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3 Risks to Consider when Officiating with a Tablet

Whether to Use That Trusty Old Binder or Shiny New iPad

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March 6, 2018

As iPads and Surface Pros become more common, it’s a question that’s more pervasive among wedding officiants: “Should I keep reading the ceremony out of a binder in the wedding, or should I get with the times and use a tablet?”

I’ve tried both. My verdict: I do prefer to use my tablet in the wedding rehearsal, hands down. But for the ceremony, I’m sticking with my trusty binder.

There are pros and cons to each option. But in a nutshell, when I apply the question “What could go wrong?” to my binder and then to a tablet, the binder comes out the clear winner.

Maybe I’m just a scaredy cat.

Now I’m not saying here, “Don’t officiate with a tablet.” It might be better for you. What I am saying is this: before we decide to officiate with a tablet, we need to make sure the conditions are right so the tablet doesn’t make our job harder instead of easier.

Here are 3 risks (they all start with the letter G. And 3G is a tech term. Aren’t I clever, no?!), 3 risks to consider when we want to bring our shiny new iPad or Surface into the wedding ceremony instead of a binder.

1. Glitch: something can go wrong with the tablet.

What could go wrong with the ceremony script on paper? Well, the pages could be out of order or we could be missing one. That’s why the pages are one of the last things to check before we start the ceremony.

What could go wrong with a tablet? Well, anything that’s gone wrong with our phone, tablet, laptop, or Nintendo console over the course of our lifetime. It could freeze. Or shut down. Or not scroll. Or restart.

And do we really want to be blowing into the cartridge port of our tablet in front of a glaring bride and groom and their 200 wedding guests?

(Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but you know what I’m sayin’.)

Now, iPads are notably glitch-free. I love my iPad’s reliability. So I don’t want to come off as a luddite or a some kind of anti-techno alarmist here. So let’s get practical. Here are 4 ways to reduce the risk of some tech glitch leading to our all-time Most Mortifying Officiating Moment.

Make sure the tablet is fully charged.

This one’s fairly obvious, right? No battery power = no wedding ceremony script. Let’s make sure our tablet has plenty of juice before we pull it out before the ceremony.

Save the script to the tablet.

This one’s less obvious. Here’s what can happen.

Let’s say we’ve built our wedding ceremony script in Google Docs. We check Google Docs before we leave the house. It’s there. Perfect.

Then we drive to the wedding venue and discover it’s not clickable, because it’s in the cloud and we’re offline. Now we’re spending the next 10 minutes trying to tether our tablet to our phone or tracking down the password to the golf club’s Wi-fi.

Let’s make sure we save the script to the tablet so it’s available offline.

Put the tablet on airplane mode.

Yep, the first time I used my iPad to officiate a wedding, I made sure to put it on silent mode. But I had connected it to the venue’s Wi-fi, and I started getting silent text message and email notifications right there on the screen in the wedding as I was reading the ceremony. Um, distracting much?

Right before heading into the ceremony, let’s disconnect our tablet from the interwebs and make sure we’re not getting any dings, pings, or notifications of any kind while we’re doing our job.

Have a paper copy of the ceremony within reach.

Ya’ never know. That’s why even in those times I’ve officiated with my iPad, I’ve kept a backup copy of the ceremony in my trusty binder just off to the side on the signing table. It was such peace of mind knowing that if my tablet had a meltdown I could just grab the binder and keep going right where we left off.

It’s a bit of extra work to print out the wedding script and prep it all up in our binder. In fact, that might be precisely what we’re trying to avoid by using our tablet. But what if the tablet shuts off or freezes during the ceremony? Let’s not be left empty-handed. After all, we’re professionals, right?

2. Glow: the light from the tablet can make it weird.

Some of the wedding venues we’ll find ourselves in will be intentionally a bit darker. A wine cellar. A candle-lit bistro. And old church. The couple has orchestrated a dark, intimate ambiance.

Here’s where using a tablet can be a double-edged sword and have both a benefit and a drawback. A benefit would be that even in a darker setting, a tablet is backlit so we can still easily read the script.

Here’s the drawback that the couple and the photographer may not love, though: if the tablet is too bright, it casts en eerie blue glow up onto our face. Think campfire and flashlight-under-the-chin scary face.

dark scary face

Is this what we want? Not okay!

If we do officiate with a tablet in a darker setting, let’s make sure to turn the screen brightness way down so that there’s no light shining and reflecting off our chest or face. Perhaps checking in with the photographer beforehand is a good idea here. And we need to be prepared to ditch the tablet and go with paper if there’s just too much glow.

3. Glare: the tablet may be too hard to read in the sun.

Sometimes we’re gonna have the opposite problem: the wedding is outside in the blazing sun. And as the marketers of e-readers know and remind us often: tablets don’t read well in the sun.

So this is something we need to consider: is the wedding outside? If so, we might need to have the ceremony script on paper just so we can see the thing at all.

4. BONUS: Scroll, don’t swipe.

I once had a couple ask me, “Do you use an iPad in the ceremony or a binder?”

Thinking they were asking because they were worried about some of the problems above, I asked them what their concern was.

They then proceeded to tell me about a wedding they’d just attended where the officiant used a tablet. They described how one of the comments that dominated the chit-chat during the cocktail hour was how the officiant did a weird flick-of-the-hand move to “turn the page” on his tablet all throughout the ceremony. It was so strange that it was actually  maddeningly attention-grabbing to everyone there.

So, this bit of advice is free: if we’re gonna use a tablet, let’s scroll discreetly. No one wants to see us repetitively pull some cool-move, flick-with-flair motion from one page to the next.

I recommend converting the doc to a scrollable pdf so we can use our thumbs discreetly while we read, and no one will notice.


Having tried both paper and tablet, and realizing that I need to print out a backup copy in paper in my binder anyway, and considering everything that can glitch up on my iPad, I’ve settled on reading the wedding ceremony script off of paper for now.

I love my iPad, but not for wedding ceremonies.

How about you? Are the risks of the tablet worth the reward? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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GET THE FREE 5-PAGE STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE FOR WEDDING OFFICIANTS

EXACTLY HOW TO CREATE AND OFFICIATE A WEDDING CEREMONY (IN 5 STEPS)

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