How to Officiate a Wedding

Wedding planning for the couple comes with its own checklist, but here are other boxes on an officiant’s to-do list as well. Here are the steps an officiant should follow to take a couple into marriage.

By The Zola Team

The First Look ✨

  • The officiant plays a key role in the wedding ceremony as the person who leads the couple and guests through the ceremony script and officially pronounces the couple wed.
  • To become a wedding officiant, first get legally ordained by the state the marriage is taking place in, then research state-specific responsibilities.
  • Prep work is a must. Talking to the couple about their vision for the ceremony, securing the proper attire, and taking care of the marriage license are just a few of the wedding officiant’s tasks.

If you’re here, then someone in your life has likely just popped the question: “Will you marry us?” Whether you’ve already responded with an enthusiastic “yes” or are still thinking it over, you’re probably wondering how to officiate a wedding and what your duties will be.

The officiant plays a key role in the wedding ceremony as the person who leads the couple and guests through the script and officially pronounces the couple wed, but there are other boxes on an officiant’s to-do list as well. Here are the steps you should follow to send your friends or family members off into married life without a hitch.

How to Become a Wedding Officiant

1. Get Legally Ordained by the State

To perform a marriage, you must be ordained and in accordance with the legal requirements set by that state. Each state’s laws vary—head over to our guide on how to become an officiant to learn more.

2. Research Your Officiant Responsibilities (Based on the State)

As we mentioned previously, every state has a different set of laws that dictate who can become an officiant, what you must do to become a legal officiant, and what the officiant’s responsibilities are to ensure the marriage is legitimate. Research these to gain a sense of what is expected of you in the eyes of the state legislature throughout the process.

For example, knowing who is responsible for taking care of the marriage license (such as who signs it and who returns it to the office of issuance) is a crucial piece of information to have before the wedding.

3. Discuss The Ceremony With The Couple

Meet with the couple to talk about their vision for the ceremony, and to gain insight into their relationship and personalities.

  • Some key topics to discuss with the couple:
    • Tone of the ceremony (lighthearted, religious, formal, non-traditional, etc.)
    • If there are any special quotes or readings they want to include
    • Ideal length of the ceremony
    • Whether they want to include any special traditions (such as jumping the broom or a unity ceremony)
    • Whether they want to exchange traditional vows or write their own
    • How much of their personal story they want incorporated
    • Their feelings and thoughts about love and marriage
    • What type of attire the couple would like you to wear If there are any special announcements they would like you to make (such as honoring loved ones lost or reminding the crowd to refrain from taking photos)

4. Write The Ceremony Script and Get It Approved

Use the information you gathered from your meeting with the couple to start writing the ceremony script. Once you have a draft of the ceremony, share it with the couple and gather any feedback. This task should be completed, at minimum, a few months before the wedding day to ensure there’s plenty of time for any edits needed.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice.

Once you have a final script ready, practice reading it aloud in front of others. This will help reduce mistakes on the day of and help you become more comfortable with public speaking. Time yourself as you practice to get a sense of how long the ceremony will be. If you don’t have a test audience to practice with, record yourself on a trial run.

6. Secure Your Outfit and Any Necessary Props

Considering the wishes the couple shared during your initial meeting, secure your outfit for the ceremony and run it past the couple before the wedding day. Some couples prefer the officiant to match the formality and colors/aesthetic of their day. Determine what additional props or items you need for the ceremony, such as notecards or a tablet where you can refer to the script.

7. Nail Down Final Details Before The Big Day

Touch base with the couple a few weeks before the big day to finalize the timeline and address any remaining questions.

8. Attend (or Lead) The Wedding Rehearsal

If the couple would like you to lead or attend the rehearsal, make sure to arrive on time and be prepared to run through the full script multiple times. Use this time to work through any timing issues, determine where everyone will stand and the order of the processional and recessional, and confirm how you will cue the couple for key moments of the ceremony (such as the ring exchange).

9. Marry The Couple

The wedding day is here and it’s time to marry the couple! Remember that mistakes often happen during the ceremony. Everyone is excited and emotions are running high, so just do your best to roll with any little mess-ups and enjoy being able to witness the union of these two special people. You have the unique privilege of being right there with the couple as they enter into married life.

10. Take Care of The Marriage License

If there are responsibilities concerning the marriage license that fall to you, make sure to tackle those requirements in a timely manner. Remember, failing to complete any necessary tasks as the officiant could result in the marriage being not officially legal. The prep work you’ve already done will help ensure things are finalized without any hiccups.

Simplify Your Wedding Planning at Zola