How to Prepare for Performing a Wedding Ceremony

Preparing to officiate a wedding is a big task that involves more than just writing the wedding ceremony script. This page covers everything from how to dress, coordinate with the couple, and rehearse for the ceremony. By following this guide you will cover all the important logistics to ensure you are fully prepared to officiate.

  1. Nail Down the Logistics
  2. Gather Info for the Ceremony
  3. Write Your First Draft
  4. Rehearse and Polish
  5. Rehearse and Internalize
  6. Dress Rehearsal & Officiate

1. Nail Down the Logistics

Planning can be the most stressful part of weddings, and you don’t want that stress to spill over into the event. The sooner you take care of the details, the better. Coordinate with the couple and get the answer to these questions…

a. When is the wedding?

Make sure to block out the time. Put it in your calendar, phone, post-it on the fridge, etc.

b. Where is the venue?

It may be your backyard, it may be a Comicon convention. Either way, the venue can inform the tone of the ceremony. Additionally, it helps to know where you will be speaking.

c. How will I get there?

Maybe you have to book plane tickets. Or catch a train. Or do both. Figure it out, lock in in, and give yourself a pat on the back because travel is stressful enough without last-minute scrambling.

d. What should I wear?

The way that we dress sends important social cues, and helps to set the tone of the ceremony. Find out what the preweds have in mind, and if they don’t know, collaborate and maybe you’ll come up with something interesting or fitting together.

This takes care of the important logistics. Getting these points out of the way early will help to establish the tone you want to set when you begin writing the ceremony.


2. Gather Info for the Ceremony

Now that you’ve nailed down the what, when, and where,, it’s time to get started on the ceremony itself. Before you begin writing, we recommend you follow these steps.

Learn about the Wedding Ceremony

Block out at least an hour. Put on a timer. Go to our website. Oh, you are here! Read through our ceremony training pages. This is not complicated stuff, but it is important for you to understand. After reading through our materials, you will have a solid understanding of:

  • ● The ceremony as a whole
  • ● Its individual pieces
  • ● Your role and responsibilities as the officiant

Meet with the Couple

At this point you could begin writing but before you do that, we recommend that you first meet with the preweds. This meeting need not be long, and you can even do it via email, so long as everybody is communicating clearly. The purpose of this meeting is to:

  • ● Get everybody on the same page
  • ● Define how much work/writing you need to do
  • ● Get a better idea of the “flavor” of the ceremony

The following questions will help the couple tell you what you need to know as officiant and will save everybody valuable time.

  • ● Do you already have a ceremony that you want me to read?
  • ● Is your religion included in the ceremony? How about your love of Harry Potter? Is there a theme, idea, etc, you are going for?
  • ● Are there any special rituals you want included, such as a unity candle, or ancestral blessings?
  • ● Are any other parties involved in the ceremony?
  • ● Is there going to be a vow and/or ring exchange?
  • ● Have you written your vows?
  • ● Is there anything else that I have not addressed that you would like to share?

The answers to these questions will provide all you need to understand the scope of your responsibilities and writing directives.

Offer to Help with the Wedding Vows

If the couple doesn’t have a wedding planner, chances are one or both of them may be going a little loco planning their wedding. You, as a minister, are in the unique position to be a valuable and helpful resource to the couple, especially when it comes to writing their vows.

You may have never provided wedding vow counsel before. Don’t let this hold you back, or make you think you are unqualified. You do not need a philosophy degree to help someone with their wedding vows. All that is involved is an honest conversation, the right questions, and listening.

On that note, follow the steps below for the bet results.

  • ● Is the couple interested in your help with their vows?
  • ● The first thing, of course, is to find out if the couple wants help. Maybe they want to do this on their own. That’s fine, it means one less thing you need to do, and you can move on to other things. If they do want help…
  • ● Set up an appointment with the prewed individually. We highly recommend that you do this in person, snapchat doesn’t cut it, and face to face makes all the difference for this sort of task. When you meet, you can start by asking the following questions.

Have you written your vows? (No)

If not, then use the opportunity to give the couple some direction. A great way to do this is to ask...

  • ● How did you two meet?
  • ● When did you know you were in love?
  • ● What is a specific thing you love about your partner?
  • ● Was there an event that really articulated that thing you love?
  • ● Is there something you have wanted to tell them but have not because for some reason? Perhaps it sounded cheesy? Or you were worried that it might come off heavy handed? Well, this is your chance!
  • ● Remember that time you two...? What a hoot!
  • ● Is there something your partner has done in the past that surprised you, in a good way?
  • ● If your partner was leaving for Mars tomorrow and you knew you would not see them face to face for years, what would you want to say?

