How to officiate a friend’s wedding in Ontario

To officiate a friend’s wedding or wedding ceremony in Ontario, you must be licensed by the government of Ontario to perform weddings or authorities to conduct civil ceremonies. There are a few different ways you can become licensed to perform weddings in Ontario:

Become an ordained minister: If you become ordained through a recognized religious organization, you may be eligible to perform weddings in Ontario. This includes being able to marry your friends.

Become a Humanist Officiant: If you’re not affiliated with a religious organization, you can become a Humanist Officiant through the Humanist Association of Canada. This will allow you to perform non-denominational wedding ceremonies in Ontario.

For most people, these options are not very realistic and the idea to ask a friend or family member to lead the wedding ceremony is often disregarded as too complicated and burdensome. Let’s face it, couples are way too busy with the wedding planning process.

There is a way to have a friend or family member perform the ceremony and still complete the legal process. This is what I like to call ceremony coaching.

The first thing to do is to get in touch with a licensed wedding officiant who is willing to help you get the legal marriage aspects of your wedding taken care of. Whether that is on the same day as your wedding (for example earlier in the day) or another day altogether leading up to the wedding ceremony. I actually often recommend to couples to sign their paperwork and marriage license a few days prior to their wedding as it’s a really fun, intimate moment to share with your partner before the madness of the wedding weekend begins. It is possible to sign the marriage licence anywhere really, it doesn’t have to be a big thing, you don’t have to exchange personalized wedding vows or rings… you can save all of those good things for the actual wedding ceremony. Whether that is meeting with your wedding officiant at your favorite coffee shop, restaurant, park… or even at your home. All you need is a marriage license a date and two witnesses.

Having someone ask you to officiate a wedding can be such an honor but also very daunting. Where does one get inspiration to build a script? What should go in there? How long should it be? There are many questions and the pressure to come up with the perfect script is real. Let’s face it, the wedding ceremony is why you are getting married in the first place. With the coaching option, I work directly with the “officiant of the day“ to develop the perfect personalized script. The officiant’s responsibility is to support your friend and family member in preparing for the wedding ceremony. Using the same approach, care and details that I would put into my own scripts as if I was leading the ceremony. The final product is always a success. It combines my expertise of script writing, but with a deeply personal touch as lots of the material will have been developed by someone who knows you both so well. Coaching also involves making sure that the person is aware of the expectations of the day, wedding etiquette, housekeeping rules, how to carry their voice properly, and also how to lead a rehearsal.

All of this is possible if you just work with the right wedding officiant. I absolutely love to work with people to bring their visions to life and to find creative ways to ensure that the script is authentic to the person delivering the ceremony.

Let’s make your dream of having a friend or family member lead your wedding ceremony happen!

Catherine Walter is located in Ottawa and is a licensed wedding officiant legally able to perform wedding ceremonies in the province of Ontario and Quebec.