What Should I Wear to Officiate a Wedding?

My brother and his fiancée have asked me to be their wedding officiant. It will be a nonreligious ceremony near the beach in August. I want something that conveys strength and calm, but I will likely end up being in all of their photos, so I don’t want to detract from the bride and groom. Please advise! — Kathleen, Columbia, S.C.

First, congratulations. Being asked to officiate for a friend’s or relative’s wedding is an honor. In turn, you want to honor the couple and their desires, no matter how weird they may be. Sean Parker, of Napster and Facebook fame, reportedly asked Sir Ian McKellen to officiate at his 2013 “Lord of the Rings”-themed wedding dressed as Gandalf.

Since they were not friends, Sir Ian was able to turn him down. You, on the other hand, would not have that liberty. When it comes to officiating, the wedding couple’s wishes come first.

That means that when it comes to deciding what to wear, the first thing to do is understand the wishes of the couple. That involves location, of course, as well as the time of the ceremony, the dress code for guests, any relevant color or theme and the wedding party attire. All of it matters. You would not wear the same thing to officiate at a beach wedding as you would a country club wedding as you would a backyard wedding; evening weddings demand different clothes than lunchtime weddings, and so on.

Ideally, you want to harmonize with the bridesmaids and groomsmen (or bridal people), not take away any attention from the couple and look appropriately official. It’s a big responsibility, guiding the ceremony of two people committing to each other for the rest of their lives. Theoretically, anyway.

You also need to be comfortable standing for an extended period of time, without fidgeting or becoming drenched in sweat, and be able to raise your arms or engage in any other necessary gestures.

And you need to do all that potentially in front of many, many eyes. Not just in the moment but for posterity. As you point out, you will be front and center in the ceremony and thus part of the memory books. No pressure!

The default option is a dark suit, of course. That’s what Larry David wore when he officiated at Ari Emanuel’s 2022 wedding to Sarah Staudinger in the South of France. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s serious and sort of ministerial. But presumably, if a couple is asking for a nontraditional officiant, their goal is more personal, less generic. And you should consider that, too.

I asked Charanna Alexander, the weddings editor for The New York Times, what she would suggest. “I’ve actually been an officiant for a couple of my friends, and I have some go-to options,” she said. “My first suggestion is a classic jumpsuit. It’s easy, it’s elegant, and it’s just one piece that you can dress up or dress down. My other favorite option is the A-line midi- dress.” Both also have the added benefits of being easy to wear again.

Navy is a good color choice, Ms. Alexander said, and she advised staying away “from whites or grays — anything that can read as bridal,” as well as large prints and jangly jewelry, which can be distracting. Unless, of course, there is a specific reason for the choice. Maya Rudolph, for example, wore a fuchsia dress with big blooms to officiate at her cousin’s Miami wedding in 2022, but she matched the huppah.

As for shoes, wedges, flats and platforms — any footwear with support — are smart choices.

Finally, consult with the couple in question and get them to sign off on your decisions. The last thing you want to do is surprise them by appearing at the end of the aisle in a “Best Officiant in the World” T-shirt.

Your Style Questions, Answered

Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.

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