Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Some Options for Officiating a Wedding

Dear Hairpin! 

Two close friends of mine are engaged, and they've asked me to perform the ceremony. Yay! Yikes! They are a smart, creative, uber-cool lesbian couple, and I feel honored that they want me to play such an important role in their wedding. I also feel nervous! Most of the weddings I've attended have been pretty traditional, and, never having done this before, I'm not really sure about the particulars of the task at hand.   

Aside from figuring out the online licensing thing that will allow me to perform the ceremony, and the most basic of wedding ceremony things that happen, I feel a little at sea in terms of what I should do to help make their wedding super-special. They're getting married in fall. So far all I know is they aren't religious but do want some acknowledgment of spirituality.   

Aside from talking to them about what they want and then doing whatever they tell me, what does a super-awesome officiant do? Have you been to any weddings where the officiant did a lovely job? How so? And what does one wear for this!? 

Hello right back at you! Hooray! Mazel tov to your friends and congratulations to you – you are going to be awesome at officiating this ceremony, I know it already.

Here is how you become a wedding officiant! Perhaps you are already a mayor or a judge or a ship captain (really!). If not, you should become ordained on line. Here’s what I did — I went to the Universal Life Church website because I remembered that Chris-in-the-Morning-Stevens from “Northern Exposure” became a minister through an ad in the back of Rolling Stone, and then I got ordained! It took about thirty seconds. You even get to choose your title! 

Boom! Now you can perform weddings. However, you need to find out the rules of whichever city or town where the wedding is going to be. For example, in NYC you need to get a bunch of paperwork to bring to the City Clerk’s office. The ULC website will provide you with this necessary paperwork. Then, you get your ordination certificate and your special letters and you bring them to the City Clerk’s office, and you get a number and then you watch all these other couples get married and maybe you look at twitter on your phone for a while. Then, when they call your number, you present your paperwork and pay a small fee and KABOOM, you are now legal to preside over marriages in New York City. They bring this gigantic leatherbound book out of the back and it feels very Harry Potter and you sign your name and your title. And then you start receiving special credit card offers addressed to you as “Reverend Bex” (well, that’s me — insert your own name there), because clergy need credit cards, too.

Okay, now you are legit! But now you have to do the slightly more difficult part, which is drafting the ceremony. Here is what I like to do. Firstly: find out if your couple has any religious or cultural rituals that they want to include. Do they want to break a glass? Jump a broom? Do a handfasting thing? Do they want to include any Buddhist poetry? Will there be any readings or songs in the ceremony?

A basic secular ceremony can be as lavish or as concise as the couple desires. Basically, you just need to say: “Do you?” and they say “I do” and then once you sign the wedding license, they are married. However, most people would like a little more customization. I start my weddings by speaking about the couple — how they met, any wonderful anecdotes about when they knew they were in love, any funny stories they want to share with their guests. That sort of thing. Then, it’s on to the business. A pretty basic ceremony includes a vow exchange, a ring exchange, and some discussion about what marriage means. Our friends at The Knot offer a whole lot of possible things to include in the ceremony. Talk to your couple about what they liked at other weddings they attended. Is there a moment when you ask the assembled guests to vow to support the couple? Will your couple write their own vows? Is there any family/historical/cultural significance to their rings? Here are some more sample ceremonies.

I like to send the couple some examples of ceremonies and ask they to pick and choose what they want to include. Then we get together (usually over wine!) and create an outline of their ceremony. Then, we go over language selection — do they want you to use the word god? I only use the words “The Universe” because I am not a god person, and I do a lot of interfaith/secular-ish weddings. I also speak Hebrew, so that comes in handy for making the grandparents happy, but that is just me. So! You draft your outline and you make sure to include moments where you can really personalize the ceremony, perhaps with stories or insights about your friends. Make sure the couple signs off on this outline. It is fun to meet with your friends (have some more wine and cheese) a few times to go over everything as they spend more time thinking about their wedding. Do not be surprised if two days before the wedding they announce that they want to delete a section or add something or read vows that they’ve written themselves. Go with the flow, since you are there to make them happy.

