Updated February 2021
When you're performing something as important as a wedding ceremony, you want to look good, but you also want to feel good. And yes, that velvet suit or gold lame mini dress might be right for a night out, but they'll probably look uncomfortably out of place during someone's casual backyard elopement. Think about it...
A ceremony is an “event of ritual significance, performed on a special occasion.” That means there are prescribed ways of doing things. Certain clothes to wear, words to say, and ways to act. Few ceremonies carry as much ritual significance as wedding ceremonies, where couples publicly declare a legally binding commitment to each other.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t let your personal style shine through.
Heck, that’s probably why the couple asked you to officiate in the first place. Wedding officiants -- that’s you -- are rockstars!
Let’s dive into what to wear as a wedding officiant, because there are a lot of variables - such as the feel of the event, weather, location, venue, and what the couple are wearing - that come into play!
Our first recommendation is to dress to at the same level as the couple. What we mean by the “same level” is that if the couple is in wedding dresses and/or tux/suits, than the officiant should be in nice dress or suit. On the other hand, if the wedding couple is in casual type clothing (e.g. sundresses and/or khakis), than the officiant should match that same style and tone of attire.
The idea is that everyone feels comfortable. Have you ever been the most overdressed or underdressed person in a room? You probably felt a little out of place. And although it is probably okay to be overdressed, being underdressed as an officiant could throw off the ceremony, by making you -- the officiant -- uncomfortable. You want to be calm and relaxed, not worrying about what you are wearing.
Look, anybody can wear whatever they want. This is America! But there are certain conventions to be aware of if you decide to wear a robe. Most folks that wear robes have “earned” them. They've usually completed some sort of seminary training, rabbinical school, or other religious ordination process in which a robe is an expected part of the outcome/attire.
Here at AMM, we don’t really have a position on robes, and we don’t even have any on hand. (If that’s something our ministers are interested in, let us know!)
It’s also possible to “earn” your robe simply by being called to your particular line of ministry -- in this case, officiating weddings. That’s fine too, as long as the couple is on board. It’s worth checking in with them first, because a big part of being an officiant is presentation and ultimately, that’s up to the couple since it’s their ceremony.
(For a modern alternative to a robe that looks sharp but doesn't come with any religious connotations or expectations, check out our custom AMM Officiant Stole.)
We recommend this because bright colors stand out in pictures. It’s important that the couple are front and center in the ceremony pictures, not the officiant.
Let’s use a common example of a bride in a white dress and a groom in a black tux with a white shirt. Or perhaps there are two grooms in dark gray colored suits. You get the picture... If the officiant is wearing a light green shirt with a brightly colored tie, or a vibrant red cocktail dress, folks will be distracted from the couple.
Let the couple be the center of attention.
(For a few suggestions on how to accessorize your wedding day attire, read What Does a Wedding Officiant Wear?!)
Is the wedding outdoors? What’s the weather forecast? Are you going to be standing and walking on wet, slippery grass?
I recently attended a lovely wedding that was held on the front lawn of a winery outside of Charleston, Virginia. The sun was shining, it was a balmy 65 degrees, and everything was perfect. Well, that is, everything except the grass... It had poured rain the night before and we were practically standing in a swamp.
Fortunately, the wedding officiant and the couple were prepared. They wore dark leather shoes that allowed them to navigate the soggy terrain easily. But for guests wearing tan loafers or high heels, the trek from the parking lot to the seating area was downright treacherous.
This example shows why it’s important to consider the venue and weather, because the right footwear is crucial.
Ultimately, choosing what to wear all comes down to good communication. The couple and the officiant need to discuss what they'll be wearing. Even if the couple says, “dress anyway you want,” (and maybe especially then...) the officiant needs to think about their attire in the context of the role they are playing… Wedding ceremony officiant, not just wedding guest.
Read ...So What Does a Wedding Officant Really Do? to learn more about what to expect your first time performing a marriage.