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How Should I Officiate My Friend’s “Marriage Party”?

It's not technically a wedding, right?

Q: My dearest friend from childhood recently got married to a wonderful man. They live across the country and had a small ceremony for local friends there last year, and this year, they are planning a Marriage Party in our home state. This will be attended by all of her family and friends who live in this part of the country, and it will be a relatively casual summer party with a vow renewal ceremony.

My friend has asked me to be an unofficial master of ceremonies for this vow renewal. My basic responsibility will be to stand up and speak for a bit before inviting the couple to renew their vows in front of the group. Then, I imagine, I’ll say a few words to close the ceremony. I think I should keep it relatively short and sweet, but I also know that it is very important to my friend to share this celebration with her family and friends from home. I want to make sure I include some childhood memories of her, while also describing her relationship with her husband.

I’m looking for any and all advice from folks who have had a similar celebration of marriage that is not technically a wedding. What did you do for a ceremony? What was your favorite part? What do you wish was included in the ceremony? I’m hoping to be prepared and to help my friend enjoy every moment of this special day.

Advice From The Editor:

Before we hand this to all of you for your advice, our EIC Meg had some advice of her own.

I’ve actually been to a fair number of these receptions after the wedding, and my advice is pretty much the opposite of your instincts. What makes wedding receptions so great is that they are the party in the emotional aftermath of witnessing great love. They’re letting down your hair after something momentous and emotional.

Often when I go to post-wedding parties, I get the feeling that everyone involved feels like they should rush through the part where the relationship and commitment is celebrated, because, “It’s not the real wedding, and nobody wants to see all this.” The thought is exactly the same as yours, “Keep it short and sweet.” Except if we missed the wedding, we all very MUCH want to see all this. We want to celebrate the couple’s huge love for each other, to have our own small part in that. And then we want to let down our hair and dance (or eat, or board game, or whatever we’re up to at this party). It can be very weird to feel like we’re being rushed to the reception, without any of the emotions of a wedding.

So let go of the fact that this isn’t “really a wedding,” talk to your friend about what’s important to them, and get researching. You can check out our post on writing a wedding ceremony, look at these secular wedding ceremony scripts for inspiration, and read back over this article about officiating a wedding.

And congratulations. Being asked to officiate a wedding, or a vow renewal ceremony—or pretty much anything that has the word “officiate” in the description—is a huge honor. I’m still waiting for the day that someone asks me to get my officiating on!

For those of you who had a post-wedding ceremony, what did you do? What do you wish you’d done? For those of you who have attended an unofficial wedding, what have you loved the most?

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