And now, the fun and also hard part! Since you have all the puzzle pieces, now you have to personalize everything you’re going to say. Does the couple want a ceremony with fancy language? With common vernacular? If your sample language is too fussy, rewrite it in words you feel comfortable speaking to a large (or small) crowd. Tweak all the language so you feel like your ceremony really reflects the couple. Don’t be afraid to take a moment within all this solemnity to make people laugh. Then — practice! Read your ceremony in your best “I am Presiding Over A Marriage” voice to your cat. You don’t have to memorize it, but if you’re going to read the ceremony it is nice to put it into a book or a pretty folder.

Does your couple want to do a rehearsal? It is up to you to lead this, although if there is a wedding planner, that person will also be really helpful in saying “You stand here and you stand here and this is the signal for you to give them the rings and here is the order we are going to process in” and all that stuff. You basically do a quick rundown so the couple knows what they’re doing. Are they repeating their vows after you or are they reading their own? Which little brother is holding on to the rings and what is his cue to present them? Which friend is going to sing a song and how do they know when to take the mic? That sort of stuff.

Wedding time! What will you wear? Ask the couple if they have a color scheme. (“My colors are blush and bashful.”) If there is a wedding party, what will those people wear? Your couple will probably tell you to wear whatever. I usually wear a black dress and I try to make it Minister-appropriate (eg no cleavage). But that is a discussion for you and your couple. Wear comfortable shoes since you will be standing a lot! You are not the flashy one — you are doing a job. Unless your couple wants you to be flashy. Heck, I’ve been to weddings where the officiant was in costume. It is totally all about what the couple wants for their big day. Find out if they want any sort of cultural or religious signifiers — for example, I wear my Bat Mitzvah tallis when I do jewier weddings, and I have a prayer shawl from the ULC I do for more xtiany weddings. Most often, I don’t wear anything special. But I did wear a hot pink yarmulke once upon the couple’s request. It’s up to them, and to you!

And so! The best weddings are the ones where the officiant knows the couple really well and carefully constructs a ceremony that reflects the people getting married. Personalize your ceremony with anecdotes and insights about your friends. Make it all about them, whatever that means to you. Do you know that they both really love Elvis Costello? Maybe you insert a meaningful Elvis Costello lyric that will make them smile. Talk about how honored you are to participate in such a wonderful lifestep for your friends. You know your friends and you know what they’re into and what sort of stuff they dislike, so just do your best to write a ceremony that will make them happy. Most importantly, when you talk about love and commitment, you need to mean it. You need to mean everything. Your friends’ wedding is very important to them and you want to make sure they know that you are taking this very seriously, even if you’re blending humor into the serious bits.

And since you are the officiant, it is up to you to ordain this wedding however you see fit. I like to do “By the powers vested in me by the STATE OF NEW YORK” (and I shout that part really loud) whenever I’m doing a same sex marriage, because GO NEW YORK. I don’t do a priestly benediction but sometimes I’ll include a Buddhist prayer about love or that sort of thing. Make it personal, make it meaningful, make it matter to you and to the couple. You’re going to be perfect, I just know it.

Oh — and if something doesn’t go perfectly — maybe the wind knocks over your unity candle or someone falls into the pool — just totally go with it. It’s okay to take a moment with the couple and say something sotto voce or make a big joke when the wind blows your dress up over your head. Remember, the important thing here is that you’re joining your two friends in holy matrimony and this ceremony is all about how much they love each other. If you stumble or stutter, no one cares. The big thing all the guests will remember is when you pronounce your newly-married friends as MARRIED.

And then, it is your responsibility to make sure your couple and their witnesses sign the license, and then you need to send the license to the city or town clerk’s office. When your couple applies for their license (at least 24 hours in advance), the clerk will usually include an envelope so you can mail everything back (within 48 hours). Once that license is processed, your couple will receive a copy in the mail so they are all sorts of legal and legit.

Have so much fun! You're going to kick some serious wedding ass!

Bex Schwartz would love to officiate your wedding! Last summer, she co-produced Pop Up Chapel, a celebration of marriage equality in which 24 same sex couples received free dream weddings in Central Park.

Photo via Flickr

112 Comments / Post A Comment

Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood

No Uggs.


@Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood FYI you are on Comedy Central right now.


It's phenomenal!@v


This is relevant to my interests!! *sends to our officiant*


This is unbelievably helpful! My fiance's best friend is officiating our wedding and I had no clue where to begin until now.

bex schwartz@twitter

@lobsterhug hooray! Happy to help!


