11 expert tips on how to perform and officiate your first wedding

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Did you say YES to “Will you marry us?” Congratulations! You're officiating a wedding for a loved one! On top of feeling elated and honored to participate in their wedding in such a meaningful way, you're probably wondering “How do I officiate my first wedding?,” and “I wish there were a class on officiating…”

Although officiating for your friend's wedding sadly isn't a college course (yet!), we've teamed up with Life-Cycle Celebrant Jessie Blum to create something pretty close: The Offbeat Wed Officiant Pack! But first, let's start with the basic steps, from “What do you say as a wedding officiant?,” to “How do I make the wedding ceremony fun and memorable?” Jessie Blum is here to guide you on how to officiate your first wedding. After all, she's only officiated over 600 weddings…

Here are 11 tips on how to perform and officiate your first wedding:

Shake off those nerves cuz you're gonna do amazing, sweetie!

1) Meet with the couple to determinoe exactly what they want

Get comfy with your soonlyweds over snacks and smooth jazz because y'all are about to have a deep conversation! As a first-time wedding officiant, you'll want to know:

  • Rituals they want to include
  • If they want to write part of the ceremony
  • Do they plan to write their own vows
  • Will there be a wedding planner? Make sure you have their contact information and understand their timeline as well.

This will help you create clear expectations regarding what your participation will look like. Oh, and it's also helpful to ask what they DON’T want!

The Offbeat Wed Officiant Pack includes a thorough questionnaire to help you guide the soonlyweds and help you get a good idea of what their ceremony will feel like. Plus it helps fill in those gaps of “What do you say as a wedding officiant?”. Once you have those robust answers, the words will just flow out of you!

2) Set the timeline for the couple.

Some helpful milestones to set between yourself and the marriers are:

  • When you will have the ceremony done
  • When can you expect their vows
  • If you will meet again to talk about the ceremony
  • Do they want a ceremony rehearsal
  • What time should you show up to the ceremony

3) Make sure you’re legally able to officiate!

If you're learning how to officiate your first wedding, this is a crucial step! Every state has different legal requirements for officiating. If you’re in the U.S., this page is an excellent resource for wedding officiant laws by state.

4) Begin to research and put the ceremony together.

Offbeat Wed has tons of ceremony scripts you can read for inspiration. Or the Officiant Pack deep dives into how to create a unique and memorable wedding ceremony.

5) Share a first ceremony draft with the couple, and ask them about changes.

This is the part where you will check in to see if your draft aligns with the questionnaire answers you received from the first meeting! Leave room for feedback and implement any edits they may have.

6) Set a “freeze” date for the ceremony

To avoid stress and save everyone's sanity, make sure you set a date when no more edits or changes can be made. A week or two beforehand is ideal. The same goes for their vows. Make sure you have a copy of their final vows on hand in case something happens *ahem, someone forgets to bring them up the altar*.

7) Ask the couple how they’d like you to dress

Perhaps they've dreamed of having their wedding officiated by Miss Argentina from Beetlejuice. Or maybe they'd prefer you in black tie? Make sure you get the memo correct!

8) Run the wedding rehearsal

Not every set of soonlyweds wants a wedding rehearsal! But if your loved ones want the extra practice, here's how it generally goes:

  • Practice arranging the ceremony. Who is standing where? Who is holding what (rings, vows, bouquets, etc.)
  • Run through the ceremony. Many people think this is just practicing walking up the aisle, but working through every element means a much smoother ceremony.
  • Run it a second time. Practice makes perfect!
  • Ask questions. If there are any kinks, the rehearsal is the time to work them out.

9) Go over how to sign the marriage license

You don't want to forget this when you're ready to officiate your first wedding! Make sure you have a hard surface (like a clipboard) and the right kind of pen (many municipalities require that the signatures must be in black ballpoint pen!). 

10) Show up on the day of the ceremony ON TIME

Early is on time, baby. Check in with the couple and let them know you are there. Get ready to have fun, share the love, and have a fantastic experience officiating the pants off everyone!

11) Submit the marriage license

Don't make this rookie mistake when you officiate your first wedding! Make sure you know the deadline to submit their license. Put a million reminders in your phone if you have to. You don’t want to be the reason their marriage isn’t legal!

This is only a really big deal to your loved ones so no pressure!

No, but seriously. You wouldn't have been asked to officiate your first wedding if your loved ones didn't 100% believe you would make it a heartfelt and awesome experience. The pressure to deliver a great experience might feel overwhelming, but remember, they gave you the honor of officiating because they cherish your voice, your perspective, and the role you've played in their love story thus far.

And when the nitty-gritty of performing and officiating a wedding ceremony feels daunting, the Offbeat Wed Officiant Pack can help shoulder a huge chunk of that mental load. The officiant pack was designed to guide you through every detail of how to officiate your first wedding and empower you to craft a unique, personal, and memorable wedding ceremony for everyone involved.

You got this! Learn more about the Offbeat Wed Officiant Pack here.

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