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Dearly Beloved: An officiant’s tale

You will be hard-pressed to find two weddings that are exactly alike. Some couples prefer a backyard ceremony with finger foods at the reception, and others want to get married at the Plaza in June. There are a few who only invite family to be a part of their special day, and a certain amount who have every friend they have ever met to stand alongside them. There are, however, a few mandatory constants at every ceremony – two lovebirds, witnesses, a license, and someone to perform the observance.

The latter is where I step in.

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For the past two years, I have been ordained and licensed by the state of Louisiana to serve as a wedding a wedding officiant. To date, I have performed four weddings and each one has been different from the other. Two have been outdoors, one was in a barn and another was in a living room. Also, half have occurred during two storms. All have been for friends I have known for a long time and with whom I have a good relationship.

Most onlookers are rightfully concerned with the procession of the attendants and getting whiplash between looking at the bride’s entrance and unfairly judging the success of the marriage by the groom’s response. What many are missing is the officiant’s knocking knees and increased heart palpitations. As the bride enters, you want to make sure the groom isn’t running away and that you aren’t quickly right behind him.

There is a ton of pressure to officiate a wedding. The flower girl can forget to throw down petals and the best man can lose the rings. If the officiant is not licensed or forgets some crucial steps, there is no marriage. Scary, right?
The ceremony can ebb and flow in whichever way the couple desires, but some things are a mainstay. An officiant must deliver the declaration of intent before and/or in conjunction with the vows. This is the “Do you take as your ?” followed by a hopeful “I do.” Also, do you recall the part before the big kiss? It is the one that leads with, “By the power vested to me by the state of Louisiana.” That’s not said only for tradition’s sake; it’s required. Everything is up for grabs. So then, what are the other parts of a wedding? I thought you’d never ask.

According to theknot.com, the premier online wedding resource for couples, most weddings will include the following: the procession, officiant’s opening remarks, address to the couple, exchange of vows, ring exchange, the pronouncement, the kiss, closing remarks.

The officiant’s role does not end once the ceremony is over. He or she is now in charge of having the couple and two witnesses (usually the best man and maid/matron of honor) sign two copies of the marriage license and a certificate. Some couples opt to include this practice during the ceremony, but it’s commonly done afterwards. Confession moment—I signed in the wrong space after marrying my first couple. I thankfully did not place my name on the groom’s line, but I was able to rectify it and that pair is happily married. Once the forms have been signed, it is then the officiant’s responsibility to return, the two copies of the license to the clerk of courts office within 10 days.

Ultimately, an officiant bears much weight in the wedding process. Uncle Ben once told us, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Each time I have been asked to fulfill this role, it has been a tremendous honor. It’s important that couples getting married select someone who understands the importance.

Picking a good officiant:
• Trusted religious leader
• Family member
• Close friend
• Officiant service company

The process to becoming an officiant was not difficult for me as I did it through my church. For those who may be looking at other alternatives to becoming license, the Universal Life Church offers a quick solution.

I’ve been a best man, usher, baker and have even helped decorate a wedding. Though I get nervous each time, the role as an officiant has been my favorite, and I presume will continue to be until I have the role of groom.

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Photos of Josh courtesy of Sarah Alleman Photography.

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