Officiant Coaching: Quick Tips

Congratulations, you’ve been asked to officiate a friend or family member’s wedding!  This is truly an honor and a responsibility not to take lightly.

You may have a whirlpool of emotions going on right now from excited to anxiety.  That is natural.  We encourage you to seek education and coaching as both help train the butterflies in your stomach to fly in formation.

The Quick Tips below will provide you with the structure and a pep talk to be a good officiant.  Moving to GREAT depends on the ceremony script you have… and we will write it for you upon request.

Ready?  Let’s start with quick tips to help you!  

GETTING MARRIED IN COLORADO QUICK FACTS

  • Marriage licenses must be obtained NO MORE than 35 days prior to the ceremony.
  • The license fee is $30.
  • The license can be obtained from ANY county in Colorado… it doesn’t have to be the same county where the ceremony takes place.
  • Both parties must be present with proper ID.
  • The couple should verify hours and procedures from the county website.
  • Counties are starting to say “no” to pets ‘signing’ the marriage certificate. If the couple really wants Fido’s paw print as a witness, they should double check with the issuing county.  We recommend getting a color copy of the certificate made and putting the paw print on that (it will not be filed with the county).
  • It is the couple’s responsibility to return the signed marriage certificate to the issuing county via mail or in person.  It will be returned to them via mail after the filing is registered.

GOOD TO REMEMBER

As nervous and inexperienced as you may feel, you’re not alone.  The odds are likely the couple feel the same way when it comes to their ceremony details and are looking to you for guidance and stability.  When Elevate is providing the coaching, you – in turn – are going to look to us for that as well.

Couples oftentimes have spent so much time on the details of the wedding, that they haven’t stopped to consider their wishes for the CEREMONY.  They want help and guidance from their Officiant to know what to do and how to do it… and we’re here to support YOU in meeting their needs.

CRAFTING THE SCRIPT

Information to Gather

Preparation is the key to crafting a heartfelt and memorable ceremony script.  With our clients, we ask the couple to complete an in-depth questionnaire so we can write a truly custom ceremony for them.  Specifically, you will want to know the following:

  • Is a pre-ceremony announcement to be made?  Common is the request that it be an unplugged ceremony, meaning we ask guests to put their cell phones and cameras away.
  • Will one of the two (or both) be walked down the aisle? By whom? Do they want a question asked of their escort such as “Who walks with the Bride/Groom today?”
  • What level of religion do they want integrated into their ceremony? No-God, God-lite (scripture, perhaps a blessing), or God-centered.
  • How do they feel about a reading during the ceremony? We have a few favorites, but hey, we’re not going to give ALL of our secrets away!
  • Will they be writing their own vows, doing the repeat-after-me vows, or a combination of both?
  • Will they be doing a ring exchange?
  • Do they want to include a Unity ceremony?

Personal Stories

As a friend or family member, you have an advantage over professional wedding Officiants… you KNOW the couple.  You have stories about them and interspersing personal tidbits and short stories are invaluable to customizing the ceremony.

A word of caution: Keep the stories ULTRA short and remember this isn’t about you. It’s about the couple so keep your focus on them.

PRE-CEREMONY: Before the big day

Ceremony Script Final Copy

We’re not providing you with a sample script.  There are many available by searching online or even asking ChatGPT for assistance.  Personally, we’re rather fond of what we write, but we cannot share it for free.  If you purchase our Officiant Coaching package or a lá carte script writing, we will create the ceremony script.

For the wedding day, most of our Officiant’s will print the final ceremony script in 16-point font and put it into a nice black leather 3-ring binder.  If moisture is expected, we also put each sheet into a clear page protector.  A nice touch is to hide a few tissues in the front pocket of the binder, because you never know who might need one.  Also a nice touch is to give the couple the actual script used during the ceremony after they sign the marriage license.

Microphone

Very small weddings do not typically need a microphone for the officiant unless it is being video recorded.  For larger weddings (50+ guests), a microphone certainly helps all guests hear the ceremony.  We recommend you ask the couple to arrange for a lapel microphone vs. a hand-held.  For a lapel mic, make sure you’re wearing clothing with a pocket for the device, or someplace to hook it on your belt.

