A wedding is a special day to celebrate the love of two people who are committing their lives to each other. Part of the beauty of a wedding is that it is witnesses by family and friends who can share in the joy of the occasion. While some couples may choose to elope or have a private ceremony, most couples still opt for a traditional wedding with witnesses. But why do you need witnesses at a wedding?
Witnesses at a wedding are the people who observe the wedding ceremony and sign the paperwork afterward. Historically, wedding witnesses are required to ensure that the wedding was carried out legally, and that the officiant performed their job properly, and that neither of the two parties was forced into the marriage.
These days, wedding witnesses still perform the same role, and having them at your ceremony remains to be a legal requirement. Anyone who knows and understands what a marriage is and what a legal wedding ceremony should look like is suitable to be a witness. Any wedding party member can also be a witness.
This short guide will look at what wedding witnesses are and why you even need one:
What is a Wedding Witness?
The primary role of wedding witnesses, as the name implies, is to witness the officiant, bride, and groom as they sign the wedding certificate. After the three of them are done signing, the witnesses also need to sign the certificate to indicate that they have witnessed the wedding ceremony taking place.
Witnesses at a wedding can have other roles as well. For instance, they might be a groomsman or usher or a bridesmaid. There is also no such thing as a law on who can and cannot be a wedding witness provided that they are already an adult and that they also understand what is happening. In fact, wedding witnesses are not even required to know the groom and bride themselves!
Why Do Weddings Need Witnesses?
A wedding doesn’t only celebrate your love. It is an actual official ceremony that comes with real legal ramifications. Remember that a wedding may require you to change your name and the tax you pay, depending on where you live, the kind of job you have, or what you want. It means that a wedding is an agreement that you should enter into lightly on a personal level.
This is why it is only right that all wedding ceremonies are performed correctly, with the participants entering into their agreement willingly. This is why it is a legal requirement that your wedding will be witnessed and that your witnesses will sign your wedding papers.
Are There Legal Requirements for Witnesses at a Wedding?
All weddings are required to have the Marriage Certificate signed by two witnesses. The only requirement here is that these two witnesses should understand and know what they are doing. This is the fact that they are signing to confirm that they have been a witness to a lawful ceremony that a registered celebrant has conducted.
This role has been traditionally undertaken by the best man and the chief bridesmaid or maid of honor. However, the couple might also choose someone else who is important to them. It is also not necessary for one witness from each either the side of the bride or that of the groom.
What are the Roles of Witnesses at a Wedding?
You can choose to make the role of your wedding witnesses as small or big as you like. Being a witness at a wedding entails what is already stated in the name itself, which is to witness or approve the marriage.
The most important task of a wedding witness is technically to sign the wedding certificate. Through this, the witness will approve the marriage. The wedding witnesses at religious weddings don’t have to play an active role per se.
The bridal couple must give a notice of marriage before the wedding can be held. The notice of civil partnership or marriage is a legal statement that must be signed by both parties. It will state the full names of the people who intend to form a civil partnership or marry as well as their birth dates, addresses, nationality, marital status, and occupations. It also indicates the intended venue for the wedding ceremony.
Putting their signatures on the marriage certificate is by far the only mandatory task for witnesses at a wedding. Even if this task may seem small, it is a very honorable one that holds a deep meaning. Witnesses basically help legalize marriage.
The couple can choose two to four witnesses. The number may differ depending on the country and state so be sure to check in advance how many witnesses you can have for your wedding.
The witnesses must also be adults. It means that if you have planned to have your little sister or brother as a witness at your wedding, this is sadly not allowed. Instead, you can include them in a more symbolic way, such as letting them sign a custom-designed fake wedding certificate.
Who Can Be Witnesses at a Wedding?
Here are some other key pointers you need to remember when choosing witnesses for your wedding:
- If you cannot decide whom you will ask as a witness to your wedding without upsetting someone, a good idea to try is to do a lucky dip. You can place numbers under a chair, play a head and tail game, pull names out of hats, or do anything similar to choose your two witnesses for the ceremony. This way, everyone will feel special and important.
- It is also special to ask a grandparent to be a witness at your wedding. Other people that you can ask include your special friends, siblings, parents, and other members of the family.
- If you have children who are already old enough, it will also be special to have them as witnesses at your wedding. You might want to give some thought to whom you will ask to serve as your witnesses during your wedding planning. You also need to talk to your celebrant about their thoughts on whether your child or children will be suitable witnesses. Although there is no age requirement, they obviously need to understand what they will be signing in the first place.