During a wedding ceremony, the bride and groom make vows before God, family and friends who love and support one another throughout their marriage. Wedding ceremonies can be performed by spiritual leaders like priests, ministers, rabbis, or by any person who is ordained to conduct weddings. In order to conduct a wedding ceremony, an officiant may be ordained or licensed (depending on their denomination) and follow the state laws where the marriage will be performed. An officiant also must have an understanding of the elements of a wedding ceremony, and be able to flawlessly execute the ceremony. Use these tip to conduct a wedding ceremony.
Obtain ordination credentials. If you are not already ordained as a spiritual leader of a religious group, you must become ordained in order to legally conduct a wedding ceremony.
- You’ll need to attend a religious school to become ordained if you want to perform wedding ceremonies.
- You’ll need online ordination credentials if you will be conducting an occasional wedding ceremony for family or friends. Many Internet sites offer online ordination credentials, as well as instructions and training for performing wedding ceremonies.
Understand the marriage laws in the state where the couple will be married. Each state has specific laws about who can legally conduct a wedding ceremony. If you are not sure of the laws, contact the local county clerk where the wedding will be held. Ask what you need to do to register in order to perform a legally binding wedding in that state.
Meet with the couple to be married. The couple may have a specific type of ceremony in mind for their wedding. Some couples may want a traditional wedding ceremony, while others may choose to create their own ceremony. Find out exactly what the couple desires for their wedding ceremony prior to the event.
Plan the wedding ceremony. Most wedding ceremonies consist of 7 parts: the procession, invocation, declaration of intent, vows exchange, ring exchange, pronouncement and recession. A wedding officiant should write down the order and language of each part of the ceremony, so he or she can refer to it as needed during the ceremony.
- Organize the procession. The procession is the beginning of the wedding ceremony, during while the guests are seated, the wedding party enters and the bride enters. The procession is typically accompanied by music. In some traditions, the bride is accompanied by her father during the procession, but in others, both parents process in with the bride. The bride also can process in by herself.
- Write the invocation. During the invocation, the officiant greets the guests, introduces the couple and announces the purpose of the gathering. Some couples choose to include a special reading from a religious text or poem during the invocation.
- Prepare the declaration of intent. During the declaration of intent, the officiant asks the couple if they will marry each another. The declaration confirms that the bride and groom are willingly entering into a marriage covenant. Couples usually respond with “I do” or “I will” to the officiant’s questions of intent. Traditionally, the officiant asks the wedding guests if anyone present objects to the wedding during the declaration of intent. However, this tradition, which dates back to the 1920s, is not required.
- Prepare the vows exchange. Some couples want traditional wedding vows while other couple want to write their own. If the couple prepares their own vows, the officiant should remain quiet and attentive. If the couple chooses to use traditional vows, the officiant may ask the bride and groom to repeat the vows after him. In this case, the officiant should speak slowly and clearly so the bride and groom can repeat the vows without forgetting or stumbling over words.
- Organize the ring exchange. During the ring exchange, the bride and groom place wedding rings on each other’s fingers. In some traditions, the ring exchange may include spoken vows that usually begin with the phrase, “with this ring, I thee wed.” If the ceremony includes ring bearers, they will present the rings to the couple. Otherwise, the best man typically gives the rings to the officiant, who may bless the rings before giving them to the couple. Following the ring exchange, some couples may choose to include a special ritual in the wedding ceremony, such as lighting a unity candle, presenting roses to the parents or sharing a meaningful song.
- Prepare the pronouncement. During the pronouncement, the officiant declares that the couple is now married. In many traditions, this is when the bride and groom kiss for the first time as a married couple, sealing their wedding vow with a kiss. The officiant often includes a phrase like, “by the authority vested in my by the state of (where the wedding is taking place) during the pronouncement to show that the wedding is spiritually and legally binding.
- Organize the recession. During the recession, the newly married couple exits the ceremony space, followed by the bridal party, family and guests. The officiant may follow the bridal party out of the ceremony space to greet guests, or may wait until all guests have recessed.
Lead a wedding ceremony rehearsal. A wedding ceremony rehearsal is a time for the bride, groom, wedding party and family to practice the actual ceremony. The wedding rehearsal is typically held the evening before the wedding. During the rehearsal, the officiant guides the bride, groom and wedding party through each part of the ceremony. If the bride and groom are writing their own vows, this gives them an opportunity to practice their vows.
Conduct the wedding ceremony. The officiant performs the ceremony at the appointed time on the wedding day. The officiant should not deviate from the order or language used at the wedding ceremony rehearsal. Additionally, the officiant should be prepared to offer encouragement to the bride and groom, who may be nervous about speaking in front of their guests.
Provide a marriage license for the couple. Depending on the state laws, the officiant may be required to sign a marriage license. In many cases, the officiant also is responsible for getting the license signed by 2 witnesses and then mailing the license to the proper state officials. If the officiant does not sign the marriage license, he or she may supply the couple with a signed wedding certificate as a keepsake of the special day.