Larry James' CelebrateIntimateWeddings BLOG

Monday, October 20, 2014

No Thanks! A Family Friend Will Perform Our Wedding Ceremony!

CAUTION: You are now entering… the Danger Zone!

It this really a good idea? You better think about this some more!

Yikes2014This is the most special day in your life and you want to hand this important aspect of your wedding to an amateur? I know they mean well, but if you want your wedding ceremony to be memorable you need a trained wedding professional. They have performed hundreds of wedding ceremonies and know all the ins and outs of the wedding business.

You guessed it. There are several downsides and many pitfalls to consider.

“Much can go wrong in the delivery of your wedding ceremony (when performed by a family friend). Even those who are proficient speakers under different circumstances may become rattled at the everyday glitches that can crop up in a wedding ceremony. Consider how your friend will do if the groom becomes emotional, the bride flubs her vows, the flower girl is whining, the musicians play the wrong selection, inclement weather conditions suddenly arise for your outdoor wedding, your feuding divorced parents refuse to sit next to one another, the microphone dies mid-sentence, or someone faints. Handling these situations requires a special set of skills. Professional officiants have “been there, done that” with every situation above and more!” – Maureen Thomson, Wedding Officiant

Although it’s an honor to perform a wedding ceremony, presiding over a friend or family member’s wedding has its pros and cons. There are not many benefits to being married by a family friend. Someone who becomes a wedding officiant for a one-time-only wedding ceremony can cause a bride and groom a lot of stress during the planning of the wedding. The only upside could be that they may do it for free. Free may be inviting but you usually get what you pay for. If money is an issue, cut down on some of the other wedding services, such as favors, etc., then hire a professional.

Rarely does the amateur think to provide a qualified back-up wedding officiant in the event of accident or illness. I continue to be surprised when a bride and groom call me for a “last-minute” wedding ceremony because their friend backed out at the last minute. This happens all the time as people get cold feet or egos start to clash between the couple and the officiating friend.

Most part-time officiants do not know how to construct a wedding ceremony, such as presentation protocol or the legal requirements governed by the state. Each state establishes specific criteria as to who can perform marriage ceremonies. Check the state where the marriage is taking place if it is different from where you live. In some states, your aspiring officiant must also register with the county before performing a ceremony, which sometimes requires a fee.

Several years ago I received a call from a bride who had just discovered that although they had a wedding ceremony performed by an uncle from Canada 1 year and a few months earlier, the Court House in Phoenix had no record of their license ever being filed. No official filing by the one-time wedding officiant = no legal marriage. The uncle went online and got an ordination to do one wedding. She was in a panic! I solved the problem by having them purchase another marriage license ($72) plus a certified copy of the license ($26) and performed a brief legal ceremony (with 2 witnesses) and immediately filed the license with the Maricopa County Court House. Although this is rare, the problem occurs when an inexperienced one-time wedding officiant is unaware of the legalities and all other aspect of the wedding business. Solution: Always hire an experienced, full-time Wedding Officiant! AND check their references!

The amateur officiant is rarely ever able to present a plan of the important steps of the wedding ceremony to the bride and groom. Why? Because they don’t know. Officiant planning and coordination with wedding vendors is crucial to the bride, groom, and those participating in the wedding.

“Having a Friend or Relative marry you: This has backfired for many a bride. We have seen the officiant faint, get sick, not say nice things, be silly or rude and forget to fill out the proper paper work to make it official – leaving couples unmarried. There are non-denominational officiants, religious clergy, retired clergy, judges and men and women who are trained in creating personalized wedding services for couples at a modest price… best of all you will be legally married with the documents to prove it.” ~ Judith Rivers-Moore

A number of people are dependent upon the wedding officiant. In fact, wedding photographers, ceremony musicians, disc jockeys, wedding consultants, the wedding venue, etc., tell me of their dread of working with unskilled family members or friends who show up to perform the ceremony. “Hand-holding” the wedding officiant is not part of any other wedding vendor’s job description.

There are so many little details to remember when putting together a wedding, it may be in your best interest to hire a wedding planner to do it for you, or at least help you. You can hire a consultant at any stage in your wedding plans, from beginning to end. She can save you the most money, time and stress in the early planning stages. Look at a consultant as a necessity, as you would regard a caterer, venue, minister or photographer. She is just as important!

Almost one-third of couples surveyed after their wedding who did not use a wedding consultant dearly wish they had! Some wedding consultants can be hired for the day of your wedding to help coordinate all the last-minute details.

tvwedOne of the questions you should ask an amateur is, are they legally qualified to perform weddings in your state? Two other questions should be, “Do you have a ceremony prepared?” and “Do you know what legally must be in a ceremony in your state?” It is their responsibility to check the individual state laws regarding this issue. Do they know the tone that you want for your ceremony? Some couples do not regularly attend a church or synagogue and will want to have final say over the spiritual content in their ceremony.