My dad and my brother are both ordained in the ULC!

Actually, my brother officiated at a Halloween wedding for two of his friends who are huge Star Wars nerds. The couple was in Jedi garb, the local chapter of the 501st Stormtroopers came out, and my brother wore a big ol' cloak (provided by the bride) over his one nice suit.


"Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?"
"Alright, I'll give it a try."
"No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try."


The Universal Life Church is actually pretty cool! I ordained myself (??) as part of a crazy plan that involved going to Burning Man (hasn't happened yet). Did you know you can charge up to $50-$100 in some states to perform weddings?? Did you also know that people will respond to your craigslist ad because they want a cheap wedding? Hmmm, I might have to start doing this for real..
I also suggest signing all subsequent paperwork as: The Rev. [name]. I'm convinced this is why I got some good grades on crap papers.


The Universal Life Church is actually pretty cool! I ordained myself (??) as part of a crazy plan that involved going to Burning Man (hasn't happened yet). Did you know you can charge up to $50-$100 in some states to perform weddings?? Did you also know that people will respond to your craigslist ad because they want a cheap wedding? Hmmm, I might have to start doing this for real..
I also suggest signing all subsequent paperwork as: The Rev. [name]. I'm convinced this is why I got some good grades on crap papers.

Turtle Wexler

@Burly-Q Samsies! Except the couple I was going to marry decided that going to Burning Man with an infant was too much, so they got married by an English professor, who did a better job than I ever could. But now I'm walking around with a stealth Reverend honorific and I don't quite know what to do with myself.


Sorry for the long comment, but this is exactly the type of officiant we had at my wedding, so this may be helpful to the letter writer/anyone else...

My husband and I had the best officiant ever. She calls herself a "celebrant" because she can do anytime of ceremony ever invented. We wanted strictly non-religious (no mention of any sort of god or anything), and so to actually HAVE a ceremony (because, you know, most people use bible related stuff), she had us fill out questionnaires a few months before the wedding. The questions required thoughtful answers about what the other person and the relationship meant to the responder, and we had to keep our answers secret from each other. Then she used our answers as well as other stories/info about us to write a ceremony.

She also asked us which rituals we wanted to use (we chose hand-fasting since my husband's family has Irish/English origins and glass-stomping since my family is Jewish), and to guide us along she gave us this massive list of rituals from all sorts of cultures and countries. And we picked our own readings and wrote our own vows.

During the reception, so many people came up to us and said that we had the best/most unique ceremony they've ever seen and it was really heartfelt, thoughtful, and unusual. Having an officiant like that was probably the smartest choice we made for our wedding.


@olivebee Yes, this. I responded in kind a while back on an open thread, but this is great.
Our officiant (my husband's brother) did a similar thing, gave us a series of queries that we answered by ourselves and together. Through our responses, he wrote the ceremony. So it was OUR voices, our take on spirituality, community, and what it means to be married, that was able to shine through the ceremony, and I felt like it was really authentic for both of us.


@liverwortlaura Exactly! Writing our own vows gave us a more intimate, personal expression of our love to each other, but having our own voices and opinions used as the basis for the ceremony was definitely what made the ceremony stand out. You used the word "authentic," and that is exactly what a wedding ceremony should be.

Also: I think having ceremonies be so personal (like yours and mine were) is what makes the audience waayyy more invested. I feel like everyone was in tears (happy ones) at my wedding...even people who I have never seen cry.

sudden but inevitable betrayal

@olivebee That sounds really lovely!


@olivebee That sounds awesome! I am so glad you were able to get something so personalized. My fiancee and I are not at all religious and are at a bit of a loss as to what to have for an officiant. I think we are going for a boat captain, since we are getting married on a a restored old ferry boat from the 20s. The boat doesn't go anywhere, so we will have to bring one in. But now I am going to look into something like this. Where did you find her?


@olivebee I don't suppose (fingers crossed) that you're in Illinois/Chicago, are you?


@bitzy I LOVE THAT IDEA!! Not only is your location the coolest thing ever, but having a boat captain as an officiant would be fantastic. I'm not sure what kind of ceremonies captains perform, but if you google celebrants in your location and then conduct some short phone interviews, I bet you could find one that fits your personality and style (and that won't do a religious ceremony). I think our celebrant was recommended to us by the event planner at the venue we chose, and then my mom and I interviewed her to see if she was a good fit.

