Alisa Tongg Gives Tips For Choosing A Wedding Celebrants

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A Celebrant Can Make or Break a Wedding: Officiant Alisa Tongg Gives Couples Tips for Choosing the Right One

Chloë Hylkema

Written by: Chloë Hylkema

Chloë Hylkema

Chloë Hylkema loves using her writing skills to tell stories that matter. Her time as an English student at Emory University molded her into a detailed writer with a knack for the relatable. Chloë is familiar with what it means to date in the modern age, and she endeavors to write material that is both truthful and helpful. She has previously worked as lead campaign writer for an animal advocacy group and now brings her passion for engaging and actionable content to

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Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

Discuss This! Discuss This!

The Short Version: The officiant of a wedding can have a huge impact on everything about the day, from the overall vibe to the big “I do” itself. More couples are attracted to the idea of having a friend or family officiate, and this choice comes with a unique set of responsibilities and concerns. Alisa Tongg is a Certified Life Cycle Celebrant, and she talked to us about why the right celebrant is so important and what couples should consider when they select one. Alisa offers a training course for friend and family officiants who are looking to show up as their best for their loved ones’ weddings. 

I went to a family friend’s wedding when I was 9 years old, and I remember very little about the day. I remember the dress I wore (I chose it myself), that the venue was by the lake, and that at the end of the wedding ceremony, the officiant tripped going off the stage as the newlyweds retreated down the aisle.

I remember the group let out an audible gasp, and even though I didn’t know much about weddings, I knew that definitely wasn’t supposed to happen. Wedding officiants are a crucial part of nuptials, and selecting the right officiant is just as important as choosing the right venue, entertainment, and food.

Alisa Tongg is a Certified Life Cycle Celebrant and teacher. She talked to us about her officiant course, what couples should consider when choosing a celebrant, and when it’s most appropriate to hire a professional instead of asking a friend.

“Weddings are a lot different than they used to be, and couples are looking for officiants who understand that,” Alisa said. “I think people are emotionally intelligent, they have more respectful relationships with their partners, and I think that hiring a professional is absolutely the way to go to find that.”

Finding an Officiant Who Understands the Occasion

Alisa told us a great officiant is one who is confident in the role and familiar with the couple’s story. Asking a friend to officiate is an appealing idea for many couples, but Alisa said couples should consider every element of what they’re asking for and whether it’s feasible.

In Alisa’s experience, a lot can go wrong when a friend is asked to officiate. “I had friends who were wedding planners, and they would often ask me to fill in for them in emergencies because an officiant got cold feet,” she said. “I was trying to find the reasons why people were backing out, and I found a couple.”

Alisa said the first reason officiants back out at the last minute is that they waited too long to get the proper certifications. “Each state has different statute work requirements for somebody to legally be able to marry someone. When people don’t meet the requirements, there’s a big damper.”

alisa tongg
Alisa Tongg is a certified and award-winning celebrant.

Another reason officiants back out is simple: They get nervous. The reasons they get nervous are complicated, though. They could feel overwhelmed by the role or underprepared. Alisa said a common stumbling block is that officiants take an angle that isn’t authentic to the couple.

“Many people go online, which is their first mistake, and find these very post-spiritual scripts for non-religious couples,” Alisa said. “Because they may feel like they have to be in the role of a priest, even though the couple isn’t religious. But they may feel like they’re supposed to be.”

Alisa said officiants don’t need to be love experts to be great celebrants, and taking this approach is often a misstep. “So many scripts are written in such a way that the officiant is coming off as an expert in love. And that’s too much pressure to put on your best friend or family.”

The best officiant is one who can speak to the couple’s partnership and the wedding celebration itself. “You ask a person to be an officiant because you love them, and they love you, and they’re invested in your relationship,” Alisa said.

Alisa Explores Spirituality & Vows

Whether they’re a friend, family member, or professional, the officiant has a big task. That task is even bigger when they’re joining couples from distinct cultural or religious backgrounds. Couples who don’t want a formal religious ceremony may still want to have religious or spiritual elements infused throughout their ceremony.

Professional officiants take distinct approaches for couples of different backgrounds and can balance the mix between religious and non-religious themes. Ultimately, planning a great officiant speech and strategy is similar, regardless of cultural and religious identity.

look for an officiant who understands
A great officiant will understand what you’re looking for from your ceremony.

Officiants should have a comprehensive understanding of the weddings the couple and their guests are familiar with. “For example, if you’re doing a wedding for someone coming from a Catholic background, it’s possible a lot of their guests have never been to a wedding outside of a church,” Alisa said.

If guests are too unfamiliar with a wedding’s structure, they may find it difficult to engage emotionally with the ceremony. The couple and their guests should feel secure and confident in the officiant’s leadership.

“You want to help the ceremony feel recognizable to guests,” she said. “For a Catholic crowd, you can interject some things into the ceremony, like standing, or holding hands, or small responses, that make it feel more familiar.”

An officiant can create a moving and celebratory atmosphere by creating a wedding that is both familiar and intimately personalized to the couple. Alisa said, “People don’t want their guests distracted or thinking about when the ceremony should end. They want them to be as engaged as they are. It should be impactful for everyone there.”

Preparation & Practice Make for a Wonderful Officiant

Alisa said more couples than ever are opting for a friend or family member to officiate their weddings. “It is a very big gift that the friend gives,” Alisa said. “I can understand the draw of wanting to ask a friend or family member who really knows you, and I think a lot of great things can happen.”

Because it’s such a big gift, friend officiants should take the role seriously and do their due diligence in preparing. Alisa’s Wedding Ceremony Master Class for Friend Officiants is an invaluable resource for officiants who want to put their best foot forward for their loved one’s nuptials.

wedding ceremony master class for the friend officiant
Alisa’s course covers everything friend celebrants need to know.

Alisa’s master class takes the guesswork out of the ceremony and helps friends and family members become confident celebrants. The course gives hopeful officiants the information they need about certification, becoming ordained, public speaking tips, and more.

The Wedding Ceremony Master Class for Friend Officiants includes 14 videos that guide participants from the role of friends to becoming fully qualified and ready-to-go celebrants. Alisa shares tools and tips to create a ceremony script, personalize the ceremony, and learn the ins and outs of becoming an ordained minister.

Whether a couple decides to ask a friend or hire a professional, the role of an officiant can’t be underestimated. The officiant can bring every guest into the magical emotional moment the wedding couple is experiencing.

“You know, the couple is facing each other, and the officiant is facing the crowd,” Alisa said. “So we can’t write filler or boilerplate stuff. It’s all about this– them. Focus on what makes them special together, and I feel like that’s becoming the norm for weddings, and it’s great.”