Should you hire a professional officiant or have a loved one officiate?
You might think that I, as a professional officiant, would say you must always hire an officiant, but my views are much more nuanced than that. I do believe that professional officiants have a lot of skill in, well, officiating your wedding and all that comes with that. I also think that a loved one can do a fabulous job if the circumstances are right. Let's run through both.
A loved one knows you intimately and can tell your story like an old friend because they are an old friend! Working with a loved one can be a lot of fun reminiscing about fun times, how you met, and why they love you! And of course, when the big day comes, most, if not all, guests will know your officiant.
A professional officiant will work very, very hard to get to know you. They will ask about how you met, your fond memories, the proposal, and more. They might even ask to see some of your favorite pictures, all to get a sense of your personalities. A professional officiant will also ask some questions to help them plan a ceremony that really speaks to you, even things that a loved one might not think to ask. It seems like a simple question, but I love to ask “When you close your eyes and imagine your ceremony, what do you see and what do you feel?”. I take the initial answers to that question, and any answer is OK, to ask follow ups. The highest compliment a couple can give me is to say “Wow, that was SO us!” and I use our time together to learn what speaks to you. We also have a lot of experience helping couples write their own vows. This can mean offering some general ideas or reading the vows to help the couple reach parity in the wording.
Public speaking can be terrifying; Jerry Seinfeld had some great insights on this! A loved one might be very comfortable with this, especially if they know the guests, but they might not be. And telling your loved one to “Just imagine the guests in their underwear.” doesn't cut it. Do everyone the favor of asking a loved one who will be at ease speaking in front of the guests. Don't be afraid to ask your loved one how comfortable they are with public speaking.
You can be assured that professional officiants will be at ease in front of your guests. We do this all the time, after all. We are used to speaking without being heads down reading the order of ceremony. And we are adept at avoiding “ums”.
Making it legal is certainly an important role of the officiant. Believe it or not, some jurisdictions have a few specific words the officiant must say. Again, professional officiants know these rules inside and out. We also are familiar with completing and filing your marriage license. If the license is not properly completed, it might be returned or cause problems when you go to get a certified copy. Speaking of legal, your jurisdiction might have registration requirements for your officiant; if you have a loved one officiate, make sure they understand and follow the credentialing process.
All told, do I think you should hire a professional officiant? Yes. But not for the reason you’re thinking. I recommended a professional officiant because we make it easier for you. Wedding planning is a lot of work and we shoulder some of the work for you. If you do decide that you want to have a loved one officiate, keep the above in mind and I'm sure you'll have a magical day!