How to Choose the Right Wedding Officiant for Your Ceremony

Whether your wedding officiant will be a religious officiant, a civil officiant, or a loved one, here's everything you need to know to find and choose the perfect wedding officiant.

By Deanna deBara

wedding officiant
Photo by Konrad Brattke Photography

Your wedding ceremony is about you, your partner, and celebrating the start of your life together as a married couple. But other than your vows and your “I Do’s,” you and your soon-to-be spouse aren’t going to be saying much during your ceremony—that responsibility falls on the wedding officiant.

If your wedding was a circus, your wedding officiant would be the ringleader. They’re the person in charge of speaking to the crowd, moving the ceremony along, and, you know, actually marrying you. It’s a big job—which is why it’s important to choose the right person. Here’s how to do exactly that.

If you’re having a religious ceremony…

If you’re having a traditional religious ceremony, you’re limited in the kind of officiant you can have for your ceremony. For example, if you’re getting married in the Catholic church, you’re wedding will need to be officiated by a priest. If you’re Jewish and getting married in a synagogue, you’ll need to be married by a rabbi. If you’re having a traditional Muslim ceremony, you’ll need to be married by an Imam. Just because you’re limited in the type of officiant you can have at your wedding doesn’t mean you’re limited in who can officiate the ceremony.

Here’s how to find the right religious wedding officiant for your wedding ceremony:

Meet with a variety of wedding officiants.

Chances are, you had to go on a lot of dates with a lot of people before you found your spouse and fell in love. Well, it’s the same thing as finding the perfect wedding officiant. You’re probably going to have to meet with multiple officiants at multiple churches/synagogues/mosques/places of worship before you find the perfect match for your wedding.

Schedule meetings with at least 3-5 potential officiants. Look for someone that not only has experience officiating weddings but also makes you and your partner feel comfortable. Your wedding officiant is going to play a big part in your big day—so you want to make sure it’s someone who makes you feel at ease.

INLINE Photo by Cinder and Co. Photo Credit // Cinder and Co.

Find someone who aligns with your ceremony style.

If you’re having a religious wedding ceremony, you (obviously) need to find a wedding officiant that aligns with your faith. It’s just as important to find someone who aligns with your wedding style.

If you want to infuse your wedding ceremony with some light-hearted jokes, look for an easy-going officiant with a great sense of humor. If you want to keep things serious, look for a more traditional, old-school officiant.

The point is, every wedding ceremony—and every officiant—has a style. Make sure yours match up.

Make sure they’re comfortable public speaking.

Speaking is a huge part of a wedding officiant’s job. So it doesn’t matter if you find a priest who makes you feel completely comfortable, a rabbi with the perfect sense of humor, an Imam whose beliefs perfectly align with yours. If they’re not comfortable speaking in front of a crowd, they’re not the right person to officiate your wedding.

When you’re considering wedding officiants, try to get a feel for their comfort and ability to speak to a crowd. Do they have experience officiating weddings (and, therefore, feel comfortable leading a ceremony)? Are they able to project so that your wedding guests in the back row will be able to hear the ceremony? If the answer to any of these questions is no, keep looking. The right religious officiant is out there.

If you’re having a secular ceremony…

If you’re having a secular ceremony, all the rules we just covered for choosing a religious officiant still apply—but there are also some additional factors you’ll want to take into consideration.

Decide if you want someone you know vs. someone you don’t.

For a secular ceremony, you have two options for your wedding officiant: a civil officiant or a friend or family member.

There are, of course, pros and cons to both. Civil officiants have experience officiating weddings. It’s not their first time around the block, so they’ll know what to do, what questions to ask, and how to make sure your wedding ceremony goes off without a hitch. On the flip side, because a civil officiant doesn’t know you or your soon-to-be-spouse, the ceremony might not feel as personal as it would if you had a friend or family member officiating. Plus, you actually have to hire a civil officiant—which can eat into your wedding budget.

A friend or family member officiating your wedding can feel more intimate. Because they know you and your partner, they can share personal stories about your relationship. Having a loved one officiate your wedding is also more cost-effective. You don’t necessarily have to pay them and they can easily get certified to legally marry you at little-to-no cost. (If there is a cost, you may offer to pay this fee for them.)

Having a friend or family member officiate your wedding also comes with challenges. Chances are, whatever friend or family member you choose won’t have any experience with officiating weddings so there’s going to be a learning curve. There’s also a bit of added pressure. This person is probably quite close to both of you and they’ll want to do your marriage justice. This can add to their overall nervousness.

INLINE Laura Photo by Kathi Littwin Photography Photo Credit // Kathi Littwin Photography

Make sure they understand the role completely.

Again, officiating a wedding is a big job. A wedding officiant will need to meet with you and your partner multiple times before the wedding, write the ceremony, attend the rehearsal, and actually officiate on the big day. So if you do decide to ask a friend or family member to officiate your wedding, it’s important to make sure they have the bandwidth to take on the added responsibility.

For example, you might want your witty, outgoing cousin to officiate your wedding. If that same cousin is wrapping up grad school or pregnant with her first child, however, she’s probably not the right fit. It’s nothing personal—it’s just a time commitment.

If your loved one is already overwhelmed with other factors in his or her life, you don’t want to ask them to take on another huge responsibility. In those cases, it’s best to find an alternative wedding officiant.

Questions to Ask Potential Wedding Officiants

Whether your wedding officiant will be a religious officiant, a civil officiant, or a close loved one, here are some questions to ask before you make a decision.

Questions for Religious Officiant

  • How many weddings have you officiated?
  • Will you give a sermon/homily?
  • Can you officiate an interfaith ceremony? (If applicable)
  • Do we have to get married in the church/synagogue/mosque?
  • Can we write our own vows?
  • Is there a donation we should make to the house of worship?
  • How often will we meet?

Questions for Civil Officiant

  • How long have you been an officiant?
  • Will you give a speech during the ceremony?
  • If so, can we review it ahead of the ceremony?
  • Do you personalize each ceremony you officiate?
  • What does your typical ceremony outline involve?
  • What is your fee?
  • Can you help us with our vows?
  • What will you wear?

Questions for Friends or Family Officiant

  • Do you understand the responsibilities of the role?
  • Do you anticipate any scheduling conflicts?
  • Are you comfortable speaking in front of our families?
  • Do you have an idea of how you’ll officiate in mind?
  • Can we cover any costs to make you an officiant?

Now you know exactly how to choose the right wedding officiant. All that’s left to do is get out there and find the perfect person to officiate your big day!

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