Practice, Practice, Practice… and then practice some more!

The BEST way to get the stomach butterflies flying in formation is to be so familiar with the script that you know what is coming next! You don’t have to memorize it, but you must be comfortable with the flow, the cadence, and the format… and that comes through repetitively practicing it.

Verify County

Many couples assume what county they’re getting married in, and since couples can get a marriage license from ANY county in the state, many get it wrong.  Double check by Googling “What county is ___________ Colorado in?”

What You Should Wear

Ask the couple if they have a preference as to what you should wear.

Rule-of-thumb is to wear dark-colored professional business attire (suit).  You can accent the tie or blouse in the couple’s colors or stay with neutral colors.  Some brides are 100% against the wearing of ANY white… so check with them.

The Wedding Day

PRE-CEREMONY: The Wedding Day

Arriving on site

Professional officiants plan to arrive 30-minutes prior to the ceremony.  This is not intended as a slight to you, but you may wish to arrive earlier to get the lay of the land.  Check in with and do the following:

  • Onsite coordinator: ask about any last minute changes and confirm wedding party line-up, and pre- and post-ceremony announcements.  Also confirm where the marriage license will be signed.
  • Photographer: do they have any special instructions other than get out of the way of the kiss?
  • Couple: let them know you’ve arrived, and see how they are doing.  If they are all nerves, ask them to take a sip of water and breathe in deeply for 3-5 breaths. Double check who has the rings and the marriage certificate!!
  • Sound person: get mic’d up and go over key points in the ceremony for when music is to start or fade away.  Go over any pre- and post- ceremony announcements and the last words you’ll say before the couple start the recessional.

Take the remaining time to sit quietly and review your script one more time.

Wedding Line-Up

If you are arranging the line-up, it traditionally flows like this…

  • Officiant
  • Groom’s parent(s) and/or escort
  • Bride’s mother
  • Groom
  • Groomsmen (if not walking with bridesmaids)
  • Bridesmaids
  • Maid of Honor
  • Ring Bearer / Flower Girl
  • Bride with father/escort

Adjust as necessary for your wedding.

THE CEREMONY

Ad-Libs Make it Personal

We’re of the mindset that ad-libs are perfectly okay in a wedding ceremony, as long as they are tasteful, appropriate, and infrequent.

Announcement

If you’re asked to make a pre-ceremony announcement, you will do it when you arrive at your designed spot before family members walk down the aisle.

Ceremony

Our ceremony script will tell you what to do and when to do it.

Stand tall, don’t fidget, and read the script with confidence and poise.

Recessional

Traditionally, the wedding party exits (walks back down the aisle) in the opposite order of how they came in.  If a post-ceremony announcement is to be made (typically instructing guests where to go next), it is made after the Groom’s family has exited.

You can either walk down the aisle or scoot down the side to join the couple for the marriage certificate signing.

Drop your microphone off with the sound person as you exit the room.

When Something Goes Wrong

Things can, and do, go wrong in the ceremony.  The Best Man can forget the rings in the dressing room, the flower girl may refuse to walk down the aisle, a sudden storm can dump a ton of water on everyone, and your microphone may not work… not that any of these have happened to us. 🙂

As the Officiant, you are the one whose responsibility it is to maintain control and make everyone feel comfortable, even when things go wrong.  It’s your job to be able to adapt, pivot and punt… and laugh (it’s okay and breaks the tension).

POST-CEREMONY

Signing the Marriage Certificate

Immediately following the wedding ceremony sign the marriage certificate.  In the envelope provided by the county, there should be instructions on how to complete it.  In essence, you will fill in the county name, date, time, and location and then sign it as Officiant.

The couple need to sign it with their exact name as printed on the certificate.  In Colorado, witnesses do not need to sign the marriage certificate, but the couple may wish to have them do so.

It is the couple’s responsibility to return the signed marriage certificate to the issuing county either via mail or in person.