The exact proportion of couples being married by a friend varies depending on the data you look at, but the numbers are clearly growing. The wedding site The Knot has been conducting a survey on wedding trends for the past 11 years. The site’s editor told The New York Times that friend officiants weren’t even “on the radar enough” to make the 2008 survey. The question was added in 2009, when 29 percent of survey respondents used a friend officiant, and by 2015, that number jumped to 40 percent. A different study by the Wedding Report, a data-tracking company, found that 25.7 of polled couples were wed by a friend or family member in 2017, a jump from 16.4 percent in 2010. According to Ellen Lamont, a sociologist at Appalachian State University who researches gender, dating, and family, there are multiple reasons why the best-friend-turned-officiant trend is growing, and why it might continue to.
“The expectations for marriage have shifted, and sociologists refer to this as kind of a ‘deinstitutionalization’ of marriage,” Lamont explains. “Basically meaning that the social norms that guided marriage have become more negotiable, flexible, and individualized.” A wedding has become a public statement about who you are as a couple, Lamont notes. What better way to personalize that statement than to have it made by someone who knows you both well?