By The (Online) Power Vested in Me
I was standing in their son Anthony’s room — surrounded by dinosaurs, Darth Vader figurines and puzzle pieces — when one of my best friends and her fiancé asked me to officiate their wedding. Despite being ordained in 2009 (just because I could) I’d never officiated a wedding — theirs was my very first.
I’ve known Casey since middle school, but we’ve been friends since the summer after Freshman year. My dear friend induced the type of laughter that made your cheeks (and in my case deeply buried) abs burn — and the life of the party met her match in Eric. I was so excited to get started… and then heard about the 130 people that would be listening to this speech during the ceremony. Those excitement butterflies quickly turned into IBS butterflies — not exactly the ones you want hanging around on the wedding day.
The bride and groom elected for standard vows, which unfortunately for me, meant even more talking! I cranked out my speech, found a few different vow options online and picked and pulled from each to create something that represented the couple and their love. Casey wanted to keep the whole thing a surprise (which was both a rush of excitement and terrifying!) What if I said something I shouldn’t? Or went too far down a rabbit-hole tangent? Luckily for me, my best friend was incredibly open-minded and put me at ease throughout the process. “Whatever you say will be perfect”, she kept repeating.
The other blessing was Danielle — a close friend to both Casey and myself. The poor girl probably heard the speech a minimum of twenty times. I had her repeating after me (obviously in different voices), and used her as my guinea pig for jokes and the more tender moments. I don’t know that I would have been able to create what I did without bouncing my ideas off of her — so Danielle, THANK YOU!
If you’re planning to officiate a ceremony for loved ones (or I suppose even make any type of public address) I encourage you to remember these five things:
Depending on who you are as a person, there’s probably one or two people in the audience that want you to stumble and fail; but at the end of the day, the other 99% want you to succeed. (What, I’m trying to be honest? Not everyone is a fan — just ask Kim Kardashian.) 😉 Regardless, don’t stress about your speech. The crowd is focused on the couple, not you. So long as you’re prepared and aren’t winging it, you’ll be juuuust fine.
Keep it light, keep it personal, keep it on-topic.
Look, you should definitely explore different depths with your message (though be sure to cater it to the audience), but throw some humor in there. The couple is likely going to be a hundred times more nervous than you are — they’re about to make forever a reality — so help ease their nerves with a joke, or ten... thousand.
When going off on tangents about love, try to remain true to the love and experiences of the couple. It’s easy to get lost in the topic, so keep their love story in the forefront, with messages, hopes and encouragement embedded throughout. Family is important to both Casey and Eric, so I made sure to include words of advice from both families — something I felt would mean a great deal to them (and their parents.)
Take your time.
In public speaking situations, it’s incredibly easy to talk obscenely fast, especially if you’re uncomfortable with speaking in front of crowds. Remind yourself throughout the speech to slow down; even if you think you’re already talking slow. I mean, keep it alive and upbeat but slow. 👏your. 👏 roll. 👏 sister. 👏
Also, bring a small bottle or cup of water up front and take a sip if you need it. My mouth got so dry (probably from nerves and talking too quickly) and it would have likely been less awkward to take a sip or two of water, than waiting for enough saliva to accumulate to continue speaking. (No lie, lol) 🌵
Make the font insanely big.
I chose to trust technology and kept my speech on my iPad mini (without a printed backup because that’s what a boss* does.) *And by boss I mean foolish idiot. The speech ended up being around twenty pages in pt 28 font, but it was so much easier finding my spot on the rare occasion that I looked up to the audience.
Sidenote, look up from time to time. Although I did well during my nine billion practices, I failed in the actual moment. Don’t be a little bitch like me. Look up, smile, take a beat and go on. I know some other folks that have officiated printed their speech and held it inside a book (or THE book.) Do whatever makes you comfortable. I HIGHLY doubt that people care about your method.
Take a moment to enjoy it.
This is such a beautiful, joyous and important moment. Two families and all of their friends coming together to celebrate the love and union of two people — the feeling is electric. It’s cliche AF, but it’s like Mr. Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” (Just change “life” to “the ceremony”) 👰🏻
I wish that I’d taken a little extra time to pause (not only for dramatic effect) but to soak in some of the energy from the room. The mother and father of the brides teary smiles, a mom basking in the joy of her son, a collection of people from all walks of life laughing together, crying together — there’s no other word for it than ✨magic.✨
Casey and Eric: It was an absolute pleasure and one of my greatest honors to celebrate with the two of you, your families and friends on your special day. Thank you for such a wonderful opportunity. I love you both. XO. 💙
Photos courtesy of Clare Cassidy Photography