A Way to Vow Them

Every wedding begins with a ceremony — whether it’s traditional black-tie or laid-back beach fun. No matter which style, couples are finding ways to add a personal touch. Martha Stewart Weddings magazine recently noted a new wedding trend: A clergy member or a judge has the experience to wed a bride and groom, but many couples are asking a close family member or friend to pronounce them “man and wife.”

This DIY approach to wedding ceremonies means more work for the bride and groom, and though your choice knows how to say, “I now pronounce you man and wife,” it doesn’t mean he or she is legally qualified. With Martha Stewart Weddings as our guide, we found a few tips for customizing your wedding officiant.

Be selective.
The person you choose should be comfortable speaking in public. No mumbling allowed. Humor is an added bonus, but the ceremony shouldn’t become a Bill Cosby stand-up act. Tell your pick your expectations before he or she agrees. The ceremony may not be traditional, but it should be meaningful.

Legalize it.
Call the county clerk’s office where you’re getting your marriage license to find out what documentation is needed to ordain your officiant. Then, the officiant needs to be ordained or deputized. It’s free and easy: The officiant hits the Web, finds the most widely used source to obtain a certification of ordination (the Universal Life Church, www.themonastery.org), and fills out the forms. Ordained!

In Vanderburgh County, you’ll have 60 days from the time you’re issued a marriage license to have a valid wedding. From the Vanderburgh County Clerk’s marriage department, you’ll receive a marriage license, duplicate marriage certificate, and record of marriage:

The marriage license comes with a “pretty” document to be signed during the ceremony and a real one that looks like a pretty darn unromantic tax form. The latter is what you and your new spouse — and the officiant — sign after the ceremony and mail to the county clerk’s office within 30 days.

Research and create.
You’ll need an outline for your officiant. After all, it’s your wedding, not an improv class. Think about tone — fun, romantic, or sweet? — and discuss it with your officiant. The Internet offers numerous wedding examples: traditional, nondenominational, contemporary, even Medieval. Pick the pieces you like from each and give your ceremony structure. With tone in mind, here are some elements to consider: a welcoming procession, readings, vows, an exchange of rings, and — of course — the first kiss.

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