Having A Friend Officiate Your Wedding

Ever since the episode of Friends where Joey got ordained to perform Chandler and Monica’s wedding, it’s become more and more of a trend. In Oregon, very few couples opt to get married in a church or to have a religious ceremony.

More couples are writing their own vows, opting for non traditional ceremonies blending their own relationship, personal values and personalities. We have several phenomenal local officiants who will perform your ceremony for you and help guide you through the process of creating a custom ceremony. But if you have a friend you really want to perform your ceremony and they agree – what next?

Step 1: Get Ordained

A lot of rumors float around on this subject, but the facts are if you live in Oregon and you believe you were legally married, the courts will most likely consider you married. But please do it right! It’s easy to do. I recommend getting ordained online. It takes five minutes and is 100% legal for you to perform a wedding in Oregon if you do.

I say this as an ordained Minister of two years. All wedding planners should be ordained, just in case. It’s a great backup plan. I chose The Universal Life Church. It’s super easy, free unless you opt for upgrades like fancy certificates and a book that teaches you how to perform a ceremony.

Step 2: Planning the ceremony

There are parts to a ceremony. Depending on religion or non denominational type of ceremony you are doing, everything from the processional, to where people sit or stand, has meaning. If you are doing a common non-traditional ceremony, plan to have the bride and her immediate family on the left and the groom and his family on the right. Guest seating can still be open, and usually is mixed.

Here’s a general order of a typical wedding ceremony you can omit or change it up any way you want:

  1. The Processional – we already covered this in a previous post
  2. Welcoming Comments – most people do not give anyone away anymore. If you do wish to do any form of that this will happen right at the end of the processional. Immediately after the officiant welcomes everyone and gives a brief personalized thank you to everyone there to witness this awesome event – if they haven’t yet, remind them to please be seated before you get too far.
  3. The next part I like to call The Officiant Explains It All – This is where having a close friend or loved one Officiate, pays off! The best ceremonies I’ve seen have been a long Mass by an amazing Priest in Little Italy, San Diego in 1998, next was a wedding last year performed by The Matron Of Honor’s Father (a first timer), and Rabi Brian had everyone laughing through a ceremony we did in 2017. There are a million ways to engage the crowd, tell the couple’s personal story and explain the importance of why you’re all here today. The priest gave a speech about the realities, trials and beauty of marriage. I actually sobbed because nothing had ever connected with me more about the importance of marriage – it was beautiful and perfect. The friend wedding was so personal. We learned their love story, his ideas on love and his praises for them as a couple, again, I cried it was fantastic. The best part, he didn’t know how to do this before we talked and all I did was give him a few basic pointers and guidelines. The key is make it personal! Rabi Brian is just brilliant, fun, and great at getting to know his couples and it is engaging for the people there to watch.
  4. Exchanging Your Vows – This is where one can have a traditional do you vow to do x.y.z. And you say “I do”, or as is more common today, you can write your own vows to exchange. Don’t wait to start writing your vows. You don’t want to offend your future spouse by winging it. Tips for writing good vows – be very personal. Tell each other when you knew, how you knew, and why and what you will do from now until eternity to be by each other’s side. It doesn’t have to be long. It shouldn’t be too short. And it should take some time to edit, rewrite or reorganize. As one who majored in English and took creative writing courses I can tell you the best writing comes from what you know, feel passionately about, and revisit several times to get it just right.
  5. Exchanging Rings – if you are doing a ring warming ceremony, start the process at the end of the part where your officiant explains it all. The significance of a ring is it is continuous and has no beginning and no end. It’s not important to focus hard on the significance of a ring. You can say more words as you place the ring on each other’s fingers. Most commonly people say “With this ring, I thee wed.” But you can say anything, “With this ring, I ask you to be mine.” – Victor Van Dort
  6. Asserting Your Authority To Pronounce This Officially – here’s where the magic happens! Your ordained status comes in handy officially and this wedding is legit! Anything from “By the power given to me by the mighty internet and the state of Oregon, I now pronounce you …”
  7. The Only Time Everyone Is Excited For The PDA – You kiss, it can be sweet and soft, sweeping and romantic, you do you!
  8. Final Words Announcements and Directions For Guests, A Toast, A Prayer, Clapping, All Of The Above.
  9. Recessional.

Step 3. Sign The Marriage License

If you haven’t read our blog post on how to make it legal, do that. Once you’re ceremony is over you have to take a moment with your best people (witnesses) and officiant to sign the license. You may have a fancy keepsake Marriage Certificate that you can keep, but you also have the official document you got from The County Clerk in the state you are marrying in. Sign these! Get pics. It’s a cool moment.

