Wedding Planning Advice: Unofficial Officiants

Having Friends and Family Officiate Your Wedding

We've all got that one friend or family member who you just know would make the perfect officiant at your wedding - that charismatic uncle of yours with impeccable comic timing, or your thespian friend with just the right amount of gravitas.

For many couples, having friends and family perform your wedding ceremony is the ideal way to go. But so many are put off by the confusing legalities of it. Well, today we're going to give you the skinny on it - what you can and can't do and some solutions for those pesky problems.

The main stumbling block is that unless your friend happens to already be a priest, rabbi, imam or humanist celebrant, you won't be able to be legally married. There's a lot out there (we blame the Friends writers) that gives you the impression it's easy to just get ordained online, but it's not like that in the UK where the rules are a lot more rigid than in the US and Oz, where you can literally get married anywhere. It won't be legal and it's just a little dodgy for our liking.

So what's the solution if you want to have your friend or family member perform the ceremony?

The only way around it for many is to have two ceremonies. Lots of couples are put off by this idea, worrying that the drama is lost for that one big moment you get with one ceremony. But you can make it work for you.

If you don't mind doing the legal bit beforehand, a short civil ceremony with a registrar and a few close friends and family is a great way to stretch out the celebrations. In fact, one of our couples this year is opting to have their wedding celebration with their 150 guests in one month, and then have the legal ceremony a whole month later with a totally different style celebration - so much fun!

But if you're keen to just have your one wedding day, be aware of a few different rules.

You can opt to do one ceremony after the other - your legal bit and then your proper ceremony led by your friend - but your legal officiant has to be off site before your friend can start leading the ceremony. Which could make timings a little difficult.

Why not speak to your venue and see if you can plan a small legal ceremony with your officiant and your witnesses earlier in the afternoon before the rest of your guests arrive - either at the same location or elsewhere - and then have your main ceremony several hours later led by your friend or family member. The other guests need never know!

If even the thought of two ceremonies in one day doesn't float your boat - speak to your official officiant about how you can integrate your friends and family into the legal ceremony. Sure, there's the option of having someone read a poem or sing a song, but if you want them to have a larger part in the wedding, speak to the officiant about some other options. They will always be accommodating to your needs - it's your day and you want it to be special for you.

Get creative but always check with your legal officiant to find the best way forward!