How to Have Your Friend Officiate Your Elopement Ceremony
An elopement is filled with intimate moments—after all, it’s designed with the two of you in mind. When planning a more private ceremony, many folks choose to have someone close to them officiate. Whether it’s a cherished friend or family member, the task of marrying a couple is an honor.
But where do you start, and—most importantly—how do you ensure that your wedding is legal? After all, the goal of the day is actually being married. Here are a few things to consider when you want your friend to officiate your elopement ceremony.
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Check your state’s requirements.
Requirements for marriage licenses vary from state to state, but here’s a handy guide on what is required. Lenient places like Washington D.C. require no witnesses, no waiting period, and no expiration date on your marriage license. However, Kansas is more strict and requires two witnesses, has a three-day waiting period, and offers a license valid for six months. Knowing and following the rules for each state is essential.
Have an ordained officiant.
Again, requirements vary by state, but getting ordained to perform a wedding ceremony is easier than ever. Sites like American Marriage Ministries (Universal Life Church is for-profit and not my first choice) are non denominational and allow folks to become ordained relatively quickly.
Make your expectations clear.
No one likes hurt feelings, so communicating your expectations upfront is critical for a successful elopement ceremony. Talk to your friend or family member via phone call or Zoom to talk about expectations. Tell them how you want the ceremony to feel—for example, funny, lighthearted, or sentimental. Be open and honest and ask questions and answer theirs.
PRO TIP: Ask whomever is officiating to step out of the way for your first kiss. Otherwise your officiant will be photobombing your first kiss image, usually with a weird look on their face.
Accept their final answer.
You’re excited about your adventure elopement and want everything to go flawlessly. For you, that includes having your friend officiate. However, be prepared if they just aren’t into it. Yes, they’re honored, but maybe public speaking makes them nervous or they don’t want to disappoint you. Although you may be disheartened, appreciate the fact that they realize how important your wedding day is.
Cut the cheese.
Of course, you want to make the ceremony special for you and your partner, but how exactly does that happen? Your officiant will need to write a speech, and the last thing you want is for it to be unrelatable or trite.
If you have any guests, have your officiant skip out on including tons of inside jokes. Also, skip overused cliches, such as the ring representing a circle without beginning or end. I’ve heard that more times than I can count, so have your officiant think of more creative things to say.
“I do” doesn’t mean “I done.”
An officiant’s job isn’t finished once they pronounce you married and tell you to lay one on each other. Although that’s what everyone thinks, keep in mind that the marriage license needs to be returned and registered. Determine ahead of time who will drop off the license and how soon that should be done because regulations vary by state. For example, Hawaii has additional registration requirements, and the officiant needs to set up an account. Essentially, you or your officiant needs to do the homework to make sure that you seal the deal according to the state.
Having someone close to you officiate is a high honor for them, but it will also make you feel comfortable. Knowing that you are being married by a beloved friend or family member will make your day all that more meaningful.