Step 4. Send The Documents In!

Read the directions for sending the docs in. Some areas require you to go in, usually you just need to mail them in within 3-5 business days. Don’t mess this up. If you have questions call the local County Clerk’s Office and ask. It’s usually very simple and self-explanatory.

Processionals + Recessionals

So, I’ve planned a lot of weddings over the past 20 years, 21 if you count my own wedding. There is no right way to have a wedding! Just repeat that – out loud – anytime somebody gets mad at you for suggesting you want to have your wedding just exactly the way you want it.

That said, a lot of people want to know, how do I actually do this? How do people know where to sit? How do we actually walk down the aisle? What’s the order of the ceremony?

Again, there is no right way to do it. But your religion, ceremony type, formality, personal style and preferences will all shape the true answer to this question.

If you are having a Jewish wedding, the Rabbi is already up front. The Groom may be there with the Rabbi, or they may walk out together. His parents may escort him down the aisle and take their seats or stand at two posts of the chuppah. If you are having groomsmen or a best person, your parents may sit or they can stand together at one corner while your best person takes the other corner, or your parents may take their seats and the groom’s attendants line up down the right side of the front (this is the most common). There is no right answer.

If there is a bridal party, the bride’s attendants line up on the left side. Both of her parents escort her down the aisle.

In Christian or non-denominational or non-religious American weddings, you have options.

Option 1 – the most common modern processional. The grandparents (first grooms then Brides) they walk as a couple or if just one are escorted, they are seated, groom’s family front row right side. Next the groom’s parents. If they are no longer married father and escort then mother and escort. Then mother of the bride. If she is walking alone, that’s fine she may want an escort, choose a groomsman. She is seated. The music may change. The groom and officiant walk in line to start. The groomsmen follow right behind with best Person last, first person files all the way to the end mark this during your rehearsal. Best Person stands next to groom. Then by size. Music changes. Bridesmaids followed by Maid/Maitron/Man of Honor. Next come the ring bearer and flower girl, they may stand or sit depending on age, they usually sit. Music changes for bride and Father (or chosen escort, or alone).

Option 2. Groom and officiant go out first. Next grandparents ushered by best man who seats groom’s grandparents then stands up front. Followed by groomsman ushering grandparents, seats them takes his place. Next mother of the bride ushered by groomsman. If you have too many groomsmen they walk out alone in line next. Next come bridesmaids exactly as in option 1.

Option 3. Groom and officiant, followed by grandparents, groom’s parents, and mom ushered by best Man. Bridesmaids and groomsmen pair up. Maid of honor alone or best man returns to walk with her. The rest is the same as option 1.

For Same Sex weddings or modern weddings where you want things done different, you can choose from a lot of options. Choose a side for each set of parents. The officiant enters first. Have grandparents enter next, one family sits on right other on left. Next have bridal party enter they can stand left or right, gender never matters in any wedding for any attendant. In same sex weddings this is even more common. But choose who’s standing up for whom, and who will stand on each side during the rehearsal. Everyone may walk in a row and file in all on the right then all on the left, or they may walk in pairs and split right and left. It doesn’t matter. Best Persons go last, right before ring bearer and flower person. Finally one spouse to be accompanied by both or one parent, followed by the other accompanied by one or both parents.

Some same sex couples opt to follow a more traditional format or a blend of traditional and non. Again there is no right way. If you have immediate family who will not be attending your wedding for any reason, have a loved one from either family, or a very important honored guest serve in their place. Somebody who loves you dearly wants to serve this roll, I promise. Don’t go it alone.

More info about ceremony parts and details to follow in a future post. After it’s all said and done, the recessional happens! The newly weds exit first, followed by flowergirl and ring bearer, best person and maid/matron/man of honor comes next, followed by bridal party paired off. Extras walk alone. Next officiant releases aisles left to right front to back.

Cookie Cutter Weddings

SNL did a wedding venue commercial and it was life!

The thing is, parodies based on truth are funny! One of my favorite things about being a wedding planner in Oregon – our diversity of venues and styles of weddings you can plan. But be very wary of venues that tell you they do everything for you with their own included wedding coordinator.

There is a big difference between a wedding planner and a venue wedding coordinator. When you hire a venue that has an on-site coordinator who will work with you or your own wedding planner to perfectly plan your day, that’s great. They are there to manage the event on behalf of the venue to make sure the vendors you hire are actual businesses, they hold the proper insurance, and will comply with all of the venue rules. They make sure everyone knows when they can arrive, where they can load, what kind of equipment is allowed, and what time they need to clean and load out by.