Do they know about music, scripture readings, poems, vows and wedding traditions. Have they ever created an order of events for the ceremony to follow so both the minister and couple knows the order that things will happen. Do they know how to lead a rehearsal if there is no wedding coordinator available? What about a back-yard wedding rehearsal?

You should also note that some religious denominations will not recognize a marriage performed by someone ordained outside the faith; so, although you may be legally married, your church may not acknowledge it.

Someone from Chicago wrote: “I went to one wedding where the groom’s brother married the couple, and it was more like a drawn-out reception speech (complete with a dirty joke thrown in) than a wedding ceremony. Whatever you do, just make sure the person you choose has a clear idea of the atmosphere you’re looking for, and consider creating an outline for him/her to follow.”

Choosing a wedding officiant based on price alone is like choosing a husband based solely on salary.

Just to clear things up. . . getting an online ordination is perfectly legal in the state of Arizona. The hard part is finding a “qualified” wedding officiant with an online ordination who has the “experience” in performing ceremonies that will keep you from experiencing all the things that go wrong with an amateur. There is no Biblical example of a minister performing a marriage ceremony. This does not mean that it is wrong, but simply that the Bible does not seem to support it as a religious practice. Therefore, it is American culture that has made the officiating of marriages a religious matter.

Be very careful to hire someone who can give you excellent references. If they cannot provide references. . . find someone else. (Local laws governing religion and clergy vary widely so check with state, country, and provincial authorities before performing ceremonies like marriages.)

There are two important areas of your wedding celebration where price should never be a factor. A mediocre Minister and a unenthusiastic DJ can wreak havoc at your wedding. A lackluster minister with a boring ceremony – like most of the others you’ve heard – can leave the guests cold and uninspired and if the DJ isn’t a true “entertainer” the party can crash and burn. Your wedding reception DJ should be considered your entertainment director. A great DJ determines whether your reception is a hit or a miss! The minister and the DJ should be the very best you can hire. I know it’s cliche, but you really do get what you pay for.

Perhaps the primary deciding factor should be who performs the most memorable and unique wedding ceremony for you and your guests and what other extras do they offer in their package that other ministers do not. You will enjoy the comfort and assurance of knowing you are contracting with a first-class minister who comes with professional experience, impeccable integrity, commendable references, a gentle and enthusiastic spirit and a subtle, but delightful sense of humor (Hmmm, sounds like a description of Larry James).

This is your very special day. It will only happen once. I would never recommend that you make your decision on price alone. There are numerous other areas that you can cut back on when the $$s are tight. The ideal Officiant is not only someone who is important to the bride and groom, but is articulate and capable of handling such an important event. Cheap is seldom ever memorable!

There are many ways to accomplish a memorable wedding ceremony that makes everyone happy. A full-time wedding minister or officiant knows all the ins and outs of the wedding business.

I had a couple call recently and forfeited their deposit so that the groom’s uncle – who had never performed a wedding ceremony and “insisted” on being the wedding officiant – could perform the ceremony. The bride confided to me that this was not what she really wanted but bowed to the pressure of the uncle rather than unset the uncle. How sad. Your wedding is YOUR wedding, not your uncles, your mothers or anyone else.

“When a friend or relative provides a poor quality product or service as a gift for your wedding, you might recover from the disappointment, but they never will. Do your family and friends a favor and decline their offer to work at your wedding by letting them know you want them to celebrate with all the other family and friends. You will save everybody potential grief and hurt feelings.” ~ John Goolsby, Videographer

Perhaps the best advice is to find a truly great officiant or minister who can help you with this process: one who be the perfect combo of thoughtful adviser, skilled writer, excellent public speaker and who will keep your stress level as low as possible. Personal touches and light humor by the minister are a great way to add even more personality to your ceremony.

OnlineMinisterBelieve me, you will sleep better and have much less stress show up as you plan your wedding if you shell out the $$$’s to hire a full-time wedding minister; someone who will perform for you and your fiance a personalized, unique and memorable ceremony you will always treasure.

Note: Congratulations to Mr. & Mrs. Mahmoud Sallam. Dana Vogel & Mahmoud Sallam were married at 3 p.m., Thursday, December 30, 2010 @ Val Vista Lakes, Gilbert, AZ. Their close family friend was going to do their wedding ceremony and backed out 3 days before their wedding. I met with Dana & Mahmoud the day before the wedding and performed my “romantic” wedding ceremony for them the following day.

