This post is all about what it can be like when you ask a friend or family member to lead your wedding ceremony for you. It looks at the pros and the cons to help you make the best decision for you without making any costly or stressful mistakes.
This blog post has not been written to try to convince you not to have a family member or friend to lead your wedding ceremony for you. It’s been written to make sure that you understand what it is you’ll be asking of your close buddy, relative when it comes to your wedding and if the person you have in mind, really is the best person to lead this really important, grand opening to your wedding day for you. That’s all.
There is a lot of appeal in having a friend or family member lead your wedding celebration for you. Having someone who knows you can make your ceremony seem more intimate, that your ceremony isn't being led by a 'stranger'. It might feel easier to work with them because they are a friend or relative. And then there's also the added benefit that you only need to pay them with love, so you get to do something else with that saved money.
Whilst these things might be true, the reality of getting a friend or family member to lead your wedding ceremony, can be quite different. We know that in the history of weddings there have been couples who have been married by a friend or family member and the results have been just what they wanted. But the Malaga Minister team has also been there to step in when couples have realised that they've given their friend/ family member a bigger job than they thought and it quickly becomes obvious that it's a bit out of their league. We've had occasions where we have stepped in to help early on in the process when the friend has realised they've bitten off more than they can chew and we've also stepped in last minute when the family member's nerves have got the better of them and they realise that they can't do it.
So let's take a look at some of the factors that can make it really tough for friends and family members when it comes to leading a wedding ceremony for their loved ones.
They're not a professional celebrant
So let's start with a really obvious one. Unless of course your friend/family member is a professional celebrant, then they're probably not a professional celebrant! And what this means is that they are unlikely to have had the training or experience of leading a wedding ceremony. And trust us, leading a wedding ceremony is not just rocking up and reading a script.
Leading a wedding ceremony is not the same as reading a ceremony script. Reading a script is just part of the whole ceremonial process. It's also about understanding what goes in a script, and why, and where and how a ceremony is choreographed ie what are the key players of a ceremony doing, and when and where are they doing it. It's also about understanding the audience, 'reading the room' and allowing the flow of the proceedings. You may have a friend/ family member who is a good public speaker, who is confident and used to talking in front of groups of people, and whilst these are good celebrant skills, they're not the only skills needed.
True story, a friend of mine who works in weddings told me once that almost every time she has seen a friend or relative deliver a ceremony something usually goes wrong. Sometimes the ceremony is too short, too long (both can mess with the timings for the rest of the day), doesn't make sense, no-one knows what they're doing, or the script sounds clunky (likely because it's lots of cobbled together pieces of internet scripts, meshed into one). And this is because most non-celebrants don't have the experience or understanding to do these things properly. And that's totally understandable, if they're not a celebrant. It's like having a friend who is good at cooking, and asking them to cater your wedding. Catering a wedding is not just being good with food, it's so much more than that, as is leading a ceremony.
They have to do work for you on and before your wedding day
Another thing that is often overlooked is what it actually means for a family member or friend to lead your wedding ceremony. Whilst it's a wonderful thing to ask of someone and even more special to be asked, the moment a friend says 'yes', they leave behind being a wedding guest and take on the role of a wedding supplier. Your wedding ceremony isn’t going to create itself, someone has to plan it, write it and create it. And if you’re really going for a personal approach, finding one on the internet probably won’t cut it either, unless it’s been specifically written for you. One of the things that makes celebrant-led ceremonies so special is the highly personal nature of the ceremony. Well, in order to get those personal touches in we have to work with our couples to do that. To find out what they want in their ceremony, how they want to feel, what they want to be said, what they want to be done. This takes a lot of time and effort, which is why it’s an actual job that we get paid for, as celebrants! These things can’t be winged. Well, actually they can, but we all know how that goes sometimes.
And then on the day itself, your loved one can’t just rock up and read, they should also be the ones who are co-ordinating the ceremony with anyone else who is involved. Your readers, musicians, photographer, videographer, wedding planners. Admittedly, if you have a wedding planner they will often help with this, but it still usually involves the person leading the ceremony, as there are a series of key elements that all need to come together to make a ceremony happen on the day itself.
Will your loved one be ready/willing/able to spend time preparing a ceremony like this for you? Or would you actually prefer to put this role in the hands of a professional whose job it is and allow your family member or friend to enjoy your wedding day as a guest and not as a nervous wreck for the first half of it!
It can be a case of the blind leading the blind
This was the exact sentence that one of my couples who originally had a family member leading their ceremony for them, told me. Whilst their family member was really committed to doing the job (because it is a job!), quite early on in the process the couple noticed that every question their relative came back to them with, “How long should the ceremony be?” “Do you exchange rings before or after your vows?” “How many readings should there be?” Etc etc, all of their answers had basically boiled down to the same one. They did not know. And of course they didn’t. They’re not celebrants! They are people getting married.
If you think about all of the questions you might have about your own ceremony, do you think your friend or family member can answer them for you? And the questions that they will have about how to put your ceremony together for you, who will answer those? Food for thought, right?
In the end, my lovely couple booked me after they realized they were in over their heads and they were starting to get stressed by their ceremony planning because neither them or their loved one really knew what they were doing.
We get that there is often a worry that having a professional celebrant to lead your ceremony means that you won’t get that personal touch. You won’t have the feeling you might get if a friend or family member does it. But this is why and how celebrants do what they do and why they work in the way that they do, to make sure that this personal vibe runs throughout your ceremony.
Often after our ceremonies, guests come up to us and ask how we know the couple because they think we are a friend or someone who knows them. Because that is the art of being a professional celebrant!
Here's some other ideas to leave you with:
- If you're really keen on a family member being involved, why not have them do a reading, or work with a celebrant to lead a part of the ceremony, such as the vow exchange?
- Get a professional celebrant to write your ceremony script for you and have your friend read that (we don't offer this service by the way, as we always ended up being booked for the whole ceremony in the end! But there are celebrants who do it.)
So there it is, everything you need to think about before asking a friend or family member to lead your wedding ceremony for you. As I mentioned at the start, there are non-celebrants who can and have created wonderful ceremonies for their friends and families, BUT they need to know EXACTLY what it is they're up against in order to do the best job possible.
Good luck whatever you decide to do!
Want more food for thought? Here's another great article on eight reasons why friends or family members shouldn't lead your wedding ceremony.
Main photo by Anna Gazda Photography