Your wedding planner is very different. Depending on what you hire them to do they help you select vendors, venues, set a budget, design the decor, menu, and overall flow and details of your wedding. They plan your timeline, organize your processional and ceremony details, read your contracts to determine exactly what you ordered from your vendors, schedule all of your vendors, run your ceremony rehearsal and manage every detail of your wedding set up. They are there to direct the bridal party, vendors and venue staff throughout your wedding, and direct clean up and load out.

I call a venue cookie cutter if they force you to work with their preferred or required or in-house wedding planner, do not at least give you options for catering (they can be in house catering only and not cookie cutter if they offer a lot of options, or if they have select approved catering with diverse styles, expertise and pricing options), limited options for decor and florists, and if they have strictly limited access to the venue on a dictated preset timeline.

Some may wrongly assume a wedding planner wouldn’t like cookie cutter venues because they don’t work with planners – maybe a fair thought but I’m not just any type of planner. I’m the Creative type of planner. The more original a wedding is, the more I love working with that couple on their wedding. I love it when couples are true to themselves, turn timelines and traditions on their head, and think outside of the box. You can’t do that if your entire wedding came pre-packaged in a box set served up to ten other couples in the nearly exact same way, on a busy week.

This is 2019 you have so many options open to you. If you just want to get married, not think about anything and you have a lot of money to spend, hire a full service planner, like us. We’ll provide you the exact wedding you want with very little effort. Show up to some key meetings select from a few options then forget about the worrying part. You don’t have to check anything but your texts or emails from us asking you for final decisions or reminding you of meetings or to pay this amount to a certain vendor that day.

The alternative – hire a venue that does it all, one meeting, tell them your colors and date and budget and which options you like – boom your wedding is pretty much done. If anyone has been to a wedding there before they’ll recognize it.

Tip 1) When hiring a planner, make sure you look at the styles of weddings they’ve done in the past. If their Instagram is filled with nothing but similarly styled photo shoots but their blog has real weddings that look nothing like that type of work, be wary! Planning a 250 guest wedding with 8 bridesmaids and groomsmen, at one or multiple venues, is a lot different than making models look pretty with the help of professional photographers, make up artists, and florists in a perfectly artificially lit studio.

Also, if a planner has nothing but one style of wedding or design they style in their body of work, that planner may not be very creative. Anyone can follow trends, but can they style different styles and types of weddings with traditional and non-traditional timelines, and truly help you get the destinct result you are looking for?

Tip 2) Do you want a very specific style of wedding, and does the planner either match that style or more importantly does the planner show a huge variety in the style and locations of the weddings they’ve planned? I love specific venues. They’re a blank slate and every wedding you design or plan there is or can be completely different. The red flags to watch for – every wedding is at one or two venues. Either that planner just gets a lot of referrals at one or two venues, and enjoys very different events that happen to be in one place, that’s not at all weird. Or they may just be comfortable working with the same few vendors in the same few places. Again, that’s fine if you are not looking for a creatively destinctly you wedding.

I personally love what we do BECAUSE we work with a limited number of couples per year and work with couples who are all so different! Our couples have different planning challenges, styles, venues, and character. A classy beautiful affair at a beloved non-cookie cutter venue, or an extremely large wedding, or an intimate multi venue event, or something totally different on a private estate. We do it all and love every minute of it.

Tip 3) When talking to or meeting with a planner at your first meeting do they ask you detailed questions about all of your ideas and visions for your entire weekend of wedding events? They should want to know a lot about you and your vision. You can’t design or provide valuable recommendations if you don’t know what it is you’re trying to plan. If they seem less interested in your ideal wedding and more interested in convincing you to do your wedding a better way, or different than you are asking, that’s a red flag.

We have lots of opinions and tons of advice on this blog, none of that matters or is valuable to planning YOUR wedding. I don’t love buffets, so what. If you want a buffet you will get the best buffet and I will organize it to run efficiently and smoothly. You want a friend as a photographer, great we’ll connect and I will get them all the info and support they need to be successful. Your planner should not spend time convincing you not to do the things you want. They should work with you to make sure your plan succeeds – provided your ideas are something that should work out just fine.

We hope you find this info useful in understanding what a cookie cutter wedding is and how to avoid them.

Private Estate Wedding Planning

Ali Mae Photography

In Oregon, it’s not weird to have a friend who owns property that may serve as a great wedding venue.

