The Importance of Virtual Wedding Officiants
When thinking through all of the parts of a virtual wedding, choosing a virtual wedding officiant is a crucial part. Why? You may ask. The officiant is going to be the number one driving force behind your ceremony (besides you of course!) They will be the one that paints the picture of your beautiful love story. They will be the one that reminds you to breathe and take in this sacred moment. And they will be the one that ultimately unites you in marriage.
At Wedfuly, having witnessed hundreds of virtual wedding ceremonies, we love to see the creativity that couples put into ceremonies. For some, they opt for a more traditional officiant–whether it be an elder in their faith or a judge. Others opt for a best friend, family member or an officiant from online. Others choose to unite themselves in marriage, a practice known as self-solemnizing. (**Note, this is only legal in certain states.) Ultimately, no matter WHO you choose, your ceremony will be as beautiful and unique as you two are as a couple. It just takes some intentionality and preparation beforehand, to ensure this is the case.
Selecting a Virtual Wedding Officiant
In your planning process, carve out some time with your partner to discuss who you would like your officiant to be. Think through what you want the overall “vibe” to be of your ceremony and how long you envision it lasting. (*Wedfuly pro tip: there is no “right” answer to this. We have seen wedding ceremonies that are five minutes long, all the way to ceremonies that last over an hour.) It’s YOUR day! Then think through the following categories of potential officiants.
- Friend or family member. Is there someone in your close circle that is a great public speaker and would be willing to officiate? Ask them! Chances are they would be overjoyed to get to play such a special part in your big day. Bonus: they already know you well. Therefore, they will be able to speak to aspects of your relationship on a deeper level.
- Clergy member. If it is important to you to include your faith tradition in your ceremony, opt for a clergy member to officiate. They will likely be well-versed and experienced in officiating wedding ceremonies and will be able to provide direction and structure to your ceremony. Additionally, many congregations have switched primarily to online services during COVID-19 and they should therefore be more familiar with Zoom. Lastly, if you are unsure of who to reach out to, reach out to local congregations in your area. See if they have faith leaders that would be willing to meet with you beforehand to discuss your ceremony. Bonus: many clergy members can also provide premarital counseling, if that is something you are interested in.
Other Options for Officiants
- Wedding officiants online. If you are interested in hiring someone to officiate your special day, look no further than Google. There are thousands of sites such as weddingwire.com or theknot.com that can direct you towards officiants with countless years of experience. Additionally, many elopement style packages also offer the services of an officiant as part of their package.
- County Clerk’s Office. If none of the above options are sparking your interest, consider reaching out to your local county clerk’s office. Then they will be able to provide you with a list of local officiants available to officiate your wedding.
Becoming Legally Ordained Online
Let’s say your fabulous + hilarious BFF is going to be the one officiating your wedding. Chances are they not already an ordained minister. Fear not! Strangely enough, the process of online ordination is extremely simple nowadays. Sites such as The Universal Life Church offer quick and free ordination. Your friend would simply need to sign up online. They will then receive an official certificate in the mail stating that they are legally sanctioned to perform weddings. (Watch out, that might just become their new favorite hobby! 😉 )
Legality of Virtual Wedding Officiants
The first step in ensuring that your wedding ceremony is legal, is to obtain a marriage license from your local county clerk’s office. You will then sign this document at your wedding ceremony and return it to the county clerk’s office. (**Note: it varies state by state whether or not you need to have the officiant and witnesses sign the document). The next step to figure out is whether or not your wedding officiant needs to be physically present for your ceremony or whether it is legal for them to officiate your wedding through Zoom. Check out this blog post for more in depth information. This will help you determine the type of officiant you should be including in your ceremony.
Roles and Responsibilities of the Virtual Officiant
If you decide to work with Wedfuly, there will be several parts of the planning process that you will include your officiant in. You will need to include them in:
- The AV call–-during this time they will speak with the Wedfuly Host about expectations during the ceremony. They will learn what their cues will be when they speak and how to mute/unmute themselves.
- Rehearsal call–At first, many couples feel that a rehearsal is not necessary for a virtual wedding. They think…how complicated could it really be? However, from our experience, a good rehearsal is KEY to the success of the virtual wedding. Having practiced all parts of the processional + ceremony beforehand will ensure that on your actual wedding day you can relax, enjoy and be present!
Writing a Script for Your Virtual Wedding Ceremony
Your officiant will be the primary person that will be writing the script for your ceremony. That being said, it is important that you set up some times to meet with them beforehand to discuss the flow of the ceremony and how you would like it to go. The following are things to consider:
- Give your officiant a rough outline of what you would like for them to include. A traditional American ceremony includes the following: **Note, we have worked with couples of many nationalities + faith traditions and are happy to provide guidance/examples if you need help structuring your ceremony. Here is a helpful site with sample ceremony structures laid out.
