What to Wear (and Not Wear) as a Wedding Officiant
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!
AMM officiant Matt McMurphy dressed up for a formal wedding
Read the room.
Our first recommendation is to dress to 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/suit, 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.
Before we get to the second recommendation, let’s talk about robes.
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. That means, they 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.
I suspect that the fellow on the left had to pull some strings to get a robe like that...
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 because a big part of being an officiant is presentation, and ultimately, that’s up to the couple since it’s their ceremony.
Dress in neutral colors.
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 the groom in a black tux with white shirt. Or perhaps, there are two grooms in suits. You get the picture... If the officiant is wearing a light green shirt under their suit, with a brightly colored tie or a red cocktail dress, folks will be distracted from the couple.
Let the couple be the center of attention.
Consider the climate.
Is the wedding outdoors? What’s the weather forecast? Are you going to be standing on wet 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. That’s because it had poured rain the night before and we were practically standing in a swamp.
Fortunately, the wedding officiant and the couple were prepared, wearing dark leather shoes that allowed them to navigate the soggy terrain. 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, it all comes down to good communication. The couple and the officiant need to discuss what they will be wearing. Even if the couple says, “dress anyway you want,” the officiant needs to think about their attire in the context of the role they are playing… wedding ceremony officiant, not just wedding guest.
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