Published: Thursday, Sep. 5th, 2019
We recently worked with a bride that straight up warned us that she might have a panic attack during the wedding ceremony!
Spoiler alert, she was just fine, and the wedding ceremony went off without a hitch. But as anybody with experience in these matters can attest, nerves are a huge part of the ceremony experience, and it’s best to address the problem head on to find solutions that work for the couple. That way, everyone is relaxed and happy on the big day.
Our first line of advice for couples is the following: Your wedding is going to be an emotional day and there will be plenty of nerves to go around. Once you accept that, you can create a plan to address or accomodate these feelings, because they're natural and probably unavoidable.
As their officiant, there's a lot that you can do to help the couple.
Spend a few minutes talking with the couple (either together or separately) before the ceremony kicks off.
During this conversation, ask how they're doing, how they're feeling, and what’s running through their minds. Give them a chance to vent. Ask if there's anything they need, and let them know that “we” got this. Knowing you're on their team will go a very long way.
If you're a friend or family member who was asked to officiate (and not a professional wedding officiant), it’s important to realize that the couple will still be looking to you for direction.
Staying confident and calm, and demonstrating to them that you've arrived with plenty of time to handle any remaining details, and do in fact have matters under control, will be incredibly helpful to them! You'll be offering them visible assurance that things will be ok, that the ceremony is under control, and that they have one less thing to worry about.
Before the ceremony begins, ask the couple to look at each other and take a deep breath or two. This simple action usually helps to calm them down and “centers” them.
This one is pretty standard practice, but it's very effective! During the ceremony, make sure that the couple is facing each other and holding hands. This usually has a calming effect.
However, if this makes them more nervous for any reason, it's ok to have them look toward you (their officiant!) during the ceremony, while still officially facing one another. Find what works for them!
As the officiant, you are the ceremony's 'director.' This means that it's your job to give cues to the couple, so they know what to do and where to stand. Having clear cues and guidance will keep them calm!
For instance, if or when it’s time for the couple to move (such as during a sand ceremony) it’s your job to let them know. In addition, you should ask for the rings when you them, have the vows ready to hand to the couple when it's time for them to be read, etc. The couple should not have to worry about memorizing or remembering anything... That’s your job as the officiant!
If you know that the couple is going to be nervous or emotional, start the ceremony with something light hearted. Come prepared with a reading or quote that will make them smile and laugh. This will reduce their anxiety and remind them to enjoy the experience.
If this is your first time officiating, you might be nervous too… That's ok, just remember not to show it. You need to be on point, so that you can calm the couple down! It's up to you to control the vibe and flow of the ceremony so that the couple and guests can just kick back and enjoy it.
Want help with that? We've got a few blog posts just for you!
And if you need more general advice, we’ve got lots of great tools available here on our website on our Officiant Training pages.
We’ve also got our popular book (Asked to Officiate) that covers planning and officiating wedding ceremonies available on our store. Click here to grab yourself a copy!
Updated June 10, 2021
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