Tips for crafting and performing a wedding ceremony

It is one of the greatest honors when a friend or family member asks you to officiate their wedding ceremony. This may be a first or one of the few experiences conducting this role and your loved ones believe you are the perfect person for the job. From customizing the ceremony, to leading the rehearsal and finally performing the ceremony, there are many details to keep in mind.

The task at hand may at first seem a little overwhelming and that is why I am here to help.

Since becoming a professional officiant I have had the pleasure of attending many weddings as a guest. While I’ve observed some folks take on the officiant role as “a one time gig”, I have come away with some tips to share for performing the ceremony. The following tips are items to keep in mind, and are purely just things that I want to mention. I recommend you write down what you feel seems to flow with your style and go over the details in the rehearsal. That will help you remember for the wedding day!

I offer complete consultations for officiant coaching, including assistance with writing the ceremony script, guidance for obtaining your ordination and the marriage license, leading the rehearsal and planning the ceremony. Please contact me for further details.


  Jodi Ann Photography   I moved to the side for Sami and Nate’s vows

Jodi Ann Photography

I moved to the side for Sami and Nate’s vows

Performing the Ceremony

  • Mic; if the ceremony is outside with more than 35 guests, I recommend that you have an amplified ceremony. The best situation is for the officiant to have a lapel mic and then have one hand held mic available. The hand held mic is for the couple to use when they say their vows and if their is a guest offering a reading during the ceremony.

  • Digital and hard copy; I use a tablet to read the ceremony, it works well especially if there is wind and you don’t need to turn pages. I always bring a printed copy in a black folder. Also, ask the couple to send you their vows and you can have a printed version available, just in case they forget to bring their copy.

  • Rings; the morning of the ceremony, know who is responsible for bringing the rings to the ceremony. Then 30 minutes before the ceremony, check with that person that they have the rings for the ceremony.

  • Marriage license; the day of ceremony, receive the marriage license from he couple and keep it with you to sign after the ceremony. This helps prevent anyone needing to hustle around and locate it after the ceremony when everyone is ready to party.

  • Arrive to the alter about 5 minutes before ceremony start time. Your presence at the alter will set the tone that it’s almost go time and the guests will begin to take their seats and button up. As they get settled in, introduce yourself, your name and your connection to the couple. Also mention how fortunate you feel to be the one to officiate the ceremony for the wonderful couple.

  • Unplugged announcement; after your introduction remind guests to turn off their phone ringers. If the couple requests an unplugged ceremony, ask guests to refrain from taking any photos or videos and leave that to the professionals.

  • Bride’s entrance; ask guests to please stand when the bride approaches the aisle. You will then ask for everyone to take their seat once the bride has arrived to the alter and settles in.

  • Giving away the bride; before the ceremony, ask the couple if they want “giving away the bride” to be traditional. This is when the bride is escorted by her father, mother or both and when they arrive at the alter you ask “who gives this woman to marry this man?”. The response is, “I do”, “her mother and I do”, or “her family and I do”.

An alternative can be said like this;

“who supports bride in her wedding to fiancé today?”

More than half of my weddings have a nonverbal exchange with just music. The exchange looks like this;

  • the bride arrives to the front with her escort,

  • her fiancee steps forward to receive her,

  • her fiancee hugs the person who accompanied her,

  • the bride then hugs her escort,

  • the couple continues forward and take their place in front of the officiant,

  • the bride’s escort moves off and takes his/her seat.

All this happens seamlessly while the processional music plays, and the music fades out when the couple are in their place in front of the officiant. Then, we start our officiant speech.

  • Vows; if the couple say their own vows, give them space and step aside from the alter. You can stand next to the maid of honor or best man. This provides a more intimate moment for the couple, also allows for some photos of the ceremony without having you in all of the pictures.

  • Kiss; when you pronounce the couple as married, move aside as you say “you may now kiss the bride!'“ or “celebrate with a kiss!”

  • Bouquet hand off; sometimes the bride hands off the bouquet during the ceremony, help her remember to have it back in her hands after the kiss and before she leaves the alter.

  • Processional; ask guests to stand in celebration right before the couple exits the aisle.

Writing your personal vows

When you plan to write your own vows, I have some tips to help guide you.

 Photo: Chris J. Evans

Photo: Chris J. Evans

First, remember that there is no wrong way to write your vows. As long as it is from your heart and you are truly expressing your admiration and devotion to your partner, you can't go wrong.

Take some time to reflect on your fiancé. Think about how you felt when you first met, what made you fall in love and when you knew you wanted to get married. Write it all out, let your thoughts flow, you can sort it out later, this is just for brainstorming.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What did you think when you first saw your fiancé?

  • When did you know that you were in love/know that this was the person that you wanted to marry?

  • What do you most respect about your partner?

  • How has your life gotten better since meeting your mate?

