Friends Shouldn’t Ask Friends To Officiate Their Wedding…
Today I reviewed another email from someone who “thought they were married.” This type of correspondence continues to be alarming to me.
If your “Officiant” is uneducated regarding their responsibilities to handle the document- you’ve got a very real problem.
How “big of a problem?” I have had at least thirty people in eight years contact me in a panic after realizing they weren’t legally married at their wedding. Sadly for these couples, “their friend” either failed to file the license or lost it or they married out of the country or they planned to file it themselves and waited too long to do so. There are dozens of scenarios and all of them are bad.
Friends should never ask their friend to Officiate their wedding. On top of making a mistake with the license, if there’s a rehearsal, it’s the Officiants responsibility to direct it. “Winging it” is never a good idea.
Last year while coordinating a large wedding and reception in Fort Worth, I was shocked at the rehearsal when the officiant was seated in the pews rather than directing the wedding party. I asked why he was watching the rehearsal to an answer that gave me insight and concern about the wedding ceremony and, I had good reason to worry. The officiant admitted “I’ve never performed a wedding or a rehearsal but, I’ve googled you and you have done this hundreds of times so I decided to let you handle the rehearsal. I also need your help with the wedding tomorrow.” Heavy sigh. I was overwhelmed coordinating and running last minute errands and NOW I was going to train the Officiant? I hate surprises but, not nearly as much as I hate mistakes. On wedding day, I spent two hours coaching the Officiant and showing him how to perform the Cross Ceremony. Did I realize that coordinating and handling the floral designs included coaching and training the Officiant? No. That was never mentioned until the rehearsal when I asked where the Officiant was?
Here’s a good tip ya all, if your Officiant has no idea how to perform the task much less what the role and responsibility involve- they should not be officiating your wedding regardless of how good of a friend they happen to be.
Don’t put your friends in a precarious and uncomfortable position of doing something they haven’t been trained to do. It’s the best advice I can give anyone.
Anyone on my Texas Twins Events Team that Officiates Weddings is fully versed on the importance and legal aspects of signing and filing your license.
It’s essential to know that whomever you choose to Officiate is well educated as to their responsibility and role of the officiant. For couples, weddings are a celebration but for Officiants, weddings are a legal process.
From filing an Amended Petition due to a witness marking out their old address or writing outside of the lines to ensuring a license isn’t lost in the mail through the post office, an Officiants sole responsibility is to sign the document and ensure it is properly and timely filed.
It’s a hefty responsibility BECAUSE WITHOUT AN OFFICIANT, The Marriage isn’t LEGAL. Signing and Filing the License or even Amending a Marriage License are legal responsibilities of your Officiant at your wedding ceremony.
If you have hired or had someone other than an Officiant on my staff Officiate your wedding and said Officiant has made a mistake or error not only limited to the signing of a marriage license but also supervising the witnesses or even filing the marriage license in a timely manner, you will need to start the process over.
A warning regarding Section 2.206 of the Texas Family Code is often included in the packet with marriage licenses.
In fact, I have a copy from the license I mailed to Gerald Rickhoff today via certified/return receipt mail.
Anytime I mail a marriage license, I always go to the trouble and expense to ensure the marriage license arrives at the clerks office via a return receipt unless of course, I’m filing the license in person.
I’m OCD about filing marriage licenses. These are very important legal documents. Think about the amount of money couples spend on their wedding. Do you want to be the reason that they ARE NOT LEGALLY MARRIED because you didn’t know what you were doing at the time you volunteered to do it? No.
But, you thought it would be fun and easy to Officiate your friends wedding right? The responsibility of that marriage ceremony is on your shoulders. It seemed like a party at the time because you had no real idea what you were getting yourself into. You should have done more research.
If you took on the role of officiating and failed to properly execute the role, you could be civilly and criminally liable for making a mistake in the process.
You wouldn’t want your friend suing you for ruining their wedding would you? Yes, I’ve seen it happen and yes, it’s a “friend breaker.” Couples spend thousands of dollars on their wedding and if you didn’t realize that vendors can be sued for screwing up- you should realize that they do.
From the DJ not showing up to the Officiant not filing the license to the baker not delivering the cake. There are lawsuits filed in bulk against wedding vendors and as an Officiant, you are acting as a vendor so be aware of what you are signing up for.
Marriage Fraud is another mistake that people who have no idea they are making a mistake find themselves in. Did you know that ignorance isn’t an adequate defense?
It isn’t. Marriage Fraud is a Felony. If you are the Officiant involved in a Marriage Fraud Case- you are criminally liable.
Educating myself and anyone on my staff regarding the legal elements and components as a marriage Officiant is a priority to me.
