It's very trendy right now to have a friend or family member act as your wedding officiant -- trust me, I know because every other new client asks about bringing their own officiant to Puerto Rico. Everybody my age knows where this fad started -- thank you very much to the TV show Friends for teaching America that Joey could get ordained by the Universal Life Church online... even back in the 90s! So yes, wherever you're getting married, you can absolutely have your friend or your Grampy or your neighbor get ordained and marry you -- but why would you want to unless this person is very very special and inspires the authority and importance of the meaning of your big day? Choosing your most entertaining fraternity brother to seal your life deal isn't necessarily the best choice. Your wedding isn't supposed to be a joke.
Sometimes brides and grooms want to use their own minister from home. In my case, my godmother is an actual Episcopal priest and I'm Episcopal so it made sense because I wanted an authentic Episcopalian ceremony. That makes total sense to me when clients want to bring their own officiant. I get it and I do whatever I can to help clients facilitate having their own spiritual guide marry them. I think it's significant.
But it's those of you who are mostly looking for an entertainer rather than a wedding officiant who have me concerned. That person should do your biggest, baddest, most ridiculous wedding toast at the reception -- but he or she should not be your wedding officiant. He might show up with the ceremony wrapped in a People magazine to get a chuckle. Oh yes, it has happened at one of my weddings.
Before a bunch of readers freak on me, let me tell you that to get legally married in Puerto Rico, the wedding officiant has to be licensed through the island's government as well as being ordained by a legit organization (yes, all the online places are technically "legit" to the best of my knowledge). That paperwork takes time and a little legwork, so most brides and grooms will opt to get legally married back home on paper by the friend minister and then their ceremony here in Puerto Rico is considered a "blessing" ceremony rather than a legal marriage. It takes a lot of effort on the part of your volunteer "minister" to get the okay from the Hacienda office here and most aren't going to want to do it.
But nobody on your guest list needs to know where you file your marriage license, so does it matter? It's nobody's business but the people getting married. My gay clients down here can't get legally married (yet), but they still want/deserve destination weddings on pristine beaches in the Caribbean. So they do the ceremony and reception on Vieques and then do the paperwork up north. Totally legal.
For a few of my Boricua clients who care about being on the Vieques wedding registry (as I did, even though I'm only SortaRican), you have to hire a minister who is licensed here on the island and exchange vows with that person officiating too in order to complete the paperwork. You don't necessarily have to do that part publicly -- I believe Bill and I re-exchanged vows with the legal minister in the bar next to the restaurant where our reception was taking place. But you do have to do things properly with the government-licensed island minister too in order for me to get you a marriage license.
But back to the topic of your selection of the "right" officiant to perform your ceremony, now that we're clear on the technical details. Just when I think I've seen it all, I haven't. We have had a whole myriad of visiting officiants over the years - they've run the gamut from boring normal to totally bizarre (not judging, just sayin). When it's a legit ordained reverend or rabbi, the ceremony is usually the standard, like mine was. But if you're having a VIF (Very Important Friend) perform your wedding, you should write the ceremony plan yourselves using a guide like the one I send my clients. It even has examples if you're lazy and just want to steal somebody else's ceremony. Your friend can certainly write a special homily of sorts to insert but he or she should not be the one choosing your vows or the charges of marriage.
If your officiant is a Wiccan Priest or a weird cult leader, I have no comment except that I need a copy of the ceremony on file so I can run the wedding rehearsal. And I traditionally stand wayyyyy back from those ceremonies because my years of Catholic education have given me a healthy respect for lightning. Not saying there's anything wrong with it... but if you thought it was going to be all kosher with me, why did you wait til 10 days before your wedding to mention you were a witch? And why was I the one who had to tell your Jewish mother at the rehearsal? Legitimate questions.
Choose your wedding officiant carefully. Some people say they don't want to be married by a stranger, while other brides and grooms want someone who does perform destination weddings weekly and will perform and photograph well, and follow the ceremony plan the bride and groom created to a T. Some couples want God to be big part of their wedding, a very few never mention the presence of a higher power in the entire ceremony.
Truly, you should have whatever feels right to you. Just remember that while you are celebrating a marriage, there should be a certain solemnity to the occasion as well. Save the goofing for the reception... it makes for better memories that way.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!
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