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How Wedding Officiants Can Cancel Last-Minute Without Ruining the Ceremony

Published Wednesday, Oct. 27th, 2021

No wedding officiant wants to cancel the day of the wedding…

But if you have to, here’s how to save the ceremony.



Wedding Officiants get sick, have family emergencies, and get flat tires. Things happen… It’s just part of being human. 


But when bad luck strikes on the day you’ve been asked to officiate a wedding ceremony, a simple flu or flat tire might feel like a total disaster. Especially if it means you have to cancel your services at the last minute! 


Luckily, there are few things you can do ahead of time and in the moment, to avoid disaster and save the ceremony. 



Before the day of the ceremony


  • Network with other wedding officiants in your area 


Meet and get to know other wedding officiants in your area. You can do this through online forums and social media groups, through popular wedding venues, and by word of mouth. Once you’ve built a relationship with one or two wedding officiants that you like and trust, you’ll have reliable people to call when you need a substitute officiant to step in on your behalf. 


Let the couples that you work with know that you’re able to provide a wonderful backup officiant, should anything come up the day of their wedding. This will help ease their minds, too! 



  • Make your contract very clear 


Include a clause in your contract that lets couples know exactly what they can expect if you become ill or are forced to cancel your services within a few days of the wedding ceremony. 


Decide whether you’ll issue a full refund (and how soon they can expect one), whether you’ll provide a backup officiant, and outline any other steps you’ll take to make the situation less stressful for them. 


Having clear language in your contract won’t keep mishaps from happening, but it will keep you and your couples on the same page when they do. A solid contract can also protect your business from negative feedback, legal action, and financial repercussions (in case you get sued!). 



  • Save a copy of the finished wedding ceremony script in your email


Have a copy of the wedding script ready and waiting in your inbox, so that you can quickly forward it to the couple getting married, a back up officiant, or any friend or family member that might step up to deliver the ceremony in your place.



The day of the ceremony 


  • Notify the couple as soon as possible


No wedding officiant wants to cancel the day of the ceremony. So if you wake up with the flu, you might be tempted to wait a couple hours and see how things go... But given the current prevalence of COVID-19, and the general unpleasantness of a wedding officiant with the sniffles, we don’t recommend this. 


Call your couple immediately. If you have a back up officiant waiting in the wings, call them first, and then call the couple. 


The same advice goes for sudden family emergencies, car trouble on the way to the venue, and any other circumstances that require you to cancel. Give your couple as much time as possible to find a solution and adjust to the change in plans.



  • If there’s no backup officiant, recommend that a guest get ordained online 


Ooof, this is a tough one. A wedding guest who gets ordained on the way to the wedding and performs a ceremony on the spot won’t deliver a script with the same skill and charisma as someone who’s practiced ahead of time, like a professional officiant.


But, offering a desperate couple a working solution when you aren’t able to show up -- such as having a guest get ordained online to marry them -- can save a ceremony! And saving a ceremony can also mean the difference between a bad online review (that kills future business leads), and a delighted thank you letter. 


(Important note: In states where ministers and wedding officiants are required to register with the local government in order to marry people, this solution won’t work. Find out if minister registration is required in your state by heading here.)





You might have to cancel at the last minute…


But it doesn’t have to ruin the wedding ceremony. Taking a few important steps before the day of the wedding, and keeping your couple’s best interests in mind the day-of, can help save the ceremony no matter what comes up. 


For more tips and tricks on becoming a successful wedding officiant, 


Read our Articles for First Time Officiants. 




Asked to Officiate


Product photo shows the cover of the American Marriage Ministries wedding officiant training workbook titled Asked to Officiate

The most comprehensive and easy-to-use guide to writing and conducting wedding ceremonies ever written!


This book is like having an experienced wedding officiant looking over your shoulder every step of the way. From writing personalized vows, to planning and officiating weddings, this book empowers you to conduct an authentic, meaningful, and memorable ceremony. 




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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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