A Sample Flow of a Ceremony
- Words of welcome: the officiant welcomes the guests to the wedding.
- Opening introduction: the officiant makes some brief remarks about the meaning of marriage or more specifically about the couple.
- Readings: whether it be from a sacred religious text, a favorite poem or even a quote from a movie–this is the time where the officiant (or other reader) reads some words that are significant to the couple.
- Officiant addresses couple: this is the time where the officiant turns to the couple and emphasizes the significance of the vows they are taking. This is also the time where the officiant confirms the declaration of intent from both parties.
- Vows: at this point in the ceremony the couple can recite traditional vows or read their own handwritten ones.
- Ring exchange + pronouncement of marriage: the officiant will guide you through the process of placing rings on each others’ fingers.
- The kiss: the officiant pronounces you married and the virtual guests go wild! (*Wedfuly pro tip: make sure to discuss beforehand with your officiant how you would like to be announced. Ie: Mr. and Mrs. Jones, or Jim and Pam Jones, etc.
- Unity ceremony: although not included in all ceremonies, it is a special tradition that some like to include. This part of the ceremony is focused on your new union as a couple and can be celebrated through lighting candles, binding each others’ hands, etc.
- Closing remarks + recessional: the officiant wraps up the ceremony and guides the couple to walk down the aisle as a newly married couple!
You Have Creative Liberty with Your Ceremony
*Note, this traditional format/structure is just a guide. There is nothing you *HAVE* to include in a wedding ceremony except for the declaration of intent and the pronouncement of marriage. (The declaration of intent being the part where you acknowledge ‘yes I want to marry this person and yes I am here by choice’. The pronouncement of marriage being the part where the officiant confirms that the couple is legally married). The ceremony is completely up to you to tailor it to whatever fits you the best as a couple!
Share Any Pertinent Information with your Virtual Wedding Officiant
Think through any special stories you would like to share with your officiant. This especially applies if you don’t know this person on a deep level. You might want to share with them the story of how you met or your favorite things about the other person. This will be great content for the officiant to include in their welcoming remarks when addressing the guests. Additionally, many officiants will have both members of the couple write letters about each other. This helps the officiant to weave stories or quotes into the flow of their speaking.
Thanking Your Virtual Wedding Officiant
According to The Emily Post Institute, the officiant’s fee is based on your relationship with them and how much time they spent with you. For example, if you have little contact with the officiant beforehand, it can be as low as $100. In other circumstances, if you met with the officiant many times beforehand and they spent a lot of time preparing your ceremony, the fee can be as high as $500.
If you opt for an officiant from a local synagogue, mosque or church–check with the secretary and ask what is commonly offered. If your officiant was a close friend or family member, consider a thoughtful present or gesture to thank them for being such an important part of your day. Lastly, when you figure out the appropriate amount to give to your officiant, present it to them on your wedding day in a sealed envelope along with a handwritten thank you note in it.
A Note to Virtual Wedding Officiants
Depending on your occupation, this may be your first or your 100th wedding to officiate. Although things are mostly the same as an IRL wedding, there are a few things to keep in mind for a Zoom wedding.
- Dress up. You are going to be a major part of this couple’s wedding day, so make sure to look your best! Opt for a snazzy suit or favorite dress to look your best on camera. Or if it’s a theme wedding, make sure you go ALL OUT! The couple will definitely appreciate your enthusiasm.
- Choose an ideal spot in your home. If you are going to be performing the ceremony via Zoom, make sure to think through the spot in your home you will be joining the meeting from. Choose a clean, well lit space that allows for you to be seen and heard clearly.
- Don’t wait until the day before. If you’ve never officiated a wedding before, you might not know how much time to allot to crafting a perfect wedding script. We suggest you begin thinking through what you want to say weeks ahead of time. This will allow you to have time to get your thoughts on paper and be practice enough that you don’t have to stare at your script throughout the whole ceremony.
- Have a blast. We have seen some pretty EPIC Wedfuly weddings. From a couple processing down the aisle to “This is How We Do It” to a full on 90s Hip Hop Themed bash….you name it, it’s possible! When you are crafting your ceremony script, think of ways that you can add lightness, humor and laughter to this joyous day!
There you have it folks! The tips and tricks to ensure you pick an awesome wedding officiant, they craft an incredible ceremony and you have the time of your lives! You can thank us later.