Have you written your vows? (Yes)

If the prewed has written their vows then this is a great opportunity to ask…

  • ● Would they be interested in reading what they have? If not that is perfectly fine.
  • ● Do they want feedback? Advice? If not that is also perfectly fine.

This is a wonderful opportunity that benefits both parties through collaboration. These conversations will provide insight into the tone of the ceremony and you will help the prewed accomplish a task that can be quite daunting.

Stay in touch. Keep each other accountable. If the prewed planned on writing their vows, but has been procrastinating. Follow up with them. They won’t resent a helpful reminder to get it done.


3. Write Your First Draft

By this point you should have everything you need to start writing the ceremony. If you want more details and options, check out our revised version of Asked to Officiate, the AMM’s comprehensive guide to planning and executing marriage ceremonies. Following the list below ensures that you cover all your bases.

The two biggest challenges for most writers are procrastination and distraction. In order to set yourself up for success we recommend that you:

Block out the Time

Set your timer for an hour. Sit down and tell yourself that you will dedicate yourself to this task for the next hour. Do not allow yourself to get distracted with another task until that hour is up. It may not even take an hour to write the ceremony, but be deliberate about setting aside the time.

Mitigate Distractions

Having your focus broken can really slow down the writing process. Chances are you will be writing your ceremony on a computer, possibly within a web browser. As great as computers are, their multifunctionality means that distractions are just a click away. We recommend that you do the following to avoid common pitfalls:

  • Put your phone away Do not answer calls, do not respond to texts, do not snapchat. Unless it is truly an emergency, it can wait. Your phone can be your worst enemy when it comes to focusing on your writing.
  • Find a distraction free space This is different for everybody. Maybe it is your local coffee shop, or your back patio. Do not write on the couch in front of the TV with Netflix on, that is not going to cut it.

Register your Wedding - Weddings logged in your AMM minister account include a personalized ceremony. This helps you kick start the writing process as you already have a foundation. You can copy and paste the ceremony from our website, and then work on it using your software of choice.


4. Rehearse and Polish

You now have your first draft. It’s time to take your script and make sure everything reads out loud the way it sounds in your head.

The Ceremony To Yourself Out Loud

Pay attention to anything that feels clunky, that you have trouble saying, or otherwise doesn’t feel quite right. Make the necessary corrections.

Solicit The Help of a Friend

Find someone to listen to you rehearse the ceremony. Having a second pair of ears is a great way to uncover potential issues that you were unaware of. Take and apply all constructive feedback.


5. Rehearse and Internalize

At this point you should have a polished ceremony with (more or less) the final wording. In the weeks and days leading up to the ceremony, we recommend that you set some time aside each day to practice the script.

Set some time aside each day to practice reading the ceremony script aloud.

This should take between five and ten minutes each time, maybe even less. The following are thing you can work on to perfect the ceremony.

Be aware of your cadence

Use a stopwatch to find out how long it takes you to speak the ceremony. This is a great way for you to get a clear idea of how long you will be speaking. After doing this several times, you will also have a better idea of when you are rushing. When it comes to public speaking, it is important to speak slowly. Because of the adrenaline rush, most people with little public speaking experience tend to speak too fast. Knowing how much time the ceremony should take will give you an indication of whether and how much you should pace yourself.

Memorize the script

You don’t have to, but it helps a lot!

Create practice opportunities

Practice in the mirror, in the morning, in the car, etc.

Practice the motions

The ring exchange, gestures, etc.

Dress Practice

Wear something fancy, hold a book, use the script as a prop.


6. Dress Rehearsal & Officiate

If you have followed all of these recommendations you should be fully prepared to conduct the wedding ceremony. That being said, here are a few useful tips to make sure things go extra smooth on the wedding day.

  • ● Show up early (You probably will but it does not hurt to reiterate that point).
  • ● Before the ceremony, check in with the couple or wedding planner in case there are any last minute changes you need to be aware of.
  • ● Make sure to bring a pen (there will probably be a few around but why not bring your own just in case).
  • ● Bring a prop book.
    • ● Holding a nice looking book makes the optics of the ceremony look better, especially if there is a photographer present.
    • ● The book need not be a Bible, in fact maybe there is a book that is meaningful to the couple that can add a nice easter egg to the ceremony.
    • ● You can also put a cheat sheet behind or inside the book if you need one. That way you can have a nice reference without having an ugly piece of paper in view of the audience.
  • ● Before the couple kisses, stand to the side so that they can have all the focus, and the photographer and audience can take better pictures.