both. Other people simply may not want to deal with the pressure and stress of being such a big part of your wedding day. If the person you ask tells you that they aren’t sure they want to officiate your wedding, try not to be offended. Tell them you understand and you’re looking forward to sharing your day with them anyway.