@Olivia2.0 I actually AM in Chicago...but I got married in Pittsburgh (where we are both from) and so the celebrant is from there. BUT - I am sure there are very similar people in a city as big and awesome as Chicago (in fact, there are probably more of them here than in Pittsburgh).


@Olivia2.0 I know a great wedding officiant in Chicago. She's a dear friend who does weddings as a side biz and she's doing our wedding in 10 days. Only thing is she works for the Catholic Church so I can't post her info here . . . is there a way to PM you?


@olivebee Who was your officiant? I'm looking for a feminist-friendly officiant in Pittsburgh and Google just sent me to this thread!


@piekin Her name is Sandra Monahan (of Weddings Without Worries). She is a delightful woman who can do any type of ceremony (including staunchly non-religious ones like my husband and I wanted), and she completely tailors the ceremony to fit your style and needs. She also wants the ceremony to be all about the couple and not about God/religious stuff and other boring wedding tropes, so she has each person in the couple fill out a questionnaire, and you cannot show the other person your answers or talk about your answers. Then she uses the answers in the ceremony, and what your partners says is basically a touching surprise to you.

This is going to sound braggy, but I mean it as a compliment to Sandra: after our ceremony was over, we had at least a dozen people come up and tell us it was the most touching, unique, and interesting ceremony they had ever seen.


@olivebee could you please share the questionnaire or queries used to gather information about the couple? You've described exactly what I want to do but I can't seem to find what I'm looking for. Thanks.

Lily Rowan

Random tip for people having non-religious weddings: some friends of mine used a reading from the Massachusetts court ruling on same-sex marriage, and it was just great -- about what a marriage is, what it's for, etc.


@Lily Rowan I had friends who did that, too, and it was lovely.

Lily Rowan

@SarahP Granted, my friends were getting married pretty shortly after the ruling, but it's not like I Corinthians is new!


Huh! And here I thought that was so original at the wedding I went to last week!


And the wedding wasn't in MA, it was in Kansas City. (But the couple went to school here)

Lily Rowan

@NeenerNeener Ha! Mine was in New York, but the couple is really into marriage equality, and not into religion.


@Lily Rowan
Jurisprudence is the best kind of prudence.


@Lily Rowan The one I went to was in NY, too, before same-sex marriage was legal there.

saul "the bear" berenson

@Lily Rowan Ooh cool, do you remember which passage it was, or the gist? I'm looking up the ruling now... aaand it's 50 pages.

Lily Rowan

@Moxie Unfortunately, I just found it on an about.com page of "Unique Wedding Readings" that opens with "Carrie's Poem" from Sex and the City.

But it's still nice!


@Moxie TAKE NOTE, thanks to Lily Rowan you can finally find the Sex and the City poem you needed!

saul "the bear" berenson

@SarahP But if you read this at a wedding, does your pearl bracelet break and send pearls flying everywhere? Do you spill wine on your dress? Does your speech light on fire?


@Lily Rowan We used this on our programs! We used the first paragraph of the decision and the third paragraph on p 322. By which I mean, this is the passage I found on A Practical Wedding, and I just looked up the pages right now, not that I read the whole darn decision and then decided, yeah, the third paragraph on 322 looks nice.

We decided to print it in our programs rather than do a reading because I wanted our family and friends to know where we stand on marriage equality, and acknowledge that the system into which we were entering was broken and we knew that, but my husband and I both have some very conservative family members and honestly, I didn't want to hear a single sigh or squirm about the subject and end up glaring at a great-aunt the whole night or something.


@Lily Rowan Yup, we had a reading from it too, because when you're not religious it's kinda hard to come up with stuff to say! We had a quote from Seinfeld and a quote from 30 Rock and then the Mss Supreme Court piece and TADOW we were married.

Also, I think if you have a friend who you really trust and is really into actually coming up with the ceremony that's all well and good but we just wrote everything out for our officient and he did great!

