These vary from wedding to wedding. The basic duty of the officiant is to help you plan and write your ‘ceremony’, not your wedding. For a simple wedding, such as an elopement, the duties are legal and to the point. You have to state you intentions in front of the witness and that witness is the officiant. [NH does not need other witnesses] States vary in their witness requirements.
It all boils down to ‘you have to say these words, they have to be witnessed, and a legal witness must sign to this being performed and file the relevant documents as needed’. The rest is all emotional and spiritual. My own wedding involved 4 people and the minister, and I was a little let down for some time. [a death in the family dictated no big party] However, I have officiated many, many weddings now and I am somewhat relieved that I wasn’t put through all the fuss at the time. I look back at it and smile.
Because we were having an ‘elopement’ we decided to dress up in Renaissance clothing, as our two best friends had been to King Richard’s Faire and had the costumes rented. Sad to say, I own two medieval dresses already..LOL…and hubby had his outfit made to match. We made a big to-do about staging photos in dramatic poses with swords and trees and archways in the pictures, we had breakfast at Bickfords, and had so much fun, and no stress. Our formal meal was just the two of us. A friend had booked a table at a good restaurant as a suprise, and they had roped off one end of the place and decorated it with gifts to us, and champagne. A credit card number was left by another friend, and it was ‘anything you want, just get it’. Total cost of wedding around $500.00. I drank too much champagne and fell over the rope, but apart from that, it was very romantic. We have fond memories of that day.
Anyway, I digress.
I have officiated weddings wherein the couple seemed to think that I was their coordinator. No. It is your responsibility to arrange what you would like. I will of course advise on anything you need and will help wherever I can in organizing your processional, conducting the ceremony and recessional and thaiding in the seating going smoothly. I am not, however, responsible for which table Great Aunt Hilda should sit at. Or what colour tablecloths to order. Don’t forget, I don’t see most of the wedding, I am up front waiting for people to get to me, and have no control over when the next person should walk up the aisle. To this end I always recommend that you have a person do this for you. Too slow and the music is over, too fast and everyone has to wait at the altar for the music to stop. If you have a DJ, he/she is the expert on this, use them to the fullest advantage. They have a great sense of timing.
You can always ask a member of family or a friend who is not in the wedding party to cue the attendants for you. At rehearsals I often use the music for the processional and ask the attendants to cue on a visual, such as ‘when you see the person in front of you reach this point, start walking’
General duties I regularly undertake as an Officiant
Respond to initial inquiry by couple, If compatible, book date and provide contract for signing. Retain deposit.
Get acquainted with the venue if not already, such as a park, a home. I usually call or email venues and ask for their bridal package so I know what is offered and what to expect. If it’s local, I travel there and check out the site.
Meet with the couple if appropriate time is allowed.
Communicate with couple via email and telephone to assess their needs and to brainstorm for ceremony ideas and requirements.
Verify the legality of the marriage via state issued license and personal ID.
File for any day licenses necessary eg ‘out of state clergy’.
Take all the ideas provided by the couple and write a custom ceremony using custom and non-custom elements.
Perform any within ceremony rituals such as unity and blended family ceremonies. These include but are not limited to Sand, Rose, Unity Candles, Glass Breaking, Medallions, Blessings, etc.
Attend rehearsal if needed. Oversee the flow of the ceremony and make any adjustments needed.
Arrive promptly at the venue on the day of the ceremony to help with any last minute crisis, nerves, be a calming influence for the nervous partner who is waiting at the altar.
Announce the legal joining of the couple.
Complete and file paperwork with vital records authorities, make copies of documentation, send one to couple for a keepsake, file one.
Deep breath, start next one.
That sums it up nicely. But there are a myriad things that couple want to add to their special day. and my motto; Your day, your way! cover most of them…