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  • Writer's pictureLisa Flahant

When a friend or family member officiates..

Given the choice, I am sure many of us would really love a close friend or family member to officiate at our wedding ceremony. Someone who knows us the best, has travelled the road with us, whose very presence will make the ceremony even more personal and meaningful.

Open air wedding aisle

If you’ve ever been asked to do this, you’ll know that the responsibility is huge. It's not like being asked to perform a reading. It's the sort of thing that keeps you awake at 3am. It's being asked to create, from scratch, an authentic celebration of substance, which completely embraces the couple’s ideas and wishes, tells their unique story, and brings their ceremony to life in the most personal way.

Oh, and then you have to deliver the ceremony with confidence, charisma, humour, sensitivity and style. You need to speak at the right pace, at the right level, getting the timing right, juggle a script with a microphone, tissues and other ceremony paraphernalia, along with managing any minor dramas which might crop up along the way…

So it’s no surprise that some couples wanting friends and family to officiate, are starting to approach their ceremonies a little differently. And it’s perhaps why on a number of occasions recently, I have found myself writing scripts but not delivering them in person. Here are some of the scenarios:

The first time, was for a couple wanting to book me for their ceremony in a remote location some 300 miles from where I live. We worked it out, and with the fee, the accommodation and travel, it was just going to be too much for their budget. But they really liked my approach and style of ceremonies. So, we decided that I would prepare their ceremony in exactly the same way as I would do for any other couple, through many in-depth conversations, online meetings and emails. The only difference being that on the day, the ceremony would be delivered by a close family friend who was a great narrator and loved the limelight, but was mightily relieved not to have the responsibility of writing the ceremony!

The second time was more recently, and was very much a result of the restrictions imposed upon us by COVID-19. A small and intimate family celebration was at risk of being postponed or cancelled due to the lockdown and the Government restrictions on travel and gatherings of people. I had been working with my couple for some months on their ceremony, so everything was ready and in place. The date was very significant to them. As time went on, it became clear that I would not be able to officiate at the ceremony, so I gently suggested that I reduce my fee, and that a resident member of their family deliver the ceremony which I had already written. The celebrant wedding ceremony was able to go ahead, albeit with very reduced numbers, but it was a solution welcomed warmly by the couple, along with the family, most of whom joined the ceremony via Zoom!

Currently I am working with a couple who live overseas and are hoping their ceremony will take place later this year. We are taking things a stage further; as well as preparing their ceremony, I am coaching the bride’s brother to be their officiant. This isn’t just limited to the actual narration of the ceremony, it includes teaching him how to perform the handfasting and ring blessing rituals which have been requested, how to iron out the details in the ceremony ‘choreography’, how to work alongside the venue and the photographer in staging everything so the couple gets some wonderful shots, how to manage the readers and also the musicians, how to trouble shoot any issues – in short, I am preparing him to be a stand-in celebrant.

So it’s rather interesting how this service is evolving, and I thought it was about time I formalised it and shared it with the world! Like to know more? An indication of my fees is on my FAQ page, or please do give me a call or drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

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