Newbie Question: What Do Wear To Officiate At The Wedding, “Billing” in the Program, And Co-Officiating

Here’s a question about what to wear to a friend’s wedding, and also stuff about CO-OFFICIATING — something that can be lots of fun but that can also go terribly wrong, which is why PeaceBang tends to hear the “Jaws” theme start in her head when the word comes up. Read on, and see how I advised our Dear Pigeon:

Dear Peace Bang,

I am co-officiating a dear friend’s wedding in a few weeks. It’s my first wedding to officiate, it’s the first wedding of my close group of friends from college, and I have been pouring over your blog looking for right ideas over what to wear!

I am a year out of seminary and 8 months in to my first church position, but I am not yet ordained as a clergy person (working toward it in the —-). The wedding will take place at 5pm at a fancy Arts Space in —- (not in a church), and the ceremony and the reception are in the same space. I will be leading most of the ceremony except for the legal parts I am unable to do since I am not ordained. That part of the ceremony will be led by an Episcopal priest.

So far I’m thinking that I will wear a blazer with a skirt (floor length? is that weird?) and then ditch the blazer when we get to the reception (which is also in the same space where the ceremony is).

So, to recap: evening wedding + not ordained + co-officiating with someone who is ordained (and robed) + first wedding to officiate + first wedding of dear friends, so I’m on that clergy/friend line.

Additionally, I’m not sure how to credential myself within this ceremony. So far, my friend (the bride) has listed the officiants as “my friend — and the Rev. — from [Our Lady Of The Frosty Cocktail] .” I have an M.Div. and a M.S.W., my work is DEFINITELY ministry, and I’m in the ordination process, but I am not Reverend yet. Or do I need to credential myself at all, and just let my presence and words in the ceremony speak for themselves?

That’s a slew of really terrific questions and here’s how I responded:

I think your choice of attire is absolutely right. I love long skirts with blazers for weddings. They give you business up top and a touch of eleganza on the bottom. Tailored + flowy is a good way to avoid Earth Mother Crunchy Hippie Syndrome which afflicts so many sisters of the cloth, and you certainly don’t want to get into cocktail dress territory.

I know how eager we are to assure folks of our credentials when we officiate, and being so close to ordination must make that desire more ardent. I remember that feeling. It’s like, “I’m a REAL MINISTER! I’M JUST NOT A REVEREND YET!” You are a real minister. You know it, those with whom you minister know it, the — head cheeses know it, and God knows it. You could ask your friend to list you in the program as [Name], M.Div., MSW, but if you can live without the letters, I would advise doing so. It will give the program a kind of clinical touch that doesn’t belong on such a document, and you’re being listed as her friend, which is what matters to her (not your fine cred). Better to be listed by name and accept people’s inevitable praise at the reception with a smile and a comment to the effect of, “one of the great joys of being a minister is to be able to celebrate rites of passage with people I love so much.”

A word of advice: the [ordained clergyperson] who will be on hand to make things official may or may not think that he’s in charge of the service. Make sure you two work that out very clearly before you go into the rehearsal. It can be VERY awkward when clergy get into smiling “Who’s the Alpha” situations on occasions such as this.

Happy ending! K. wrote back and sent photos and this letter sharing her very positive experience officiating at her first wedding. She wrote,

The wedding was now about a month ago, and I kept your advice close at hand. I didn’t really have time (or funds) for shopping while I was in –, and discovered that maxi skirts in —- just aren’t quite as fashionable as they are in the North. I ended up going with a combination of what I had in my closet and what my mom had in hers, which was a silver lace knee-length dress (mine) with a blazer and a nice pearl necklace (both Mom’s). I wore black translucent hose (dark but not opaque) and heels. After the wedding, I ditched the blazer. I was well coordinated with the priest, who wore a suit and collar to the ceremony.

I second your good news of the blazer! I wore another blazer to the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner, which was a striking difference to the bridesmaids in their sundresses. Before I even had to say anything, everyone knew that my role was different, and everyone knew that I meant business (based on my clear business attire).

As far as the credentials issue went – the pastor from the bride’s home church was wonderfully pastoral to me. He reckoned this was about his 350th-ish wedding, and he sympathized with the couple since he and his bride of 35 years had painstakingly but liberatingly written their own vows for their own service. He shared with me tricks of the trade (like running the service first and then dealing with the processional after), and was fun to work with. I connected with him before the rehearsal, and we did not have a smiling power struggle at all. The bulletin/program for the ceremony was very simple, and the bride listed where all party members hailed from at the time of the ceremony. Not a big deal at all.

It was a wonderful wedding and we all had a fantastic time!! I’ve attached a picture of me and my mom; the bride hasn’t gotten her photos from the photographer yet.

Thank you for your ministry and for your advice!

You are so very welcome! It’s what I live for, dear heart! This kind of all-around wonderful experience is just what I always hope for all of my pigeons, and it makes me truly happy to hear that everything worked out so happily. And you look PERFECT.

Click to enlarge. Photos by Jordan Maunder.

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One Reply to “Newbie Question: What Do Wear To Officiate At The Wedding, “Billing” in the Program, And Co-Officiating”

  1. Could you please post a picture of “tailored + flowy” vs. Earth Mother crunchy hippie? (The wedding pictures are lovely!)

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