Planning your wedding ceremony includes deciding who will officiate. Many LGBTQ+ marriers are faced with a dilemma when it comes to deciding who to ask–with options ranging from queer-affirming religious leaders to charismatic friends who can get ordained online, it can be hard to choose who you want to stand with you as your officiant when entering the next chapter of your lives. While it’s fun to consider your best friend or Uncle Joe as your officiant, most couples hire professional wedding officiants to lead their nuptials, and honestly, it’s usually for the best. Take it from us: here are 10 seriously important reasons you need a pro officiant for your wedding:

1. They are legally qualified to officiate

Obtaining a license to get ordained and perform a wedding ceremony is often a source of stress for marriers who ask friends or family to officiate. Marriage laws vary by state, but many areas require a long (and potentially expensive) process in order for a marriage ceremony to be legally recognized. While the requirements for a marriage license usually remain the same, regardless of who officiates your ceremony, the variables for validating newly ordained officiants can be confusing. Hiring a professional wedding officiant mitigates any of that stress and allows you to focus on the details of your ceremony instead.

2. They can help you tailor your ceremony to your spiritual needs

No matter your spiritual, religious or secular beliefs, finding the right officiant can help you and your spouse-to-be shape your ceremony to fit your individual philosophies. Some officiants specialize in specific spiritual areas or rituals, and most LGBTQ+ inclusive and affirming wedding officiants are more than willing to help you craft a ceremony that reflects your spirituality and honors your belief system. Choosing a professional officiant means choosing someone with the experience and knowledge necessary to ensure you know all of your options, so you can opt for the best fit for you and your partner.

3. They can help manage family dynamics and advocate for you and your partner(s)

Professional wedding officiants have garnered experience and emotional intelligence that allows them to help in the management of family dynamics of your wedding, both before and during the ceremony. Especially for queer weddings, having a neutral party to help advocate for the needs of you and your partner(s) in potentially difficult family situations is a game-changer. As experts in wedding stress and spirituality, pro officiants will serve you well when it comes to tough conversations and, more importantly, will support you and your right to run the ceremony precisely as you want it.

4. They can help you compose your vows

Whether you choose to write your own vows or select pre-existing religious or spiritual scripts, your officiant is a great resource for inspiration and editing. As seasoned pros in the wedding ceremony space, officiants can guide you through the process of composing your vows and ensure they will be the right length and tone for your needs. Many officiants will start building a relationship with the marriers several months prior to the wedding, giving you lots of time to bounce ideas off each other and perfect the words you’ll use alongside your “I dos.”

5. They can offer ideas for unity ceremonies or ritual elements

If you and your partner(s) are not religious but would like to include unity ceremonies or bonding rituals in your wedding, a professional officiant can provide ideas and options that you otherwise may not think of. From hand-fasting to sand unity ceremonies, there are countless ways to add meaning and ritual to your wedding without leaning expressly on religion. When deciding on an officiant, ask about their experience with unity ceremonies and any they may recommend considering (and have experience with).

6. They know how to adapt quickly as needed

From crying children and flying bugs to last-minute venue changes and family drama, there will always be something that goes awry on the wedding day. Professional wedding officiants are able to adapt quickly to any changes and often can provide an anchoring presence as you adjust or move past any discomfort. The experience that makes them a great resource prior to the big day also makes them an asset in any unforeseen moments.

7. They develop relationships with your other vendors and your wedding party

It’s no secret that having a team that gets along is essential to a successful event. Ideally, your wedding party and vendors should all be working together toward the same goal of making your wedding day pleasant and joyful. Officiants can be an excellent source of positive energy and good relationship-building, bridging the gap between the many people who will be bustling around on your wedding day, and helping to ensure that everyone feels included. While they don’t function as a coordinator or planner, pro wedding officiants are an energetic asset and an integral part of a smooth-running wedding.

8. They know how to help you stay calm

Emotional regulation on your wedding day can feel overwhelming, especially as the ceremony gets closer and closer. Wedding officiants are experienced in helping their brides, grooms and marriers stay calm and present throughout the ceremony and moments leading up to it. In your meetings prior to the wedding day, officiants may offer additional services such as coaching and advice to help you stay calm in the exciting–and sometimes nerve-wracking–moments.

9. They can advise you on the timing and length of your ceremony

With experience and knowledge under their belts, professional wedding officiants understand how to time a ceremony and keep it concise but meaningful. Depending on your expectations for the length and complexity of your ceremony, your officiant can guide you through ways of making it enjoyable for you and your partner(s), while keeping your guests’ attention from drifting. They are there to celebrate you, after all! Don’t be afraid to ask about the recommended ceremony length or voice any concerns you may have about timing.

10. They’re confident in front of a crowd

Perhaps the most important benefit to hiring a professional officiant is their comfort in public speaking. Having inexperienced officiants like your charismatic friend or cousin can lead to potentially awkward pacing, uncomfortable pauses, disappointment for hard-of-hearing guests and jokes that don’t quite land. Pro wedding officiants know how to command a ceremony with ease, and they can do so in a way that still centers your relationship. The Equally Wed heart is a trademark of Palladino Publishing, LLC.

Looking for gay-friendly, LGBTQ+ inclusive and affirming professional wedding officiants? Start here.

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Featured image by Giorgia Maddaloni