Elopement Officiants: What You Need To Know

What you need to know about requirements for an officiant at your wedding or elopement.
Rachel Sue Boehm, 5 star rated wedding and elopement photographer, holding a camera and posing under a tree.

I’m a wedding photographer with over 10 years experience. Based in Wisconsin, I specialize in elopements across the USA and worldwide.

As a certified drone pilot, I can offer aerial photography for a unique views of your wedding.

I’m also ordained through the Universal Life Church meaning that I can be your officiant and your photographer!

Get in touch with me to discuss your wedding or elopement photography.

Planning an Elopement?

Get my step-by-step guide and plan your dream elopement!

Are you considering having an elopement? Adding a dedicated person to lead your ceremony can bring a special touch to your intimate celebration. Together we’ll explore the options and considerations when it comes to having an officiant for your elopement. From hiring a professional with experience to asking a friend to get ordained, I’ll take you through the pros and cons of each approach based on over ten years of experience as an elopement photographer. We’ll also delve into the legal aspects and alternative options for officiating your elopement to help you make an informed decision about having an officiant at your ceremony.

Why Do I Need An Officiant?

To understand the reasons for having an officiant at your elopement we need understand the difference between your ceremony, and a legal marriage.

The ceremony itself is your opportunity for you and your partner to declare your love for one another. People often exchange vows, read a special piece of poetry, or take part in family traditions. It’s a special moment between the two of you, and one of my absolute favorite parts of any ceremony.

The ceremony itself won’t make you recognized as man and wife in the USA, or be considered as legally married by other countries. To be classed as man and wife by the law, you’ll need to follow the correct legal procedure in the state where you intend to marry. This means applying for, and completing, a marriage license in-line with state requirements. From there, every state has a different set of rules about who can marry and how. You can view a guide for the requirements in each state here.

An officiant is required by most states to oversee the marriage and ensure that the requirements have been followed correctly. This can having proper declarations, including witnesses, and gathering signatures. It is an incredibly important role that can’t be understated.

Does Every State Require An Officiant?

Not all states require an officiant to oversee a marriage. A self-solemnization state will allow a couple to marry themselves without the requirement of an officiant, witnesses or any other third parties.

Currently, couples can self-solemnize in Colorado and self-solemnize in District of Columbia.

Options for Elopement Officiants

Since most states will require an officiant, it’s something that you’ll need to consider when you’re planning your elopement. Couples will most often hire a professional officiant, or ask a friend / loved one to get ordained and perform the marriage. There’s also a third option that has tons of positives, so keep on reading to find out more.

Hiring A Professional Officiant

You should carefully weigh the pros and cons of hiring a professional officiant for your elopement ceremony. There are several benefits to having a professional officiant, such as their experience and expertise in conducting ceremonies. They have a deep understanding of the process and can guide you through the legal requirements. Additionally, a professional officiant can bring a sense of formality and professionalism to your ceremony, creating a more polished and organized experience.

It’s likely that the officiant will regularly work in that state, so they’ll have a very good understanding of the marriage requirements which can bring couples peace-of-mind if they’d rather not worry about the legal and administrative side of things.

However, many couples choose to elope to escape the traditions of a wedding. Hiring a professional officiant can bring a level of formailty that adventurous, non-traditional couples aren’t comfortable with.

Asking A Friend To Be Your Officiant

There are many advantages to having a friend officiate your elopement. It can add a personal touch and make the ceremony feel more intimate and meaningful. Your friend knows you well and can incorporate personal anecdotes and stories about you as a couple into the ceremony. Secondly, it can save you money, as professional officiants can come with a price tag. Having a friend officiate can be a budget-friendly option while still ensuring a heartfelt and special ceremony.

But before you jump in and ask your bestie to officiate your ceremony, you need to consider whether having a friend is the best choice. Firstly, you should think about the level of comfort and public speaking skills of your friend. It’s essential that they feel confident and able to lead the ceremony effectively. You should also ensure that your friend is willing to take on this responsibility and has the time and availability to prepare for the ceremony. After all, it’s no small ask.

You’ll also want to find someone who aligns with your vision and values for the ceremony. Make sure to have open and honest conversations with your friend to ensure that they understand your expectations and can fulfill the role of officiant exactly how you want. Elopements are all about doing what you want on your special day, so it’s really important that your officiant is on board with it.

Ask Your Photographer To Be Your Officiant

Here’s another option that may not be so obvious to eloping couples: ask your photographer to officiate your ceremony. There’s a ton of reasons why this makes perfect sense if you’re having an elopement.

Firstly, an experienced elopement photographer will be able to guide you through the ceremony with confidence: if they’ve been photographing elopements for as long as I have they’ll have seen and done it loads of times! Not only that, but they’ll also understand the importance of doing things the way you want them to be done, and may even be able to chip in with some suggestions.

You may also want to consider the cost. By combining two roles, you may be able to save money on the cost of a wedding photographer. This is especially important for elopements, where you have to factor in the cost of travel: it can make sense to reduce this by having fewer people to include in the ceremony. With the average cost of an elopement being $5,000 – $15,000 it’s certainly something to keep in mind.

Utilizing your photographer as your officiant can make things a whole lot simpler. With fewer people to manage your day will run a whole lot more smoothly.

Another reason to combine a photographer and officiant is the opportunity for them to get unique photos of your ceremony. When I act as an officiant, I stand in a different position than I would when I’m just a photographer. This opens up new angles and possibilities for photos, like this one from Mitchell and Haley’s Delaware beach eleopement.

This lovely shot of the ring exchange would usually have the officiant in between them, “in the way,” of the shot. Because I was the officiant, I was able to capture this really sweet moment with just the two of them.

Rachel Sue Photography – Elopement Specialist

As a specialist elopement photographer, with over 10 years experience of travelling around the USA photographing couples, I have experienced lots of elopements and know all about the special preparations that need to take place.

And what’s more, I’m an ordained minister through the Universal Life Church which means I can photograph and officiate ceremonies! If you’re looking to elope with your loved one and do things in your own special, unique way, I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with me and let me know all about your plans and ask me anything you want to help with your planning.

Need Some Help With Planning?

Planning an elopement isn’t easy. If you want help from someone with experience, fill out the survey below and I’ll be glad to help you out. I have over 10 years of experience in photographing elopements, and I’ve helped countless couples to plan the day of their dreams!

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