There are so many fantastic farms and venues open to all to rent out and host events and weddings, but a lot of them book up fast July – October 15th – the absolute start of rainy season. I recently had a bride message me on wedding wire just looking for direction to find the type of venue perfect for her ideal wedding. I gave her a few suggestions, knew right away she’d love one. A few weeks later she messaged me back to say they put off the wedding just to make sure they could do it at that venue.

PS, you can always email me on my website, and even if you just need a good lead on where to look I don’t mind replying with that info. For detailed planning advice and full venue + vendor and budgeting advice I charge $25. But if your venue went under, you just need a lead on anybody who can provide a specific service you can’t find, I’ll usually just give out that advice for free in the non-wedding season. I love helping DIY couples. I’ll even be offering a Bootcamp on how to plan your own wedding, over brunch in April.

But back to my point, what if you want to get married on your schedule not based on availability? The private estate wedding is key. You need to make sure the owner can host a party on their property, find out about noise ordinances, and be willing to offer your friend something in exchange for hosting. That may be money, a lot of help on some home projects, something to donate in memory and honor of their generosity, you know your relationship. But as is the case with all “friends as vendors” don’t ask people to do something this important for nothing.

Hire a Wedding Planner. I’m planning a blog due out shortly on wedding planners vs. venue coordinators. But basically, I’m a firm believer that all large weddings need a wedding planner. All smaller detailed refined weddings need a planner. And when you have the budget or even if you don’t getting any advice from a planner before you sign any contracts is key.

A private estate probably hasn’t seen too many weddings or even similar parties in its day. You need an expert to do a venue visit find all the potential problems that need to be solved before your vendors try to set up on your wedding day. You need a realistic timeline of how many hands will need to help with set up, what tiny details each vendor might need you to consider you might have overlooked, and if you have a life and a job, you need somebody to do all of the calls, emails, and detailed planning bits while you’re at work – so you can afford this massive celebration.

Weddings on a private residence are not cheap! You need rentals, extra restrooms that are pleasant to use, good food, decor and florals, somebody to design your chair layout and create a balanced aisle. Somebody to direct everything while your mom and sisters, and best friends cherish every moment of your wedding day with you.

You can’t and won’t enjoy your wedding day if you are stressing over set up, and wrong sized table cloths or missing tables, shoes, or wilted flowers. 250 escort cards can take an hour to alphabetize and lay out, are you going to have the time?

At the end of your amazing wedding weekend you will not look back and wish you’d cut that part of your budget.

Please go watch the film and read the blog about Taylor + Lukkes on Glitch films’ blog:

Venue: Private Estate Hillsboro, OR

Planner: Vareus Events

Photographer: Ali Mae Photography

Hair + Makeup: Blossom and Beauty

Dress: The White Dress

Tux: The Black Tux

Flowers: Arranged For You

Live Musician: Anthony Hall

Cake: The Dessert Tray

Desserts: Nothing Bundt Cake

Rentals: The Party Pros

Catering + Bar: Bethany Public House

A Bride’s Guide to Tipping and Thank You Etiquette


There are some things you can do on or after your wedding to show your appreciation to friends, loved ones, and vendors who are taking part in your special day.

Giving a thank you gift to your bridal party, each other (bride and groom), your immediate family, and favors for your guests:

  • You absolutely should thank your bridal party for being in your wedding. Many have invested a lot of time and money (especially if they are traveling) to be in your wedding. Something small (thought, not expense matters) a necklace to wear in the wedding, a pair of earrings, or matching robes are common gifts given as a thank you on your wedding day to your bridesmaids. A small item like cuff-links are a nice gift for your groomsmen.
  • Special honored guests and attendants do not expect gifts, but you should make sure they have a corsage or boutonniere.
  • Young bridal party members will not expect gifts but giving them something small or a framed picture with a thank you card after the wedding, and including their parents (if they are not already part of the bridal party) in the rehearsal dinner, is expected.
  • It is traditional to give each other (bride and groom) a gift, but not all couples do this. These gifts do not need to hold any monetary value, it can be a special letter to be delivered before your make up is ready (just in case).
  • Parents will often give something special or borrowed to their daughter or son on their wedding day, but don’t forget to show your appreciation to them in some special way. Again, this does not have to be a “gift” of monetary value, but a special thank you in any way you choose is always appreciated by your family. It’s a busy day, don’t forget this important moment of gratitude and reflection. Those special moments you have alone together before your ceremony will never be forgotten.
  • Your guests do not expect nor require favors or gifts. In my experience, I’ve found that if you do give a favor, having them set at each place setting is ideal if they are a single item and add to your decor. If you leave them for people to take they may not notice or may forget on their way out. Edible favors are always a favorite, and less likely to go to waste. They can be simple and inexpensive. Many couples choose to do a candy table and gift bags. If your favors are items that would not add to your décor, having them set out before the end of your reception, near the exit, is ideal.


