Guest Column by Matt McMurphy
My path to becoming a wedding officiant was an unexpected journey, and I am so thankful for this adventure. It is a journey that only happened because of good friends, perfect timing, and my ability to comfortably say “Yes” and “I don’t know” to new experiences.
I had already been in love with weddings for about five years when I became a wedding officiant. I did not choose to become a wedding officiant originally - two very good friends chose me. When my lifelong friend Jenni and her amazing boyfriend-at-the-time Hosam got engaged, I had given them my favorite wedding planning advice, which my wife and I had received from a wedding planner we met during our engagement.
That advice is to sit down with your fiancé(e) and pick the three most important things about your wedding, and then the rest will fall more easily into place as you move forward from that solid foundation.
Shortly after I shared this advice with Jenni and Hosam, they called to tell me they had decided on three things: they would get married in the late morning so everyone could celebrate with brunch, the main course of that brunch would be chicken and waffles,and they wanted me to officiate the ceremony. I was the only non-food-related important item on their list, so of course I accepted their request with honor, and I began to research and prepare. The first step was obvious: I needed to become a wedding officiant!
My wife helped me in my search to become a licensed officiant. That’s when she came across American Marriage Ministries (AMM). She brought them to my attention because she loved how committed they were to marriage equality and how helpful, educational, and thorough their website was in providing officiants with the information and tools necessary to perform and solemnize marriages.
What stood out about AMM to me, besides their mission of making marriage accessible to all couples who are in love and ready to make that commitment to one another, was that they regularly gave to charity and often let their members choose which charity would receive a donation each month.
AMM is charitable, accessible, and inclusive. In short, they were a perfect choice. So I joined AMM, became a wedding officiant, and I furiously read up on how to create a wedding ceremony. Thanks to the numerous, helpful resources on the AMM website, I was able to see a variety of ideas, outlines, and examples of wedding ceremonies. As I learned how to create a wedding ceremony for my friends, being at the right place at the right time made my new adventure even more thrilling.
An Instagram selfie with my AMM license and a photo from Jenni and Hosam’s wedding, photo by Jeannie Mutrais
At the time, I was working at a cozy coastal resort in California’s Northern Bay Area. Because they were an all-inclusive venue with beautiful views, they were a popular spot for weddings.
Within a month of my joining AMM, one of the couples scheduled to be married there called the resort’s wedding coordinator in a panic because their wedding officiant, a family friend, had suddenly gotten cold feet and cancelled on them two weeks before their wedding.
The wedding coordinator, who had heard about the recent start of my adventures as a wedding officiant, asked if I would be willing to step in and assume the role. I was terrified at the prospect of performing a marriage for strangers, but I of course said yes, and that turned out to be a great decision. Over the next two weeks, I took time to get to know the couple and learn their story. It was important for me to write ceremonies that directly applied to each couple and represented the love between them, and to make sure that the two ceremonies I created were each unique to the respective couple.
The beautiful Nick’s Cove on Tomales Bay, with the cozy Boat Shack set up for a wedding reception, photos by Annie Hall
Thanks to Jenni and Hosam and that cozy resort, I started my path as a wedding officiant by writing and presenting two very different ceremonies. Jenni and Hosam’s wedding had about a hundred people and was seventy minutes in length, thanks to the great community of their friends providing readings and songs that really represented the two.
The second wedding was for two complete strangers in front of twelve people, and the ceremony took about twenty minutes in total. I delivered two very different weddings almost back-to-back, and I successfully did so with each one. That is all the encouragement I needed, and I had a new calling. I became the go-to officiant for the resort, and other friends and family members began asking me to perform their weddings.
By the beginning of the following year, I had a website, a social media presence, business cards, and a networking group. By the end of that year, I began using my experience in education and public speaking to coach couples on writing their own vows and wedding party members on how to give the best toasts.
Last month I celebrated the three year anniversary of joining American Marriage Ministries, and I have since officiated and coached for a variety of weddings all over California, and I even had the opportunity to officiate a wedding in Thailand last summer (which is a story all of its own). It all started because two friends asked me to do something I had never thought of doing before, and I said yes!
Jenni, myself, and Hosam enjoying their wedding, photo by Jeannie Mutrais
I could not have grown in my experience and my presence as a wedding officiant without the constant support of my wife, the person who made me fall in love with weddings in the first place. I also owe a lot to the amazing wedding professionals who have taken me under their wings and shared their decades of experience with me. I now feel deeply connected to American Marriage Ministries, whose staff really go out of their way to encourage, celebrate, and highlight their officiants. AMM has an amazing mission, and I am so glad I chose to be a part of it.
I try to live every day as proof that it is a great idea to say “yes” to the unknown, and to say “I don’t know” when there is a chance to learn new skills and have new experiences. Because of those words, I now help couples, their families, and their friends celebrate deep, true love. I am living my purpose.
Jenni, myself, and Hosam celebrating after their wedding, photo by Jeannie Mutrais
This article was written for American Weddings by guest contributor Matt McMurphy, who also blogs on his website. Please visit Matt's website to learn more about officiating weddings, and learn about the services that he offers.