This is not the first time that I have received a call from a frantic bride or groom that a family friend who was supposed to do the couples wedding ceremony lost their nerve and backed out leaving the bride and groom to scramble to find a last-minute replacement. Just because a family friend volunteers to do your ceremony is no reason for you to give in because you are afraid you will hurt their feelings. Be couragous! Say, “No, and thank you for asking. We are going to hire a full-time wedding officiant!” (Ask them to do a special reading for you during the ceremony and then hire a professional). This is the most important day of your life. Do you want to put it in the hands of someone who got ordained especailly for your wedding and has never before performed a ceremony? Think about it. Be sure it’s something that YOU want and “always” have a backup plan!

Note from Bishop Ronald Turcot, Oldsmar, Florida: Larry, a bride’s “friend” who is not trained / ordained has no business performing any wedding. This is supposed to be a very special moment in a bridal couple’s life and there is no doubt at all in my mind, that a non-professional amateur cannot deliver the proper meaning of what married life is all about nor the the sacrament of the marriage. I have observed so many of these amateurs destroy a wedding ceremony beyond their knowledge & control. It turns so sad! When the wedding is over, and everyone (guests & family) realized how many mistakes were done and at the important & critical times in the ceremony, they were all very upset. There are NO do-overs, when the ceremony is over…it’s over. Best wishes!


Click for Larry’s Wedding Website!

Copyright © 2014 – Larry James. This information is adapted from Larry’s Wedding Website and Wedding Blog. Larry James is an award winning, non-denominational wedding officiant and performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere! Every wedding ceremony is customized to your complete satisfaction. Call to check availability: Cell: 480-205-3694. Pre-maritial relationship coaching is available and not required. You will find more than 475 pages of Wedding ideas, tips (90 tips and growing), ceremonies, and more at: Something NEW about weddings is posted every 4th day on this Wedding BLOG. Check Larry’s availability.

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  8. Reblogged this on azphoenixphotographers.


    Comment by nancymariephotography — Sunday, November 24, 2013 @ 11:17 am | Reply

  9. […] You’re not allowed to freak out if a friend goes online, gets ordained for one wedding and offers to perform your ceremony for free and he/she totally screws up your wedding ceremony. In this case you really do get what you pay for. If you know someone thinking of doing this or if you are thinking going the “cheap” route, be sure to read: “No Thanks! A Family Friend Will Perform Our Wedding Ceremony!“ […]


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  10. […] family who has never performed a wedding ceremony before or someone who has obtained an ordination online just to do one wedding and is without any experience in the wedding business. I cannot stress this […]


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  11. Bravo! You are right on!


    Comment by Rabbi Steve — Monday, June 17, 2013 @ 6:00 pm | Reply

  12. God created marriage so one man, and one woman can become one before God. Marriage is the first and most important institution that was created by God himself at the beginning time.

    The holy union of marriage is the most sacred of all human relationships, but any person who has accepted, and follows Christ can perform a wedding lawfully. Any person who acquired the needed papers can legally perform a wedding. Now this does not make them a professional, and you do not always need a professional.

    However, If your not using a professional, I would highly recommend a wedding, or day planner. The only way to have a real marriage is to have Christ centered in it. I think your best chance for this is to have a minister prepare and bless the wedding.

    Your Wedding, should reflect worship, joy, celebration, respect, community, dignity and love.


    Comment by Pastor Jay R — Wednesday, June 5, 2013 @ 8:22 am | Reply

  13. I have to disagree with you Larry, cheap IS memorable. Maybe not in the way the couple had hoped, but having someone ruin your ceremony is memorable just the same! I am amazed at the officiants – even so called professionals who cannot construct a sentence correctly!
    Officiants are not vendors – though they are hired, independent professionals.
    Officiants set the ‘tone’ of the wedding be it deeply spiritual or a solemn yet relaxed affair.
    And not everyone out there performing ceremonies are legal. I recently had a couple come to me because the officiant they found was indeed inexpensive. But when the groom questioned him about the paperwork, the groom was told there was none. If the marriage is to be legal it must be filed with the Court!

    You raised some very good points here – I’ve passed this on. I hope more & more couples read this. It will save them a LOT of heartache. ~ Starla Clooney


    Comment by Starla Northcutt Clooney — Friday, May 31, 2013 @ 5:33 pm | Reply

    • Starla ~ I suppose it depends upon what kind of “memorable” you want. 😉

      In my opinion, the wedding ceremony IS the wedding. The party at the reception is lots of fun for everyone, however a memorable ceremony – one where the officiant can actually “construct a sentence correctly,” capture the full attention of the guests, and is willing to totally customize the ceremony per the wishes of the bride and groom – is what most brides and grooms are looking for. Most inexperienced officiants, those who get ordained only to do one wedding for free for a friend, who have no knowledge of what the ceremony must have in it legally, usually (but not always) are nervous, fumble words, and basically screw it up for the bride and groom. If that’s the kind of memorable they want, that is their choice.

