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10 Wedding Reminders For Real Couples From an Officiant’s Perspective

Published Wednesday, Apr. 19th, 2023

Planning a wedding ceremony? 

Check out this great advice from professional wedding officiant Jody Serey. 


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AMM Audio Articles · 10 Wedding Reminders For Real Couples From an Officiant’s Perspective



1. This is a wedding 

It is not a coronation, an affair of state, a prom, or a competition.  It is a ceremonial observance of a commitment you should already have made by the time you reach the ceremony site. Whatever happens happens. Do not damage your relationship in a quest for staged perfection. And just accept that wherever two or more are gathered, there can be mess-ups.


2. This is your wedding 

It belongs to you and the other person in your personal equation. It is not the province of either of your mothers or any of your relatives or friends, and it is not public property. You can ask for input and advice from any and all sympathetic and excited parties – but do not be pressured into doing something that isn’t a true expression of who you are.

Related: How to stop parents, friends, & relatives from taking over your wedding plan



Two brides hold hands at the beach in their wedding dresses, facing away from the camera and toward the ocean

This is YOUR wedding - plan the wedding you want


3. This is just a wedding

It most certainly shouldn’t be the happiest day of your life ever. If it’s the happiest day of your life so far, then that’s okay.


4. This is more than a photo op 

Your wedding should be more than a photo opportunity. Make posing decisions based on how they’ll express the commitment you’re making. Feel free to decline staging a photo that you don’t want to have taken, and also feel free to have a good time.

Related: How to Get Your Wedding Published in a Magazine or Blog


5. Don’t blow your budget on a dress or ring 

Do not blow your entire budget on the dress and ring. Just don’t. If you have good food to eat, and some flowers to set the mood – your guests will feel like they are truly partaking in something special. Nothing has to be high end and fancy. Whatever you do should be heartfelt and welcoming. And you should not be auctioning off a kidney on the dark side of the Internet to pay for everything.

Related: Cut Wedding Expenses by Focusing on What Matters the Most -- The Ceremony!



Wedding proposal photo! A woman with pink hair smiles happily while their partner shows them an engagement ring.

If you want to exchange wedding rings, choose jewelry that's special but won't break the bank


6. Don’t fight

Don’t fight with anybody, including each other. There is something about pushing people completely out of their comfort zones, making them shave anything exposed to daylight, trussing them up in clothes that they can’t spill anything on, and throwing them together with people they might not like very much –  that can bring out the worst in an otherwise reasonably well-behaved crowd. 

If you stay Zen, the crabapples will stay Zen. If you lose it, even slightly, your photo op might be a segment on “Cops.” Your mother is right. Be nice. Just do it.

Related: Breathe in, Breathe Out: Calming Brides' and Grooms' Nerves


7. Know the legal ‘have to dos’ in your state

There’s a difference between what is social convention, religious tradition, etiquette, and what you “have to do” to get married. For example, to become legally married in the state where I officiate (Arizona), you have to apply for a license and answer a number of questions truthfully, part with about $100 of your hard-earned money, make your “I dos” in front of two witnesses, execute the license within a year of the issue date, and return the record of marriage to the court (which your officiant will do for you). 

The details will be different in your state, so it’s important to know your “have to dos.” Ask your local clerk!  All the rest of it is celebration, and it can be as traditional, conventional, unconventional, or contemporary as you wish. 





Bride and groom hold hands on the wedding day, in front of an arch lit up during a night ceremony. The bride is in a white dress and the groom is in a white button up shirt with a red bow tie, dark vest and dark suit pants. He is sitting in a wheelchair while she stands next to him, smiling

Know the legal 'must do's in your state before the ceremony


8. You need an officiant 

On many lists of wedding “must dos” and couple’s checklists, the small detail of a wedding officiant is completely ignored. But if you don’t have somebody present to officiate and sign the marriage license and you are attempting to seal the deal on a legal marriage, then you’ve had a very nice cocktail party or a prom instead… not a wedding.

Related: A Simple Wedding Planning Checklist & Timeline for Busy Couples



Note from AMM: You can officiate your own wedding in a few states. This is called 'self-solemnizing.' Learn about self-solemnizing ceremonies and where they're allowed: 


9. Be sure you like your officiant 

Choose an officiant you like. Now, you may not have a choice if you’re rushing off to a wedding chapel in Vegas, but under less hurried circumstances, you can probably arrange a meeting. Or at least some back and forth communication. If you get a little buzz in your nose that says “run” while interviewing a potential officiant, then run.

Related: Choosing a Wedding Officiant: What (or Who) Are Your Options?



A couple is married on the beach by a wedding officiant

Choose an officiant you like - even better if it's someone who can make you laugh.



10. Don’t lose your perspective 

Keep things in perspective. As the overused (but very true saying) goes, “A wedding is just a day, but a marriage is forever.”


Related: A Wedding Photographer Reminds Us Why The Big Picture Is The Most Important One



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Jody Serey
Jody Serey

Guest Contributor

Jody Serey has made the desert Southwest her home since the Carter administration. Originally from Indiana, she grew up in a family of English professors. Jody has been a writer of one persuasion or another her entire professional career. She and husband David have worked as a creative team for more than 45 years. Originally trained as a liturgist, Jody has served as a multi-denominational officiant for decades. She now owns and operates Spirit & Light, an officiant services business located in central Arizona, specializing in custom wedding ceremonies, funerals, baby blessings, house blessings, and many other occasions of remembrance.

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