Jennifer Culp

Tennessee does not legally recognize Universal Life Church, which is kind of a mega-suck.

bex schwartz@twitter

@Jennifer Culp I am not entirely sure, but I think if you get the paperwork and go through the legal hoops in Tennessee, it is still possible to ordain weddings as a ULC minister. http://www.themonastery.org/tools/wedding_laws/?wide=usa&narrow=tennessee

Jennifer Culp

@bex schwartz@twitter Thanks for the link! I know they recognize some online ministries, but they definitely make it more complicated.
I don't want to slag on my state, which is lovely in many other ways, but it'd be reeeeeeeally nice if our gov wasn't so concerned with who can and can't do the wedding thing. Just want to warn fellow Tennesseans who might be similarly surprised to learn that our state doesn't go in for Universal Life!

Jennifer Culp

I love a lot of things about this post, but especially “By the powers vested in me by the STATE OF NEW YORK!”


@Jennifer Culp Yeah, I read this a few days ago and it kind of freaked me out since it's something we were thinking of doing. And one of the couples is from Chicago (where we're from) although they got married in another state and the article is from 2007.

But... Good reminder to look into this first? Not that there's anything wrong with my parents, but I want my partner's hand on the plug after my tragic bus accident, thoroughly and legally screwed when we break up, etc. Romance!


Any sort of religious aspect, even a quasi-religious celebrant, was not going to fly for me. So I booked a judge. A 90-year old judge who had a baritone voice like an MGM matinee idol and a body like Yoda. It was incredible, and EVERYONE at our wedding said he was probably the best part. (Despite serving BRUNCH at the reception, yeah the judge was the best part.)


@charlesbois We had a magistrate, who just happened to be my former Driver's Ed teacher. We went by on a Friday afternoon. He charged us $37.50 and even put on his black robe. When it was over, a guy who looked like he'd been sobering up in the vestibule, came in, shook our hands, and wished us the very best.


@charlesbois Sounds amazing!


am I having deja vu or has this article appeared here before?
aahhhh glitch in the matrix.

saul "the bear" berenson

@iceberg I asked this question on an open thread a few weeks ago, maybe you're thinking of that?


@Moxie Ah! That must be it. Oh well, so I guess I'm not psychic then.


My younger brother officiated our wedding! We made it pretty easy for him, though, since we wrote the ceremony. I think he was ordained through the Spiritual Humanism website?


Another tip, sometimes the married couple will not really have a good idea of what they want on every single subject. It's probably their first time getting married and they have a million things to decide on. It's a good idea to ask them if they have any specific preferences and then, if they don't on certain subjects, offer them some options. For example, they may say, "wear whatever you like!" and then you can say, "I can wear a black robe over my clothes or I can wear a white lace dress. Do you have a preference?" and then they can pick or still leave it up to you.


I kind of want to get ordained just so I can refer to myself as "The Reverend Doctor." Sounds so Hawthorne-y!


@MollyculeTheory My brother sometimes signs off on his emails to me as "Ordained Clergy Person" (since that's what his free ordination title is). It always makes me laugh.


I really wish the rulez about weddings over here (UK) weren't so stupid. Getting a friend to officiate - and being able to get married in a back yard - sounds so much funner than any of the options available to us. Wah.


@spanglepants Wait, what are the rulez?


@spanglepants there are a bunch of rulez and it is also dependent on where in the UK you get hitched (scotland is a bit more lax than england&Wales, NI is not terribly lax at all), but you have to get married in a building with a licence to have weddings, you have to be married by an official registrar and you have to be married between certain times (there are some religious exceptions).

obviously, there are more details and exceptions, but those are the generals.


@madgemmc I'm a bit late responding, but yes. All these things. The buildings with licences tend to be giant hotels, stately homes and the like. You can't licence a private home. You can't get married outside at all, I don't think. So municipal registry office it is!


Yay for ULC and officiants who actually know the couple! I officiated my best friend's wedding and it was awesome, so much better than being a bridesmaid.

However, a pro tip for brides and grooms: if you are making A Statement in your use of a non-religious officiant, please give him or her the heads up. It's not that I minded that the groom's family spent the ceremony scowling at me because I was a twenty-four-year-old woman and not Reverend Great Uncle Paul, but it would have been nice to know what I was walking into ahead of time.


Go to the library: you can check out volumes of marriage ceremonies from all different faiths. Not like you're just gonna read one aloud wholesale and call it your ceremony, but I found a lot of little snippets of language I liked or found inspiring.

saul "the bear" berenson

I am the officiant LW! This is so wonderful! Thank you thank you thank you for this incredibly helpful advice!

