Hitched 2.0: Why My Brother-In-Law Is Officiating Our Ceremony

It was almost as if we communicated by ESP. My fiancé and I got engaged, sat down over lunch to start talking wedding stuff, and at the same exact time, both blurted out, “Let’s have a friend officiate!”

Okay, it didn’t go exactly like that. But I swear, it may as well have.  As soon as we started wedding planning, it was already an unspoken truth that our ceremony wouldn’t be led by a rabbi, a priest, a judge, or any other “official” figure. No, Andy and I both seemed to know even before we got engaged that we’d have a friend officiate.

Though it’s certainly not a new trend, (Hello, who doesn’t remember Joey officiating Chandler and Monica’s wedding on “Friends”?) I’ve never personally been to a wedding officiated by a friend of the couple’s, rather only heard about them. Hell, my fiancé’s brother got married with a friend at the helm, just months before Andy and I met. But I’ve always found the idea to be ingenious. I’ll admit part of the reason I like it is because it’s somewhat unique. But, the much more compelling part is because it’s meaningful and perfect for us.

My fiancé and I are different religions—I’m Jewish and he’s Protestant. And though neither of us is very religious, I had no interest in getting married in a church, or by a pastor, and he felt the same about a temple and a rabbi. It has nothing to do with disrespect for each other’s religions, but rather respect for that fact that they’re not our own. We’re entering into an interfaith marriage and, even though our ceremony will have a few religious aspects, it seems counterintuitive to start that journey with one specific religious figure making it official.

And it’s not just that. I’ve attended a few weddings that were officiated by a priest, for example, who had known the bride or groom (or both), for years. That history added extra meaning to the ceremony, and a cool thread woven into the whole close-knit experience. But that wouldn’t be the case for us. Even if we had chosen the religious route, we would’ve selected an officiant based primarily on a couple awkward meetings. The same goes for choosing a judge to lead our nuptials. While there’s nothing wrong with either option, they didn’t feel right to us; we didn’t want to get married by a stranger. And in the days of online ordination, why should we?

Making the decision to go with a friend was the easy part. After that, we had to decide which friend we wanted to officiate our ceremony. We immediately started putting names on the table. We didn’t care if it was my friend or his friend, but it had to be someone we both know fairly well. It didn’t have to be a very old friend (as in length of the friendship, not age of the actual friend), but it had to be someone who we felt confident would be in our lives for a while.  (After all, it’d really put a damper on our photo viewings years down the road if we despised the person standing front-and-center between us.) It was crucial to pick someone close to us, but also important that it be someone who is comfortable with public speaking and who would, you know, want to do it. Sure, the ceremony is mostly about us, but that doesn’t mean we’re cool with it being a miserable, nervous-sweat-inducing experience for others, even if it is at our benefit.

As we contemplated this checklist, we kept coming back to one person: my brother-in-law, Rob. He’s been married to my sister, Meghan, for six years, and dating her for another two. As far as I’m concerned, he’s just as much a part of my family as my other siblings. I’ve always had a close relationship with Rob, if for no other reason than my sister and I are so close that as long as he’s with her, he can’t shake me.  I’ve watched his relationship with my sister evolve from the very beginning, and he’s done the same with mine.

Even though my fiancé and I lived in New York for three years, while my family—including my brother-in-law—were in Chicago, there were enough visits (and more than enough Facetime calls), for Rob and Andy to get to know each other seamlessly. Once we moved to Chicago, their own friendship only strengthened (Though I’ll admit, it was accelerated by the fact that we crashed with Meg and Rob in their two-bedroom condo for two months while apartment-hunting. Talk about cozy.) My point, though, is that my fiancé and my brother-in-law have, over the years, formed a solid relationship that transcends the convenient circumstances.

While Andy was always planning to ask Rob to be a groomsman, these facts—and Rob’s affinity for public-speaking, talking to strangers, and generally hamming it up—constantly led us back to the idea of him officiating instead. So, come July, Andy and I will stand in front of our family and friends, and follow along as someone who is comfortable in front of a crowd, not representative of any one religion, close with both of us, and familiar with our relationship—with power vested in him by some online ordination site—declares us husband and wife.