I live in a world of “Top Five” lists, so when a wedding officiant asks, “What should I have with me at the wedding?” it is natural for me to reply with an easy-to-follow list of the five things all officiants should have with them for a successful wedding. Not only does this list help you feel prepared, it helps you look prepared and professional. Enjoy!
1. The Script!
This one is obvious - you have GOT to have your words with you, right? I personally have a script that has every moment of the ceremony written down. When you are up there in front of the couple and all their guests, you can forget the little things like inviting everyone to stand as they are able, or you can forget the really important things like the specific wording of their vows (even though you have already repeated them over and over).
Even if you are more extemporaneous, be sure to have notes or an outline to help guide you through the ceremony. And make sure your list looks nice! You will be captured in treasured photos forever, so be sure your paperwork looks as professional as you do on your couple’s big day. Also, if you know you are going to be outside, use a bound book or binder or take the time to laminate your papers. This will help prevent your script from being tossed about by the wind, giving you one less thing to worry about.
2. Copies of All the Readings
Just in case the friend or family member chosen to present a reading during the ceremony forgets their copy, be the superhero who saves their day by having a copy ready to go. As I craft my ceremony script with the couple in the months leading up to the ceremony, I ask them to provide me with the text of whatever readings will be shared.
Then I have the readings marked by title, author, and speaker in my scripts, with the full readings printed out on separate pages in case I need to share them with a well-meaning but forgetful reader.
3. Two Pens
Why two? In case one does not work, of course! Not only is it good to be able to jot down any last-minute additions to the ceremony (venue announcements, change of reader, etc.), but most officiants have important paperwork to fill out during or after the ceremony, and you always want to look prepared. Make sure the pens have the color ink required for that paperwork (many states’ marriage licenses require black ink only, for instance), and just like your notes/script, make sure the pens look nice!
You or others may be photographed signing the paperwork, so make sure you are holding a writing implement that reflects the beauty and solemnity of the day. Some couples like to provide a special pen for the document signings, which they then have as a keepsake, but it never hurts to be prepared!
4. Safety Pin(s)
Clothes tear. Disasters happen. Want to look like a hero? Be the person who can step in and offer a little help with a BIG solution. Safety pins can make rips disappear, hold ties or surprisingly heavy boutonnieres in place, and they can even be used as a hinge for eyeglasses! I recommend having a few in different sizes, but having even one of these little devices on you can set you up to look more prepared and helpful than anyone realized a wedding officiant could be!
5. NOT Your Cell Phone
I know this one is controversial, but I am old school and always err on the side of professionalism. When you are actually officiating a wedding, remember that you are officiating a wedding, not networking and generating content for social media. While it is important to have photos of you doing your job or photos of you with a happy couple, you also do not want to be the person who forgets to silence their phone, has the occasional buzzing alert distract from the ceremony, or just has a weird rectangular lump in your carefully selected officiant outfit. Plus I have found that most photographers are happy sharing shots of you, and they take waaaay better pictures than you do with your phone anyway (just remember to always credit them if you use the photo for self-promotion).
With more and more unplugged ceremonies these days, too, you do not want to be the hypocrite seen with their phone, especially since you are probably the one announcing to everyone to keep their cell phones out of the ceremony. Leaving your phone in your car, your hotel room, or whatever personal space you have that isn’t directly at the ceremony site is always a safe bet.
There you have it! Making sure this list of items is all checked off will not only put your mind at ease, but your couple and their guests will take note of the level of detail, thought, and professionalism you put into this momentous, life-changing occasion. When people talk about you in the future, they will not just refer to you as a wedding officiant - they will remember you as the SUPER officiant who showed up ready to save the day!
This article was written for American Weddings by guest contributor Matt McMurphy.
Matt is a professional wedding officiant living in the northern Bay Area of California who creates and leads wedding ceremonies personalized for the couple that help everyone recognize, declare, and celebrate the love that is between the couple and ever-present in our world.
In addition to performing beautiful wedding ceremonies for every couple, Matt offers coaching in writing and presenting wedding vows and toasts, so that couples and their loved ones are confident and prepared for the big day. He also offers a NEW service coaching first-time officiants in crafting wedding scripts and delivering the best ceremonies for the families or friends who have chosen them for the honor.