I got a great suggestion (on the open thread a few weeks ago) to send each bride a questionnaire with some questions about their relationship, goals, etc and what makes their love special, so I did that yesterday and they seem really excited to fill it out. It'll be a nice start to creating a ceremony that's specific and personal to them.

Thank you again!


@Moxie Oh yay! Pleeeeeease let us know how it goes!

bex schwartz@twitter

@Moxie You are so welcome! Questionnaires are awesome. Sometimes I ask the couples to keep their responses secret ( about love and stuff) so there's a fun surprise element for both of them during the ceremony. Let me know if you need any more help!


@Moxie Is having them write their own wedding wording out the question? I really had no idea that a friend officient would be expected to write anything...I mentioned up thread that we just wrote our stuff out and he read it. Lots of people have their friends do their ceremonies these days....are they all expecting their friends to actually write their cermeony for them?!

saul "the bear" berenson

@Moxie Yeah - they don't want to write the ceremony themselves, which I'm totally cool with. It will be collaborative but it's a major responsibility that I'm honored to have, which is part of the reason why I asked for the advice.

ms. alex

@Moxie Good for you! An old friend of mine from high school performed my non-religious, short and sweet wedding last summer, and I love her forever because of it.


"The best weddings are the ones where the officiant knows the couple really well and carefully constructs a ceremony that reflects the people getting married."

This this this! Mr. Tiktaalik and I are both atheists, and we originally planned to have the local Unitarian minister marry us, but she flaked out 4 days before the wedding. We were lucky enough to have a friend that was already ordained, and he was able to step in. We wanted something short, sweet, and totally secular. He met us over beers, asked some questions and took notes, and it was PERFECT. The whole thing was under 10 minutes (probably actually under 5), he started out with a Heinlein quote about love, and even threw in some inside jokes about our relationship that our friends got but older relatives didn't. He wore a black kilt, which my mother thought was hilarious. It was amazing.

We'd already met with the Unitarian minister several times; her service was OK, but it was basically a bunch of different speeches that we got to mix and match parts of. I really think the short service our friend did at the last minute was worlds better than the one she was going to do because it was so personalized.

oh, george

when my friends got married, they had their ULC officiant (our mutual friend) deem them "you are now husband and wife you may kiss" with the click of a camera- so they have this neat memento of literally the first photograph of them as a married couple. I thought it was very sweet.


We've been discussing having two friends (one of his and one of mine) officiate our wedding - has anyone else seen this done? Thanks for all the advice Bex!

The Lady of Shalott

N.B.: I work at a bridal salon, so I hear a lot of garbage. I am really ughghg tired of hearing people writing their own vows and then complaining that regular vows are boring/traditional/dull/don't express themselves. For a lot of people, reciting the same vows that everyone in their family and community have said for generations and generations is even more important. That feeling of community and commonality across time and faith can be even more important to some couples than expressing their unique love story at the ceremony.


@The Lady of Shalott We wrote our own vows and ceremony, but I totally feel you on this. People who are smug/superior about their weddings are the worst! Weddings and marriage mean different things to different people! Being down on someone because of choices they made for their own wedding is terrible.


@The Lady of Shalott Wait, you got the bridal salon job??? I've been in and out of Hairpin news lately, so I'm sorry if this is old news, but yayyyyyyy!

I think whatever people want to do at their weddings is great, and I don't want to neg on anybody for what's important to them--like, I'm a nontraditional person, but if a traditional wedding is important to someone else, whatever! I'm very "whatever" about most things, which is a great firm stance to have, I know.


@The Lady of Shalott Yeah, I've got to say, I'm totally into the traditional vows, mostly because everyone I know who has written their vows has said that it was super stressful. And it seems like there's all this PRESSURE to write your own vows, and have awesome and touching and totally non traditional vows, and not everyone can manage that.


@The Lady of Shalott I'm getting married in about 9 weeks (eep) and I literally found our officiant/celebrant online for about $250. She will only perform a selection of Humanist ceremonies, no changes allowed, although we can write our own vows. Though we (and our wedding) are pretty nontraditional, we found ourselves drawn to the most traditional - though nonreligious - of the ceremonies. It just seemed most... appropriate?... to the situation. First you get MARRIED, then the PARTY.