I don’t take any shortcuts and strongly suggest no one else officiating a wedding does either. But, I can only control my own staff. A few months ago a venue owner who decided to start officiating called me. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” Well, you shouldn’t be doing it but, since you assumed public speaking and heavy responsibilities were easy or fun, I will give you a few pointers just because I’ve officiated weddings at your venue but, if you make a mistake or miss something because you failed to prepare for your new role, it’s a real problem.
After all, I have my own clients to handle and educating others on the basics of performing a ceremony isn’t exactly on my schedule. I can do it but, my time is valuable too.
The County Clerk of Bexar County includes this warning:
A NOTICE TO ALL PERSONS AUTHORIZED TO PERFORM A MARRIAGE CEREMONY
PLEASE BE ADVISED YOU HAVE THE FOLLOWING RESPONSIBILITY UNDER SEC 2.206 TEXAS FAMILY CODE:
“SECTION 2.206 TEXAS FAMILY CODE.
(A) The person who conducts a marriage ceremony shall record on the license the date on which and the county in which the ceremony is performed and the person’s name subscribe the license, and rerun the license to the county clerk who issued it no later than the 30th day after the date the ceremony was conducted.
(B) A person who fails to comply with this section commits an offense. An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $200 and not more than $500.
Many of my clients choose to file their license in person. Because of the choice to either have me or anyone on my staff who officiated a ceremony we ask our clients their preference.
It’s actually easier for me to file the license myself but, if a couple want it back immediately rather than in the mail, they must file it themselves in person. The document will be recorded and handed back to the couple.
When I file the license, it’s mailed to the client from the clerks office whether I file it in person or via certified mail.
If you choose to file your own license, it MUST BE FILED within 30 days after the date signed. I have this conversation with EVERY CLIENT choosing to file the license themselves.
If you wish for your Officiant to file your license, we either file it in person and outside DFW via certified/return receipt mail to ensure the document was received.
My writer today was the bride who had contacted me months ago regarding officiating her wedding. Due to my schedule, I was unavailable and suggested using another Officiant on my staff.
Sadly, she chose to have a friend Officiate the wedding. The friend forgot to file the license. The couple are now NOT LEGALLY MARRIED because the “friend” failed to recognize and realize that she was legally liable to file the license herself if the couple chose to have the Officiant file it rather than filing it themselves. This is an ongoing problem that very few people realize.
PLEASE PLEASE choose your Officiant carefully. My entire staff are well versed on procedures for a wedding ceremony. We are seasoned and experienced.
Your “friends” aren’t aware of the legal ramifications of making a mistake either signing or filing your license. I can assure you they had no idea that they could be held accountable for a mistake.
If you’ve made the critical mistake of trusting the wrong person aka “your friend” to handle your wedding ceremony, you will need to obtain a new marriage license and undergo another ceremony.
There are no exceptions to this rule for my staff or I. Wedding ceremonies aren’t “do overs” from a legal standpoint.
Although Vow Renewals are common- a Vow Renewal is NOT A LEGAL WEDDING CEREMONY establishing a partnership between couples. ONLY A WEDDING OFFICIANT, CEREMONY, MARRIAGE LICENSE AND FILING of a marriage license can establish a LEGAL and BINDING MARRIAGE.
Finding out you aren married after assuming you were by “trusting a friend to Officiate your ceremony” continues to be one of the worst mistakes people realize only after they attempt to get health insurance or change their name.
I hear from couples all of the time who are devastated to learn that their marriage was a commitment ceremony but not an actual marriage.
Whether they were in another country or they chose a “friend” to Officiate, finding out you aren’t legally married is devastating for couples.
HIRE A PROFESSIONAL OFFICIANT who regularly handles marriage licenses and understands the responsibility of officiating your ceremony.
In eight years, I have never had an instance of a lost license because I’m OCD and because I take my job seriously. No one on my staff has ever failed to honor their obligations either.
Please be cautious about “just having your friend Officiate.” Your “friend” is unaware of the burden to perform your ceremony and file your license or instruct your witnesses.
A qualified Officiant already knows laws pertaining to marriage ceremonies as well as “the ins and outs of handling marriage licenses.”
I strongly suggest that you let your “friend” enjoy your wedding rather than having them perform a task of officiating that they (most likely) know nothing about.
I’m officiating the wedding of the bride who is now longer “friends with her friend” because her friend failed to handle the responsibility of officiating “as a favor” to the bride.
I will officiating a second wedding ceremony next week to ensure that this time, the bride is legally married. I wish I could tell you that this type of issue is rare but, it isn’t. I’ve remarried people that thought they were married for over eight years.
Had they retained my services beforehand, they wouldn’t be in a sticky situation of contacting me to marry them and buy a new license the second time around.
You wouldn’t ask your mailman to handle your surgery. You wouldn’t want your butcher to fix your roof. You wouldn’t want your dentist to repair your car. You don’t want your friend officiating your wedding either…