Vendors or ‘Friendors’ ?

There is a growing trend in weddings of having a friend provide a service that would normally require hiring a professional. There are many reasons this happens and many pros and cons. I’ve been involved with almost 1,000 weddings at this point, and I possess powers of observation, so I thought it time to comment.

If a friend IS a professional, that is not what I’m talking about. I have officiated for many friends for no fee, as a gift to them. But having a friend conduct your wedding service when they have never done so before is a whole other ball of wax. It could conceivably go very well, but you need to explore the legality. The ceremony is the time when you are actually getting married, and the officiant must be legal to sign your license. Does that on-line, click of a button, make the person legal? That varies from state to state. Some states offer a one-day license to purchase. Pennsylvania does not.  I’m not a lawyer and it is inappropriate for me to advise you on this.  You must research and decide yourself. The information can be found in the statues of each state. Go right to the source, the laws of every state are available on line or call your local clerk’s office, registrar or whoever handles that where you are getting married (not where you live).

An amazing photo of amazing flowers.

More on officiating in a minute – but there are many other areas where a friend might offer to help out. I understand the inclination to save money, and the personal connection that feels good. Turning down a friend might offend them, just as asking them might burden them unduly. The most common services where this happens are photography, flowers, cakes, hair and make-up, and even catering.

A wonderful amateur photographer or even someone seriously into photography who has never photographed a wedding could miss some of the most important moments. Experience matters – that is why you look long and hard at examples of a person’s work. Happily, I have not seen this very often – a friend instead of a professional photographer – for this very, very crucial part of your wedding. Photos are forever, or at least we hope so. I get so much pleasure out of seeing my parents wedding pictures. I feel photography for your wedding is one of the most important aspects of your big day.

Does your friend have any backup in case of a cake mishap?

More and more often I see amateur DJs and musicians.  Sure, you have a laptop loaded with songs, but there’s a bit more to it, and it can go terribly wrong. The most common mistake is missing cues (think: processional and recessional). Do they understand how to introduce people? If you are looking for a ‘let’s get this party started’ kind of vibe, you really should have a pro. If you just want some background music playing, ok, that’s fine Alexa.

There is nothing inherently wrong with using a friend, it’s when it goes wrong that it matters. What kind of back-up equipment and resources does said friend have? A spare camera? A bakery to call to bring something to replace the cake that fell on the floor? Another PA system for music should the one they brought break down? A spare microphone?

Does your friend understand the traditions?

Back to the ceremony, because this is the area people are most often using friends. Sure, you can get all kinds of great scripts off the internet, but does your friend know how to express the words, project and communication or when amplification is needed? They may know you, but do they know about your heritage, faith traditions and families? Can they guide the couple through their vows and exchange of rings? Some common mistakes amateurs make include forgetting to cue the guests to stand and sit, dropping rings, bungling words, getting carried away, going off-script and saying something inappropriate, and rushing through the service due to nervousness.

Because there is no tangible aspect to officiating – as with food or photos – people have the wrong impression about what it takes to do this. For us professionals, it is training and legality, and for me, it is very important to have a deep understanding of religions, cultures, traditions, along with symbolism and ritual, and with that comes the experience to guide you towards the choices that will make your ceremony meaningful. There’s more to it than that, but for the purposes of this column I’ll just leave it there.

Who can get the party started?

I do not mean to promote me, but warn you.Think carefully before you ask or accept the offer of a friend to provide services for your wedding. Think about your budget and what you might trim if needed to be sure you can hire great pros for the most essential aspects of your wedding. For example, can you drop the favors and put that money into the officiant or photography column, skip the spa service and get a great cake from a reputable bakery? Other extra costs that can be skipped include chair covers, menus and even programs – yes programs – you actually don’t need them. People are making all kinds of signage these days! Not necessary. Instead of favors give out little boxes for taking home cake, and if you have a photobooth that can serve as your favor.

There is no definitive answer to this but something well worth thinking about. I hope your choices work out beautifully.

thank you Lisa Rhinehart for your beautiful photography!  A great example of the power of professional photos – it doesn’t get any better than Rhinehart Photography!

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