Now, the writing of our own vows? Yeah, we're procrastinating on that. Sometimes it's helpful not to have too many choices.

The Lady of Shalott

@frigwiggin Yes I have! Now I am "that girl on the hairpin who works at a bridal salon and will probably have lunatic stories."


@The Lady of Shalott YESSSSS. I know it's weird that I'm so excited, but I will be the first one to admit that, like so many other Americans/people around the world, I love the spectacle of people at their worst (wedding planning, drunken belligerent weirdos, etc.) when I'm not the one involved. So I thank you for your service in reporting back to us so that we can gawk.


@The Lady of Shalott Truth! As always, I am a proponent of Do What Makes You Happy. I got to see a nice compromise on the write-your-own/traditional wedding ceremony structure the other week--my boyfriend officiated his friends' wedding, fairly traditional (though non-religious) vows but had them write something sweet and short to say to each other during the ceremony. I liked this. I plan on doing this myself.


@The Lady of Shalott we are vowing the traditional vows (IN THREE DAYS OH GOD) for exactly this reason, plus, in addition to the part where my fiance's family would be total jerks to him if he cried. (Also, the friend marrying us is a Methodist minister.) But! We are writing personal vows and giving them to each other in little envelopes during the ceremony. We'll read them during a quiet moment after. I am looking forward to it. And the quiet. Oh, please, the quiet.


@ellbeejay That is such a beautiful idea! Weddings can be such a circus and get so easily co-opted by family expectations, it's so cool that you have something private for just the two of you in there.


@SarahP For real...it was important to me that my husband and I write our own vows and choose all the readings since we had specific stuff in mind (we went for "funny" over "serious" but it was still all very heartfelt!) while my friends and SIL all went much more traditional but mostly because they didn't want to have to say alot of words, for fear they'd mess them up, so the officient sayd everything and they just said "I do!" Whatever works for people, I say!

The Widow Muspratt

I officiated a brunch wedding last month. It was wonderfully low-key and fun.
The bride, the groom, two witnesses and I literally just met up for brunch. The ceremony was performed after we placed our orders and they were married by the time our food arrived.
Best part was that the server comped the happy couple's meal.

sarah girl

(“My colors are blush and bashful.”)

I love you.

bex schwartz@twitter

@Sarah H. "your colors are 'pink' and 'pink.'"


@bex schwartz@twitter "It looks like someone hosed down the church with Pepto Bismol."


A friend of mine is getting married in August, and the minister she talked with has dropped way off of radar and is not answering email. We've been frantically googling -- can ULC-ordained folk perform weddings in Virginia? From our research, it seems like they ask you all sorts of questions about One's Congregation and where they're based, and that might make friend-ordination not an option? Or is it just totally a formality?

I'd love to let my friend know for sure, and so far my Internets Research hasn't come up with anything definite. Anyone know?

bex schwartz@twitter

@Tinpantithesis http://www.themonastery.org/tools/wedding_laws/?wide=usa&narrow=virginia. I would suggest calling the ULC and ordering the officiation packet that has all those letters about congregation and stuff, and asking them if other ULC ministers have done Virginia weddings and if so, how?


@Tinpantithesis I don't know about VA and the ULC, but when I got married I knew I wanted my friend K to officiate -- but she's not ordained (went to seminary; made a conscious decision NOT to be ordained, so I couldn't ask her to go the ULC route just for me). My solution was to get a lawyer friend who's certified in VA to marry us legally. We met at Panera over breakfast the morning of the wedding and were legally married before we could finish our bagels. Then, that night, at the actual wedding, uh, event, K performed the wedding ceremony very much as Bex has described above. The morning meeting made it legal, but the ceremony K gave for us really made us feel *married.* If your friend is comfortable splitting the legal and ceremonial, that might be a less stressful option!


@bex schwartz@twitter Excellent call -- thank you!


@nellypants OMG, lawyers! There are so many of them around here! I bet we can find one. Awesome suggestion, thanks!


@nellypants Getting married at Panera! I love it.


Pennsylvania does not allow internet ordained officiants (boo PA) but there are great options with groups like mine that do exactly what is described here - warm, personal, funny, and unforgettable!

If anything should be exactly as you wish, it is the words you speak to each other as you promise yourselves to each others keeping.

