How to Choose Your Wedding Officiant
One of the many decisions you'll need to make in preparation for you wedding day is how to find a wedding officiant; the right wedding officiant for you. This is the person that will:
Make your marriage legal
Spend time getting to know you – your values, your likes, your vision for your marriage and for your wedding ceremony
Offer suggestions that fit with your vision and personalities
Make sure you're not forgetting something important
Set the tone for your ceremony
How do you go about finding this person?
First, decide on whether you'd prefer a religious or non-religious ceremony or a combination. You may decide to use clergy. If you have a minister, rabbi or priest in your own place of worship, then you may ask them to officiate your ceremony. If you don't have a religious 'home' or are planning a destination wedding, there are many online ways to find an officiant. (WeddingWire.com; The Knot.com; MyWedding.com; Google+, Yahoo, Bing, Google). Search for an officiant in the location of your wedding, which is also where you will purchase your marriage license. Because I work in Las Vegas and it's such a huge destination market, the majority of my couples are not local and don't have the luxury of bringing their clergy with them. As a non-denominational minister, I am happy to perform a religious ceremony, interfaith ceremony or modern non-religious ceremony. You want to look for the officiate that fits your needs.
Doing your research:
You'll want to visit the Officiant's website, read many of the reviews to see what has been the experience of other couples working with this person and hopefully be able to see the person in action through a video posted to their website. Why is this important? You want to see and hear this person in action so you'll know:
Are they confident?
Can they command a group or room?
From their demeanor, does it appear this person is in sync with the couple?
For all practical purposes your officiant will be acting as your master of ceremonies and while the ceremony is definitely about you as a couple, you want your officiant to be able to make your guests feel included and important to your day; and to do this without stealing the show. Yes, lightness is a wonderful quality to infuse into the ceremony but you don't want it turned into a comedy show.
Once you've taken these steps and have narrowed down your selection. You'll want to make contact by email or phone. I usually get two questions in this first contact (probably before they have done their research)– are you available on my date and what is your fee. There are so many more questions you should be considering.
First of all give the officiant, the location and time of your ceremony in the very first inquiry. These details matter. Then it's very helpful for the officiant to know the reason you chose to contact them among many others. Usually they will say something like: we read your fabulous reviews or we saw and heard you on your website and we think you'd be perfect for us. Or you married our friends, and they loved you!
If the officiant says, "Yes", I'm available, then below are a list of questions you might consider asking depending on how much thought you've given to this important portion of your wedding. And if possible meet in person so you can really get a feel for 'who' the officiant is. Additional questions to ask:
Do you have any restrictions on the ceremony type or requirements to officiate? Some ministers or officiants may steer clear of same-sex unions, or only do 'traditional' ceremonies.
Do you have a 'standard' script or is it customized for each couple?
What does your fee include?
Do you attend the rehearsal?
Do you charge for travel?
How long is the ceremony?
May I write my own vows?
May I have additional readers or include family members in my ceremony?
How do you handle couples of different faiths or genders?
Do I get to approve the final script?
Do you offer guidance on how to get the marriage license?
Do you offer pre-martial counseling?
Are you licensed in your state so that I can rest assured my marriage will be legal?
Can you handle a complicated family situation?
How would you like to be paid and when?
How will you dress for the ceremony?
Can you calm my wedding jitters on the day of?
How is the best way for me to contact you?
I, for one, try to put myself in the couple's shoes and address these questions even before being asked because I realize clarity is the key to have the wedding day run smoothly. I like to relieve as much stress as possible prior to the day-of jitters.
Working with your officiant should be a calming experience and one you will always remember fondly.