23 Jun 2017
June 23, 2017

Wedding Ceremony for the Already Married

When meeting with a couple who are already legally married, or who are planning to get legally married before their “big” wedding, it is always interesting to see how they tell us.  Some couples are right up front, some slip it in, and some seem to be apologizing.   All I can say is that there should be no reason to worry and it is really no big deal, or issue, from an Officiant’s perspective.  There may be a few professional Officiants for whom this would make a difference but in their case, it is a personal issue, not a legal or “official” issue.

As a friend or family member who is being asked, or has been asked to officiate a wedding ceremony, note that there are no issues in performing a ceremony for a couple that is already married and in truth, it is actually easier from the “making it legal” perspective since, you don’t have to make it legal.  No worry about getting ordained or becoming an Officiant for the day and no worry about dealing with a wedding license.  You can just focus on celebrating the couple with a great ceremony.  Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the following couple things in regards to creating and delivering a wedding ceremony for an already married couple.

  • The couple and their chosen Officiant should be on the same page about who knows that they are married, and how much the couple cares about who knows that they are already married. In many cases, we find that maybe only a friend or two, or family member or two, know and the couple wants to keep it that way.  In these cases, as the Officiant, not only do we make sure not to “spill the beans” to anybody but we make sure nothing we include or share in the ceremony would give it away.
  • Although the ceremony is almost the same independent of the couple being legally married or not, there are some words that shouldn’t be used in certain ways or places within the ceremony. What I mean is that since the couple is legally married already, technically the Officiant is not doing the legal piece.  So try to be careful with the wording of certain pieces just to make sure that in the ceremony, you in no way state unequivocally that this is the legal ceremony for the couple.  These minor changes tend to come into play in opening words, closing words, and the pronouncement.  Would you go to jail or invalidate their marriage if you said the wrong words?   Of course not, but since we are trying to be proper, we do make minor changes.  A good example is that we change our pronouncement wording from, “Now that you have spoken the words and performed the rites that unite your lives, I do hereby, in accordance with your beliefs and the laws of California, declare your marriage to be valid and binding, and I declare you, Fred and Wilma, to be husband and wife.” to, “Now that you have spoken the words and performed the rites that unite your lives, I do hereby, in front of your family and friends, declare you married and announce that you, Fred and Wilma, are husband and wife.”

Just remember, there is the legal part, and there is the celebration part.  In most wedding ceremonies, they happen at the same time but it is not a necessity that they do, and it in no way should affect the beauty of the big ceremony on the big day if they don’t.

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