And as an aside, I always pronounce couples with "You have formed your own union, based on love, respect and honor and sealed this vow with words and rings. In doing so, you have declared that from this day forth you are officially husband and wife" (or wife and wife or husband and husband) so as to keep the power not with me but keep it where it really is - in the hearts and lives of the couple!


@HappyGirl I love your last paragraph. Mind if I steal that for my second wedding?

happy go lucky scamp

@HappyGirl that's really pretty...


@Mingus_Thurber of course! congratulations to you!

saul "the bear" berenson

@HappyGirl I love this!!!


Writing our vows together was one of my very favorite parts of our wedding. We had friend officiate, and based them on the vows in the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer, which is super progressive and lovely. My husband and I still repeat parts of our vows to each other, like total nerdlingers who are super happy to have found each other.

Also, everyone laughed when I said, "I love you, Michael, and I want to marry you" during the ceremony which, uh, I still haven't figured out. Comedy!


I am officiating a wedding in Colorado next month and this will be very useful. Thanks!

One nice thing about Colorado is that the parties to be wed can legally conduct the act of marriage, so (like in my own marriage) the 'officiant' is more of an MC than a legal conduit. In our case he was a witness to the marriage license, but there was no actual power vested in him (nor me next month).

saul "the bear" berenson

@mdegs My boyfriend's parents did this and say they "married themselves," freakin adorable.


This sounds so awesome, i went and got ordained by the ULC while sitting right here at work! (It's a slow day.) I am now telling all my friends that if they want to get married, i can do that thing. (Also i told my dad that if he wants to start The Church of Democrats in our basement like he keeps saying he wants to, i'm allowed to do that too.)


I've officiated at a wedding and had a friend officiate at mine. It's a lot of fun. What I did for both was to focus my schpiel on the theme the couple wanted (we focused on 'the journey is everything' - our motto). I wrote up what they wanted me to talk about and then my friend edited it and added a few lines to make it more what they wanted to see. They wrote their own vows. Having a friend marry you is amazing because they are almost as invested in the ceremony as you are. LW, you'll do awesome!


All I can think of is that opera episode of Futurama where Fry gets the Robot Devil's hands and at the climax of the play, the preacher sings, "By the power vested in me by the STATE OF NEW NEW YORK!"


@kellyography Oh, thank goodness. I thought it was just me. It's all I can hear in my head!

Maja D.@twitter

Advice: have an outside party look over the ceremony once you've written it. When my brother got married, he and his fiance wrote the ceremony with my cousin, who officiated. He asked me to look it over, and I caught a thing: they had included a Jewish tradition that involves drinking from the same cup of wine, and they'd also included a poem with "drink wine, but not from the same cup". Obviously not the worst thing ever, but everyone was glad to replace the poem with something un-contradictory.


My best friend since second grade got married at a rest stop with a beautiful view of a creek and a really old bridge. The groom had one idea: natural. His wife did wear full makeup for the first time that day, but that's because she's pale and wanted a white dress, we had to make her face stand out in the pictures somehow!
I officiated doing the Universal Life Church thing, and me and the bride got drunk the week before the wedding, took all the handwritten notes the two of them had made about scripture (she's an Atheist, but he's a Christian) that appealed to both of them, some poetry and quotes she liked (huge Beatles fan, loves science fiction) and hashed out a speech. We continued to get drunk in the coming week and ended up with a really beautiful speech that was only about ten minutes long.
They asked everyone specifically not to wear shoes, to show as much skin as we liked but not to outshine the bride, and not have horrific amounts of product in our hair. The groom cooked vegan Italian wedding soup, baked beans and vegan enchiladas and the bride and I made "Dave's hors d'oeuvres the morning of. It was lovely. So, I don't think there's a right way to officiate as long as you get input from the couple.

ms. alex

Having a friend officiate my wedding was the best part of the whole thing, aside from the being married part. We started on time, got down to business, she said a few short and nerdy things (like using a quote from George Eliot), we had a reading, exchanged our rings, and BAM! Over in ten minutes, counting all the walking up and down the aisle.

And then she changed from a black suit into a bridesmaid dress and everyone partied the night away.


I totally want to officiate a wedding someday. My partner officiated for a friend recently, and she'll officiate ours when we get around to it. If anyone's in north central Florida and needs a cool officiant, hit me up... I'm thatjenn on pretty much all services, including gmail.


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