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How Wedding Officiants Save the Day When There’s a Sudden Change in Venue

Published Friday, Jan. 8th, 2021

Illustrations by Jessica Levey

Venue closures -- temporary and permanent -- are creating additional wedding stress for couples this winter. Some couples are postponing their nuptials, but with traditional locations already booked through 2021 and beyond, many couples are embracing last-minute, unconventional venues instead in order to keep their wedding dates. 


Beautiful ceremonies are popping up in back yards, church parking lots, and drive-in theaters. Adventurous couples are pivoting to plan spontaneous elopements and minimonies in neighborhood and national parks and family living rooms. 


Wedding officiants, and a couple’s creativity, are what make this resilience possible! 


Officiants are pros at going with the flow and rolling with the unexpected. They’re quick thinkers with a passion for making a couple’s dream wedding happen. And one of the best things about officiants? They can perform a ceremony anywhere at all… as long as they dress the part and remember to bring a pen…


With that help-love-happen attitude in mind, here are a few simple ways officiants can ease the stress of a sudden venue change.



what to do when a wedding venue closes or cancels, for wedding officiants

How can wedding officiants help stranded couples?



Remind the couple they can have their ceremony anywhere and spend some time brainstorming


Some couples might have trouble thinking outside the box at first, especially if stress levels are high, so a few suggestions from a level-headed officiant will go a long way.


If you’ve officiated small, casual ceremonies in the past, share your experiences. If the couple are close friends or family, think about places you know mean a lot to them, or places you’ve enjoyed together in the past. Suggest a favorite neighborhood park, or the parking area outside a favorite bakery or beloved church, or even a close friend’s backyard. Once couples are able to imagine a beautiful unconventional location more clearly, the disappointment of a lost venue will start to fade.


(Read Can’t book a wedding venue? Consider a micro-wedding, or backyard wedding ceremony instead!)




Revise the ceremony script and unity ritual 


Once a replacement venue has been chosen, simple changes to a ceremony script will help the ceremony fit the new location perfectly. This might mean shortening the script -- for example if a large in-person wedding becomes a smaller minimony or elopement that leaves out a few frills -- or acknowledging the resourcefulness of the couple with a line or two about their circumstances. If guests have moved from in-person to online, you may want to add a few words welcoming them specifically at the start of the ceremony. 


Candle lightings or other unity rituals that were originally planned for an indoor setting might need to be reimagined for an outdoor one. This might mean adding jars or lanterns to block wind, or replacing a potentially-messy sand ceremony with a toasty blanket wrapping ritual better suited to the weather.



revise a wedding ceremony script for a new venue, handling cancellations and closures with wedding officiant

Sometimes just a few simple revisions to the ceremony script can save the day. 


Update your wedding attire


A new location might require different attire. If the wedding is moving outside, remember to dress for the weather and terrain. If a wedding shifts from banquet-hall formal to backyard-casual, have another conversation with the couple about what they’d like you to wear. 


(Read What to Wear (and Not Wear) as a Wedding Officiant.)




Rehearse in the new location 


If there’s time, we strongly recommend rehearsing your revised script with the couple in the new location. This will help you work out any last minute changes and get a feel for the new space. Rehearsing helps couples know what to expect on the wedding day, which will definitely help reduce their stress! 
(Read Rehearsals are Important - Even When Officiating a Friend’s Casual Backyard Wedding Ceremony.)




Set the tone and keep things light 


It’s only natural for folks to be nervous on their wedding day, and having to make sudden changes as a result of a venue closure or cancellation can add additional disappointment and financial stress.


More than ever, couples will look to you to set the tone for the ceremony and help keep their wedding on track. Letting them know that things will be ok, that you’re able to make whatever adjustments are needed, and that their ceremony will be beautiful no matter where it takes place, will ease their minds and raise their spirits. 




Have you officiated a wedding in an unexpected venue? Post photos on our Wedding Wall or tag us on Instagram @americanmarriageministries and let us know how you made it happen. 

Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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