  • What about them inspires you?

  • What do you miss most about them when you're apart?

  • What are the three greatest things about the person you are about to marry?

  • What does marriage mean to you?

  • What have you supported each other through?

  • What do you want to accomplish together?

  • What is your most favorite memory of your partner?

  • What are the most important things in a relationship?

  • What would you like the whole world to know about your partner and why you love them?

  • What would you like to promise your partner?

Now that you have some material, you can develop your thoughts into an outline. You can start by writing how happy your partner makes you feel, how grateful you are for them and how happy you are to marry your love on your wedding day. Then you can share your reasons why you want to marry your love, perhaps offer the qualities you enjoy about them, a happy memory and your hopes for your future. Lastly, you then share your promises to your partner, and you can add some light hearted inside jokes or personal mottos if that seems appropriate.

Practice out loud and try to keep your vows under 2 minutes. This is a great opportunity to share a moment with your maid of honor, best man or a close family member. You can practice in front of them and ask for feedback. They will most likely feel so honored that you have asked for their assistance and practice will help you feel more comfortable on the big day.

Don't feel pressured to memorize your vows, sometimes that takes the emotions out of your statements because you are too concerned trying to remember what you want to say.

Hand write a nice copy and also make a digital copy that you can use as a back up from your phone if available.

Lastly, save your notes from your vow writing exercise. They will be a sweet keepsake that will probably include more details and memories that may have not made it into the vows but will be nice to reread down the road.

Read on for Real Vow Examples

 Photo: Annamae Photo

Photo: Annamae Photo

When I first met you, I had no idea how much my life was about to change.

Because being with you has brought me so much happiness, laughter, joy and love. 

You have shown me how to seize each day and not waste a moment together.

You have taught me how to see the good in all situations and appreciate the smaller things in life. 

You have brought me a lifetime of memories filled with adventures I never thought I would have. 

You have guided me in reaching the goals I didn't think I could achieve.

You have challenged me and encouraged me to aim for the stars.

You have not only made this life better, but you have made a better person out of me. 

And for that, I promise to always give you my best. 

I promise to uplift and support you in all your endeavours, even if it's the Himlayas.

I promise to inspire you, so you will never let go of your dreams.

I promise to be there for you with unlimited kisses and cuddles in times of need and love. 

I promise to never quit and to love you unconditionally always and forever.

**************************************************************************

Name, you are nothing short of extraordinary and I am so grateful to be able to spend the rest of my life with you. You are my best friend, the love of my life and my everything. I love you more than you'll ever know and I will continue to love you for as long as we live and I cannot wait to start this new journey with you as your wife. 

************************************************************************

Name** you are my greatest love and the best thing that has ever happened to me. It is through loving you that I have become a better man. I am truly grateful and forever thankful that you have chosen me as the one to share your life with.

**, I promise to respect you, to put you first, to protect you and care for you.

I promise to be faithful, to provide for you, inspire you and to love you unconditionally.

I promise I will always be there by your side, holding your hand as we navigate through this world together and whatever life brings us.

I promise to encourage you to be the best you can be, to make you smile and laugh and to show and tell you how much I truly love you each and everyday.

Thank you for being as crazy as me and willing to live this life to the fullest we have jumped off bridges, climbed mountains, swum with sharks and travelled around the world. I am looking forward to a lifetime of adventures together as husband and wife.

**, you are my best friend, my soul mate, the love of my life, my everything. You are all that I need in this world and I truly adore you and love you more than you will ever know.

**, I promise to grow old and grey with you and make a wonderful, happy, loving life together for as long as we live. I cannot wait to start this journey with you as your husband.

************************************************************************

I vow to be the best wife, partner, lover, mother and best friend to you. I promise to always give you my best and do my best. Wherever we are, I will always make it home for you and me. I will hold you in my heart, have you in my thoughts, in my prayers and in my soul.

Now to the important stuff-- I promise to always share my food with you, kiss your boo boos, shave your head, help you with your outfit, keep our cars in top top shape and even most important, take care of our fur babies (pets' names and stepchildren's names)

I promise to always make you laugh, make you cry, just make you feel. I promise to be inspired and give inspiration and be the reason you want to wake up every single day. I loved you then, I love you now and I will love you forever.

I vow to be the best wife, partner, lover, mother and best friend to you. I promise to always give you my best and do my best. Wherever we are, I will always make it home for you and me. I will hold you in my heart, have you in my thoughts, in my prayers and in my soul.

Now to the important stuff-- I promise to always share my food with you, kiss your boo boos, shave your head, help you with your outfit, keep our cars in top top shape and even most important, take care of our fur babies (pets' names and stepchildren's names)

I promise to always make you laugh, make you cry, just make you feel. I promise to be inspired and give inspiration and be the reason you want to wake up every single day. I loved you then, I love you now and I will love you forever.