Thanking your vendors

Most of your vendors do not expect, nor require, any extra monetary thank you in the form of a tip. The wedding industry is made up of many small business owners, and larger businesses. Consider which type of business your vendor is when deciding if you should tip. Small business owners set their own prices and shouldn’t need an extra tip. Those who are employees of a vendor will greatly appreciate (and never expect) an extra tip.

Your Pastor – Most clergy do not expect nor receive tips. A donation to your church or a gift or donation valuing approximately $100 to your Congregation, is a nice gesture. It is always expected you will invite your Pastor to the rehearsal dinner, and your reception.

Your Decorator – does not require nor expect a tip.

Your Florist – does not require nor expect a tip.

Your Event Planner – does not require nor expect a tip.

Your Baker – does not require nor expect a tip.

Your Musicians, Band, and DJ – If your DJ is a business owner, they usually do not expect a tip. If you do tip a DJ 10-15% is customary. Bands and musicians do not typically get a percentage. If you are tipping your musicians, give them a flat amount of your choosing $20-$50 each is standard.

Your Photographer – Does not expect nor require a tip when they are the business owner. If your photographer will have a second shooter, you may opt to give the second shooter a tip of $50-$100. It is not required. Do expect to offer a dinner to your photographer. They are there all day long. They do not require a seat at the table, but make sure you note to your caterer that you will have certain vendors who will be eating.

Your makeup and hair professionals – Typically, people will always tip the same as you would in a salon (15-20%).

Catering/Venue – This is a tricky one. Look at your contract. Does it include gratuity? Often you will find that gratuity is included in your final price. Most caterers and venues include gratuity in your bill. If you do not have gratuity included in your contract, and/or if it is not broken out by catering as a stand-alone line item to come up with a percentage (15-20%), then a flat fee per server of $20-$50 each is a fair tip. Chefs and bartenders typically if you are paying them a flat tip $50-$100 each is fair. Consider the number of hours of service. If it is just for a cocktail hour less than if it is a full dinner reception.

When any of your servers, staff, delivery, or assistants for the wedding are unpaid volunteers consider giving each a gift as opposed to payment. If they are business owners donating their services and do not want payment beyond cost, a present valued in accordance with the above tip guide is a nice gesture.

For all of your vendors who do not require nor expect a tip, remember they are mostly small business owners. Their good name, and your referrals and reviews are greatly appreciated and help them with their business! Review them after the wedding on websites like Wedding Wire, The Knot, Yelp, Facebook, or Google. In these modern times, your public thank you in the review section of these platforms is free to you, but holds value for them. Doing this at some point soon after the wedding is a wonderful thing to do for your vendors!

Spring Weddings

Spring is an amazing time to get married. For starters, it’s a lot easier to book a venue than the summer – of course, in Portland it better be indoors or you need a back up rain plan. You’ll still want to plan months ahead, if it isn’t an elopement, but if you’re planning now for Spring 2019 you’re going to usually find it less chaotic than summer 2019. And a lot of the most desirable Spring venues will already be booking up.

The flowers! Spring is an amazing season for real flowers that actually bloom and are abundant in nature right now. While you can always get greenery tulips, and roses, you can’t always get daffodils, and naturally brilliant blossom branches. The diversity and colors available beg you to escape the blush pallet, in Spring.

Now let’s talk about your guests. Yes, unless you plan for Spring break (which many schools haven’t finalized scheduling for next year yet and all school districts are different) and graduation season (mid May to mid June) there will be conflicts for some traveling guests. That’s ok unless it’s an MVP cannot live without guest. Most people will prioritize their calendars and place your wedding above everything else they reasonably can. But if you know this will be a problem think about March, or April.

In Oregon, it rains in Spring. It also can be warm and sunny. On the same day you can wake to frost in the morning, it can hail, then be sunny, then sprinkle, and later be 62 degrees and sunny. We are used to this. We go with this. As long as you have a plan and the right venue, it won’t matter. December was the top month for weddings in the US last year, most of those weren’t outside either.

I’m one of those people who thinks every season is a great season for a wedding, there’s just different reasons why for each one.