If you ask most couples, they will tell you that most of their planning time (and wedding budget) is spent on their reception. Why not? Everyone loves a great party! But I believe the wedding ceremony is just as important – if not more important – than the reception. After all, it’s the ceremony that makes you husband wife.
So how do you go about creating a memorable wedding ceremony? Well, it all starts out with the right officiant.
An increasing number of couples are wanting to hold their wedding somewhere other than a church (for example the park where they were engaged or the family farm where the bride grew up). Since many clergy will not perform ceremonies outside of the church walls, couples find themselves in need of an officiant.
If you Google “wedding officiant” you find a very long list of people who would be more than happy to marry you. So how do you narrow it down to a workable number?
The first place to start is the officiant’s website. What is your gut feeling when you go through the site? Do you get a feel for the officiant’s personality? Do they describe their philosophy for performing ceremonies? Most importantly: do they allow you to customize your wedding ceremony?
As you go through a number of sites, you will find that there can be some rather large differences. I have come across officiants that charge over $1,000 to perform a wedding. On top of this huge amount, they charge couples for making any alterations to the ceremony. One thing that always leaves me scratching my head is when officiants charge by the number of guests attending your ceremony. Huh? What does the number of guests have to do with anything? Won’t the ceremony be the same no matter how many guests attend?
After you have visited several websites, you should be able to narrow it down to two or three officiants that feel right for you. The next step is to set up a “meet and greet” with them. This is a very important step that I encourage you not to skip. Any officiant worth their salt will be more than happy to meet with you (free of charge). Yes there are some out there who will either charge for this initial meeting, or worse yet, refuse to meet with you until you sign a contract. One website I ran across actually said, “I will not “interview” for the job of performing your ceremony.” If an officiant wants to charge you for the meeting or refuses to meet with you at all before hiring them…run.
So now that you have some meetings set up, what on earth do you ask them? Here are some starting questions for you…
- How long have you been performing weddings?
- How many weddings have you done?
- How did you get started marrying couples?
- Are your rates all inclusive? (any hidden charges)
- Has anything ever gone wrong during one of your ceremonies? How did you handle it?
- Are we allowed to customize our wedding? If so, are there any charges for it?
- How early do you arrive before a wedding?
- What if you are sick? Do you have a back up?
These questions should get the ball rolling for you and give you a chance to see if their personality and style mesh with yours.
Now that I have given you some pointers about what you should do when looking for an officiant for your wedding, let me warn you about something you should not do…
You may be tempted to have your brother/sister/aunt/uncle/old college roommate get ordained online and have them perform your ceremony. Even though most states recognize online ordination as valid for performing weddings, it is a recipe for disaster. Few couples getting married realize how many little details are involved in a wedding ceremony. If little or no attention is given to these details, it can make the difference between a great ceremony and one that has your guests wondering what the heck is going on.
Another down side to having a friend or family member perform your ceremony is cold feet. No matter how much of an extrovert your friend is, things can rapidly change when they realize the monumental role they are about to play in front of all your guests. I have had numerous couples contact me when their friend backed out at the last minute, leaving them scrambling.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of hiring a professional wedding officiant. There are some things that can only be learned with experience…and problems that can be gracefully and seamlessly handled by a seasoned vet.