How To Nail It as a First Time Wedding Officiant

Tips for officiating a wedding ceremony

Tips for officiating wedding ceremony


Congratulations! Your friends are getting married and they have given you the distinct honor of being their officiant! Truly, what a joy to have such an important role in this special day. 

So, in preparing for the wedding ceremony, you applied to get ordained through the Universal Life Church and you start to wonder… “What am I going to say?” and “How does an officiant even act?”

Well don’t worry because I have a few tips to guide you and make you look like a pro!

Many of my weddings are officiated by a friend or family member, and it is a wonderful way to go. I love when I see this because it is so personal to be joined together in marriage by someone that you know. 

 Below are some great tips to help you officiate your first wedding ceremony like a pro! The things to do are actually extremely simple but make a BIG difference in the flow of the ceremony and the everyone’s comfort. 


Tips for officiating wedding ceremony


1.Lead with a little story about the couple and your relation to them

 Whether you’re the humorous type or the sentimental type, a little story is always a fun intro into the ceremony before starting the formalities. Make sure you welcome the guests and introduce yourself and how you know the couple. You can tell a funny story about how they met, how each knew they were “the one”, and/or how YOU knew they were meant for each other. You can even ask them these questions separately and read their responses aloud for each other to hear the first time as a fun little suprise. Whether your story makes people laugh or cry some happy tears, that emotional connection will warm everyone up for the very special vows they are making next. 


Tips for officiating wedding ceremony


2. Hide your notes within a book

In this day and age, we are so used to smart phones. But on the wedding day, it looks much better to leave phones stowed away. What looks really nice is to print out your ceremony notes and place them in a book that you can hold them in and read out of. It could be a leather journal, a religious text, or whatever you think suits the couple and the ceremony that you have planned. Plus, you don’t have to worry about a book ringing or losing charge. 😉


Tips for officiating wedding ceremony


3. Inform Guests when to Sit and Stand

This one is really simple, but as a first time officiant, it’s easy to miss. Guests will appreciate your guidance when you tell them to “Please Rise” or simply gesture your hands up to signal that its time to stand when the bride/ final partner/ or both partners walk down the aisle. 

Most people know to stand once they see that person coming down the aisle, but even more important is telling everyone when they can sit down again. Usually this is said right after the parents give away the partners and go back to their seats. At this point, just before you begin your intro story, simply say “ You may be seated”. I have seen countless times where officiating friends forgot to say this and guests stood halfway through the ceremony, looking around to each other wondering when it was appropriate to sit again. So guiding them in this way will just make this smooth for the guests and make you look more professional. 


Tips for officiating wedding ceremony


4. Tell the Couple to Hold Hands

Again, a super simple tip, but really it makes a world of difference in the comfort of the couple. I think its nice to simply say “ Please join your hands together” right after you’ve instructed guests to “please be seated.” and the parents have left the alter. This way, the couple can connect and hold each other’s hands as you tell their story. Not only is this more romantic, but it soothes any nerves that may occur due to being in front of crowds, and it looks much better in pictures. It also prevents them from accidentally standing the whole time with their backs to their guests. 


Tips for officiating wedding ceremony


5. Stand in Front of the Arbor

Speaking of looking better in pictures, if there is a ceremony arbor, it usually looks much better for you to stand centered in front of the arbor, rather than underneath it. In the past, I have seen first time officiants stand underneath the arbor, leading the bride and groom to stand under the arbor as well. While this may seem like a good option, the couple’s faces are blocked on either side by the arbor/flowers which can make it very difficult to get pictures of their reactions as they read their vows and exchange rings. Standing in front of the arbor, allows it to be your beautiful backdrop and allows me and all your guests to be able to see and enjoy each partner’s expression during the emotional parts of the wedding. 


Tips for officiating wedding ceremony


6. Step to the Side During the Kiss

This one can sometimes be tricky to remember when getting caught up in the excitement of the moment, but if you can remember to simply step aside as you tell the newlyweds to kiss for the first time. It makes for much better pictures. Looking back at their photos, your friends will definitely appreciate it!

Anyways, I hope these tips help you feel confident in your role as Officiant. They will certainly make you look like an experienced pro and help their ceremony pictures turn out great! 

XO, Shelley Hartman

NC + Destination Wedding Photographer


Tips for officiating wedding ceremony

Tips for Officiating a Wedding Ceremony






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