Many people play a role in a wedding. The bride and groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen, ring bearers, and flower girls are front and center on the day a couple ties the knot.
Another central, and very important, figure on a couple's wedding day is the officiant. Officiants perform the wedding ceremony and are the first to introduce the newlyweds to their guests as an officially married couple.
Various types of officiants can officiate a wedding, and understanding each type can help couples find the right one for them.
Couples who want traditional religious ceremonies often choose a religious officiant, such as a parish priest or rabbi, with whom they're familiar. For example, couples who grew up attending a particular church might choose the priest who's been preaching to them since they were children, while others might choose the priest at their current place of worship.
Religious officiants may be governed by certain rules that restrict them to performing ceremonies in a house of worship, which might rule them out for couples who want outdoor or destination weddings. Couples should inquire about such restrictions as early as possible in the planning process so they aren't caught off guard.
Civil officiants are officers of the court, such as a judge or justice of the peace. Many couples who are planning destination weddings abroad still choose to have a civil officiant perform a wedding ceremony at home. This is because some overseas officiants may not be authorized to marry couples in their home countries, meaning their marriages won't be recognized once they return home. Civil officiants make sure marriages are legal, and they also make great options for couples who just want to get hitched without a grand ceremony.
Professional officiants are not affiliated with a particular religious organization. That makes them great choices for couples who aren't religious as well as those who come from different religious backgrounds and won't be converting to the same faith. Professional officiants typically meet with a couple once or twice to get to know them before writing the speech they will give during the ceremony. Many will share the speech with the couple in advance of the big day, and some even allow couples to write the speech.
Many couples ask a friend or family member to officiate their weddings, which can add a fun and very personal component to the ceremony. Couples who want to take this route should research local laws to determine the steps loved ones must take to become ordained ministers who will be recognized by the state or country where the ceremony will take place.
Officiants play a significant role during a wedding, and couples can choose one who best fits their personalities and ceremony preferences.