Dear Carolyn:

As the holiday season approaches, one of my friends wants me to officiate at their wedding. The friend says this is done all the time. What do you think? Can I be the person to give the vows at my friend’s wedding?


Carolyn Answers:

This “my friend, my wedding officiant” is becoming a popular question and practice. Approximately 43 percent of weddings use a family or friend as an officiant, up 29 percent since 2009 (The Knot). I have been asked about the legality of private wedding officiants several times recently and even had someone ask me to officiate a wedding. My response was, “no.” North Carolina has precise requirements for who can perform a wedding; among those persons are ordained ministers and magistrates.

Carlyle Hill vs. Linda Durrant is a 2022 case from the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Linda and Carlyle married in a backyard wedding with an officiant named Moonhawk. Moonhawk had a mail-order reverend certificate from Universal Life Church. She also said she was a Reiki minister.  Carlyle filed to annul the marriage after Linda filed domestic violence charges against him. The court ruled the marriage was void, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the voiding of the wedding. While the case is notable for several reasons because Mr. Hill died before all the hearings were completed, the annulment should tell us about friend and family officiants.

An alternative is to have the magistrate perform the authentic ceremony and then have fun at the wedding however you wish. Then, you do have an official wedding with the magistrate.


Send your questions on family law and divorce matters to “Ask Carolyn…” at, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro, NC  27427. Please do not put identifying information in your questions. Note that the answers in “Ask Carolyn” are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need in your individual case. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by “Ask Carolyn…”