Getting a Friend to Officiate Your Wedding

It used to be that getting married meant standing in front of friends and family and repeating the words "I Do" fed by a Priest, Minister, Rabbi, Imam or Justice of the peace. While these traditions continue in ceremonies throughout the city, more and more couples are opting for the secular yet personal approach of having a friend as a wedding officiant. 

Although "Friend Officiants" are a growing trend, the process of getting your friend ordained and legal remains slightly confusing. With that said, here is our short guide of tips and advice on how to get a friend to officiate your wedding, and how to make sure it's legal, specifically for New Yorkers.

WHEN CONSIDERING A FRIEND...

  • Discuss the idea with your partner. Make sure you agree on this non-traditional element. Together, try to think of a friend that is comfortable in front of crowds, a loud and clear speaker and most importantly, reliable.
  • Have Options. The friend you select may not be able to conduct the ceremony or may just not be into the idea. Have a backup plan incase your first choice doesn't pull through.
  • Don't Push. Just because they don't want to officiate doesn't mean they love you any less! If your prospective officiant says "No" don't push, go with someone who is enthusiastic and will share in the excitement of being part of your special day.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

According to the Office of the City Clerk of New York, the law requires any person who performs a Marriage Ceremony within the city of New York to be one of the following:

  • Clergy members or ministers of any religion 
  • Leaders in the Society of Ethical Culture
  • The Mayor or any former Mayor of the City of New York
  • Federal, state or local judges or justices, elected or appointed in the State of New York (currently serving or retired).
  • The Clerk of the Appellate Division of the first or second department
  •  The County Clerk of any of the 5 counties of the City of New York

If your friend does not fit any of these qualifications (most do not) one can always apply online to be ordained by the Universal Life Church. Once that process is finished they will need to register with NYC via the city clerk website here. When filling out this application choose "Universal Life Church" as the denomination. The application requires a $15 fee. It will also require sending a copy of the ULC's Articles of Incorporation.

APPLYING FOR A MARRIAGE LICENSE.

In order to get married in New York State you must obtain a Marriage License. To apply for your license, apply via the online site between 21 and 2 days prior to you wedding as the law required 24 hours before the wedding ceremony. You can apply for your license here.

HOW TO WRITE YOUR CEREMONY.

Since this is the first time your officiant is conducting a wedding ceremony, it's likely that he or she may need some help writing and organizing the script. Therefore, make sure to work together with your partner and your officiant to write the ceremony together and come up with something that each of you are comfortable with and represents you as a couple. Here is an outline we often give couples for a typical secular wedding ceremony:

 

Secular Wedding Ceremony Outline 

Processional 

Opening Statement

Reading(s)

Vows

Exchanging of Rings

Declaration of Marriage 

Recessional

 

For more information, check out some of these great resources:

Theknot
Brides.com
NYTimes
Offbeat Bride
A Practical Wedding