Its 30 minutes before the ceremony.
You’re parked outside the wedding venue.
As you walk towards the entrance, your stomach knots up a little. You’re about to stand in front of 200 people with cameras rolling.
You’ve read the script over. You feel ready. But you’re about to find out how ready you are.
(We’ll assume you are Ordained and have your papers. If not, it’s not too late! Get Ordained.)
This is going to be awesome!
In the 30 minutes leading up to the ceremony, you have some important responsibilities.
To ensure the ceremony goes off without a hitch, these tasks should be followed for every wedding.
Back when I started, I actually had this list printed at the top of all my ceremonies.
So no matter where the wedding was held, I made sure I crossed each item off the list.
This is the exact list I had printed on my ceremonies:
1. Find the bride
2. Find the groom
3. Check in with vendors
5. Marriage license
6. How to announce couple
1. Find the bride and say hello.
The most important person should be at the top of your ‘to-do’ list. Find the bride and say hello. Find out how she’s doing, does she need anything?
Get a handle on how things look for timing. Is the bride still getting makeup and hair done? If so, you can probably assume things are running behind.
Your job is really to put her at ease. Let her know all is well and calm any jitters. Let her know you are ready and here to help.
WARNING: Don’t get sucked into doing tasks or running around for the bride. You have your own responsibilities so decline to assist if possible or find someone to delegate to.
For example, the bride might ask you to run out to the car to get her earrings she forgot but can’t find her car keys. You are now stuck running around looking for keys and earrings instead of taking your time and working on your task list.
2. Find the groom and say hello.
While the bride can be late, the groom cannot! I like to check in with the groom and ensure he’s not drinking in excess and is completely ready.
You are also there to reassure as some grooms don’t do well with stress and nerves.
Again, avoid getting wrapped up in any assignments like Googling “how to tie a bow tie”.
(Here’s my favorite video illustrating how to tie one – Bow Tie Video.)
Pro Tip: An experienced officiant should be proficient in tying any type of tie. I’ve saved many a groom a cold wedding night by slapping a bow tie on in 60 seconds. The danger is when there are also 5 drunk groomsmen and they all need help too. At that point I pretend I’m deaf and run out of the room.
3. Check in with vendors.
a. Wedding Planner
A real pro will seek out the wedding planner or event coordinator to say hello. They are usually running around stressed and pissed at the world. But at least they won’t be pissed at you.
If there is a professional videographer, you’ll probably need to be mic’d up. They may also try to get you to use a hand-held microphone. These suck and should be avoided. If they insist you use a microphone only agree if there is a mic stand. You need your hands free.
I usually discuss with the musician is the processional. If the bride is being given away, I ask the musician to soften the music for when I say, “Who gives this woman to wed this man?”.
Also, if they are playing a song for the recessional, I let them know if I will be making a pronouncement after the kiss. For example, “It is my pleasure to now introduce for the first time as husband and wife, Fionna and Michael Shrek!”.
Like-a-Boss Tip: If you aren’t sticking around for the reception, ask the caterer to stash you a plate of food! And you ought to have the bartender set aside a drink or two for after the ceremony. It’s only right you get a buzz along with being fed.
4. Make sure the rings are on premises.
Essential. Not only lay eyes on the rings, but find out who will be holding them during the ceremony. Instruct the bearer of the rings how you plan on doing the ring ceremony. Some ceremonies will have the bearer hold them until the couple puts the rings on. Other ceremonies have the officiant hold them for a blessing.
5. Make sure the marriage license is on premises.
The most often forgotten detail by the wedding couple is the marriage license. If the couple forgot the license, it’s probably too late to do anything before the ceremony. But I always collect the license and hold on to it so it isn’t misplaced in the confusion after the ceremony.
If it’s sitting at home on the kitchen counter, you should have the groom nominate someone after the ceremony to run out and get it.
Ask the groom how you should announce the new couple after the kiss. Make sure you are clear on the exact phonetic spelling of the couple’s name(s). Write it out phonetically at the end of your ceremony script.
7. The Vows.
Are the couples saying their own vows? If so, did they bring a copy? Is it on a phone? Is the phone ready and are the vows pulled up for easy access during the ceremony?
If the couple wrote out their vows I like to go ahead and collect them and put them in my suit pocket. No suit? Elect someone to hold them. They can be in the audience or wedding party.
8. Escort the Bride.
I anyone escorting the bride down the aisle? If so, find that person and explain how it’s done.
i.e. “You’ll walk her down the aisle with her on your left arm. Just remember it is so that she is closest to your heart. When you get 5-6 feet from where Romeo and I are standing at the altar I’ll have you stop. I’ll ask, ‘Who gives this woman to wed this man?’. Give her a hug or kiss, handshake for Romeo and then you take a seat.”
Is anyone doing a reading? If so, make sure you meet them, learn their name and make sure they have a copy of the reading.
Let them know where in the ceremony they’ll be called and also tell them where to stand when doing the reading.
You won’t necessarily use every one of these at every wedding, but they are common enough that it is worth having the list at the ready.
And having everything written out helps you get comfortable and feel in command in the moments leading up to the ceremony.