How To Officiate A Wedding In 12 Days

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How To Officiate A Wedding In 12 Days

Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to learn how to officiate a wedding... in just 12 days! You probably weren’t expecting that quick of a turnaround, but I accomplished doing this in less than two weeks. It's possible to create something memorable while also making sure it's an “official” day for the bride and groom. 

This story began on a breezy yet peaceful Los Angeles evening in July when my girlfriend’s sister and her sister’s fiancé handed me a brown box and asked me to open it. Of course, I pulled a Brad Pitt from the movie SE7EN and screamed, “What’s in the box?” multiple times.

When I opened up the box, much to my surprise, there was another box structure that required opening. As I peeled the tape open, a small, folded up piece of paper glided down into my hand. In red writing, it read, “Will you be our wedding officiant?”

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At this moment, I was overcome with many emotions. I teared up as I couldn’t believe these two people had faith in me to make them husband and wife. And they didn’t know my little secret either: For 18 years, I had wanted to officiate a wedding!

While I was honored, speechless and wiping away my tears, I also realized that I had to get to work. Their wedding was in 12 days! With a full plate of work, my family from out of town in my current city and — get this — another friend’s wedding to go to beforehand, time was limited.

With my mind swirling on what I should say during the ceremony, I took a deep breath and did extensive research. But it's a process to get to the wedding day in a short amount of time. So, here's some advice to help you become ordained, create something you will be proud of, and give the newlyweds a moment to remember.

1. Getting ordained

First things first, you need to get ordained. In my head, I thought this process would take a week or so, and that I’d have to go through some type of video training. Nope.

All you need to do is find an organization online that has the authority to give someone this designation, fill out a few questions, and you’re ordained. Given my timing, this quick process was ideal and made me feel a little more at ease I wasn’t going to be holding up any processes.

I chose to become ordained through the Universal Life Church. They seemed to be a stand-up organization from my research, and they have an ever-growing list of celebrities also ordained, which sealed the deal from my end. I never thought my name would be in the same sentence as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Lady Gaga, and Paul McCartney, but now it is.  

2. Credentials and state laws

Once you are ordained, you must have the necessary documents to prove you are official. It's very important to recognize that each state has different marriage laws. You must work closely with the couple you are marrying to connect with the right state/county official that can approve this partnership.

Thankfully, Iowa, where I performed the wedding, only needed me to sign the marriage license following the ceremony. This shouldn’t take more than a few days to figure out what you need, so it's definitely something that can happen quickly if you’re in a time crunch.

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3. Writing your script

As I prepared for this wedding, most time was spent on perfecting the script. I wanted to be funny, poke slight fun at both the bride and the groom for their hilarious habits, but also help them recognize this as the most important day of their lives.

However, something I kept reminding myself throughout this whole process was that this day is not about me. When officiating, you may feel like you need to be the star of the show. But you’re not, and that’s okay.

Think of yourself as a ring announcer introducing the biggest boxing match of the year. You hold the microphone and people listen to your words carefully, but they are only there to see the main attractions.   

To help in the script drafting process, spend a few hours with the bride and the groom finding out exactly what they want out of their day. Do they want people to laugh? How long would they like the ceremony to be? Do they want the ceremony to have any religious components? These are the top questions to ask because, again, this day is about the couple.

What I also found helpful and included as a major piece of my script was the background on how the two met and when their love story began. This helped me bring into perspective for the audience how far the couple had come since the start of their relationship, and things they have been through leading up to that day.

I built my script out to speak for around 15 minutes. I included jokes about the couple, the importance of this day, and the vital elements for the marriage to be legally binding (the "I do’s" and "I now pronounce you.") Make sure you include those.

4. Post-ceremony duties

Once the couple kisses and makes their way through the applause from the attendees, the ceremony has concluded. Yet, there’s still one important part that you must do to put a bow on this special day: signing the marriage license.

Again, each state is different in terms of deadlines for returning the signed license, so make sure to have those conversations ahead of time. After all that hard work you put in during a small amount of time, and with an unforgettable day created for the couple, you don’t want to end on a sour note.

There you have it! Personally, having a small amount of time to prepare helped me not overthink what to say and truly focus on the two I was marrying.

I had an opportunity to hear how the two of them met and their first impressions of each other. I heard stories of how they helped each other through difficult times and it put into perspective for me this entire occasion.

It’s an incredible feeling to marry people, especially those you love and care about. It may seem stressful and your nerves may be heightened, but remember: from the moment you are asked to officiate a wedding to the moment you pronounce the newly married couple, just have fun.

It’s not every day you will have this opportunity unless this is your livelihood, so cherish this moment for the rest of your life.

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Zach Stevens is a Public Relations specialist in Los Angeles by day, and a writer by night.