      As I said before, “Be very careful to hire someone who can give you excellent references. If they cannot provide references. . . find someone else.” Or better yet, report them if you know them to not have the proper credentials required by the state in which they are performing the ceremony. Getting ordained online is legal in most states. I know many very good wedding officiants in the Greater Phoenix that received their papers online. Filing the legal paperwork with the proper authority is required by law. The problem is the inexperience of the “one ceremony wonder!”

      Contrary to your comment, “Officiants are not vendors” – they indeed ARE wedding vendors. Wedding vendors provide very special wedding services to the bride and groom. That’s what a vendor is and does. I am proud to be a wedding vendor and have collected numerous “rave reviews” from hundreds of brides and grooms.

      Just last week, I received another call from a bride and groom whose uncle was excited to perform their wedding ceremony, but as the time for the ceremony was drawing close, he called them and said “he just couldn’t do it.” He did, however, ask them to choose someone else and did pay the wedding officiant’s fee. I was honored to perform my “romantic” wedding ceremony for them and their guests

      Starla, thank you for dropping by my Wedding Blog. I do appreciate your comments. Thank you for passing it on.


      Comment by Larry James — Friday, May 31, 2013 @ 11:25 pm | Reply

  14. This is so true! Thank you for the post. I wish more couples would concider the downfalls that can arise using family or friends. Sometimes the cheapest route isn’t the best.


    Comment by Rev. Nicole — Thursday, May 30, 2013 @ 6:11 am | Reply

  15. Great Article Larry. From one of your favorite Fans!


    Comment by Christobel E. Hanz — Monday, May 27, 2013 @ 12:11 pm | Reply

  16. Have you ever considered about including a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is valuable and everything.
    However imagine if you added some great images or video clips to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and video clips, this website could certainly be one of the greatest in its niche. Terrific blog!


    Comment by Thomas — Friday, May 10, 2013 @ 4:21 am | Reply

    • Thomas ~ There are 4 images in this blog post. Me thinks you just wanted to promote your Website. Link deleted. Thanks for your comment.


      Comment by Larry James — Friday, May 10, 2013 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

  17. My husband has performed wedding ceremonies for two friends. In both cases, he didn’t volunteer, he was asked. He did an absolutely beautiful job. He has experience speaking in public, and is someone who would never back out at the last minute, say something inappropriate during the ceremony, get drunk, dress badly, etc., etc. On the other hand, we were married by a clergyman with decades of experience (recommended by a friend, but we didn’t know him). He lost his notes on the way to the ceremony and had to work from memory. It turned out his memory wasn’t that good. The real key is to find someone, professional or not, you know and trust, who has some proven speaking ability, and who is well organized.


    Comment by Rosemary | — Monday, April 8, 2013 @ 7:53 am | Reply

    • Rosemary ~ Thank you for your comments. Obviously there are exceptions to every rule. However, nearly all the brides and grooms I have spoken with who have had a friend perform their ceremony have stated that the ceremony didn’t live up to their expectations and many wished they had hired a professional wedding officiant.

      I would like to also stress that just because someone has “proven speaking ability” doesn’t mean that they have experience as a performer of wedding ceremonies. There is much to learn about being a wedding officiant and the learning never stops. Friends who think they can put together a wedding ceremony and have it come off as a trained professional usually are mistaken. There is much more to it than that.

      A “freebee” friend wedding ceremony is usually not worth it.


      Comment by Larry James — Monday, April 8, 2013 @ 5:16 pm | Reply

    • I would also add that while it isn’t always the rule, there are other considerations that the article mentioned. What would your husband have done in the case of an emergency? Does he know someone else ordained that could step right in to cover? Does he understand all the formalities/etiquette to properly run a rehearsal? Does he have a collection of readings and unities to offer couples, understand his place during the ceremony, such as when he should not be in the picture? So many other things go into play.


      Comment by Rev. Carleen — Sunday, June 2, 2013 @ 9:42 am | Reply

  18. This was hysterically biased and blatantly manipulative. Thanks for the laugh!


    Comment by Beatrice — Friday, July 6, 2012 @ 8:47 am | Reply

    • Beatrice – You’re right! It is! However, for the brides and grooms who have experienced the disaster of having a friend – who is inexperienced in performing ceremonies – it’s not that funny. 😉 Thanks for your comment.


      Comment by Larry James — Friday, July 6, 2012 @ 3:24 pm | Reply

  19. Thanks for forwarding me the link to this article Larry. You and I are definitely on the same page 🙂 Anita


    Comment by Anita — Saturday, March 19, 2011 @ 7:01 pm | Reply

  20. Hey Cool looking site, really nice info you got there! have a good day!


    Comment by Groom Wedding Speech — Monday, May 3, 2010 @ 10:36 am | Reply

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