When it comes to wedding officiants, we often see family members and friends take this position in a wedding celebration. While we love that our couples want someone special to them to be the person to join them in marriage, there are quite a few reasons why this isn’t a good idea. For starters, if you have a non-professional officiant officiate your wedding, there’s a good chance your marriage isn’t legal! We want all our couples to take the appropriate steps to make sure their marital bliss is legit, and hiring a professional officiant is the one sure-fire way to make this happen. But beyond the legality, there are some other great benefits to hiring your officiant, and our dear friend Ann McKenzie of Joy-Filled Ceremonies shared her insight into the top 5 reasons.


1. Setting the Tone of Your Wedding

Having a professional wedding officiant perform a personalized ceremony allows the guests a glimpse into how you met, fell in love and decided to spend the rest of your lives together. The officiant brings your love story to life. Your loved ones are there because they want to witness this important event, and it lets them know what you love about each other and why you are making this public commitment to the other.


An officiant is experienced in public speaking. The inflection and tone of the ceremony determine whether the audience will be truly engaged. Hiring someone who knows how to tell your story creates a memorable ceremony that you and your friends and family will remember for many years to come.


2. Unusual Unity Ceremonies

There are many Unity Ceremonies beyond the well-known candles and sand ceremonies: abstract painting together, tree planting ceremony, unity drink ceremony, unity wine ceremony, unity beer ceremony as well as a unity heart ceremony. I have added all of these to ceremonies and suggested the couple use something that is meaningful to them.


Religious and Ethnic family traditions can also be incorporated into your ceremony. I have officiated ceremonies with Jewish and Catholic traditions to honor both of the grooms’ parents. Two black brides wanted the “Jumping the Broom” ceremony to honor African traditions in their wedding. Many people choose the Celtic or Wiccan tradition of handfasting to be an integral part of the ceremony, even using it for the wedding vows. Breaking the Glass is a great way to incorporate the Jewish tradition into a ceremony.


3. Other Elements to Make Your Ceremony Unique

There are ways to honor your mother such as giving her a rose, having her hold the rings or giving a kiss to the couple as their last kiss as a single person from the one that kissed them first.


Taking a moment to honor the loved ones who can only be there in spirit is important to those who have lost someone. It allows them to remember their presence during this special occasion.


If there are children from previous marriages or a child from the couple being married, they can be incorporated into the ceremony. I have included a children’s blessing, mentioned them as part of this new family or suggested a family sand ceremony with the children participating.


4. Taking Charge When the Unexpected Happens

I had a pew break during the bride’s vows. It took everyone by surprise but it was my job to rein it in and finish the ceremony, although everyone had a good laugh.


There have also been emergency situations such as the groom fainting and being taken to the hospital near the end of the ceremony. I was there to reassure the bride the ceremony would be completed that day. I also spent time talking to his teenage children during the reception while he was still at the hospital. Many guests approached me and I assured them the wedding would be finished soon.


5. Legal Ramifications

If you live in North Carolina, it is important to hire a professional officiant. The North Carolina law reads: “Any ordained minister of any religious denomination, minister authorized by a church, Federally or State recognized, Indian Nation or Tribe, Magistrate or any other person authorized to solemnize a marriage under the laws of this State.”


This differs from state to state so it is best to check the laws of the State where you will be getting married.


There have been several cases brought to court as to whether the couple was legally married when they had married by a Universal Life Church minister. In one case, the judge said, “A ceremony solemnized by a Roman Catholic layman in the mail order business who bought for $10.00 a mail-order certificate giving him ‘credentials of minister’ in the Universal Life Church, Inc.—whatever that is—is not a ceremony of marriage to be recognized for purposes of a bigamy prosecution in the State of North Carolina.” The cases were grandfathered in, but left any future cases open to interpretation.


The professional officiant knows how to complete the marriage license properly and return it to the Register of Deeds within the allotted time.


If you still want a family friend to marry you, I would suggest getting married at the courthouse beforehand.


As you can see, the benefits of hiring a professional wedding officiant are numerous. The ceremony it the most important part of your wedding. By hiring a professional, you are honoring the lifelong commitment you are making to each other in front of your family and friends. They will truly understand the depth of your love for each other on this monumental event.


Ann McKenzie