Friday, January 13th, 2012 by Faye

Choosing Your Wedding Officiant

Saying “I Do” is the ultimate goal of a wedding, but who conducts the ceremony and how do you find them? Choosing an officiant comes with its own set of challenges and luckily we have little bit of help!

First things first, check your state laws regarding who can legally conduct a ceremony. Most states will allow ordained clergy, judges, and justices of the peace to conduct the marriage ceremony. Some states may allow mayors and county clerks. In Florida, Maine, and South Carolina a notary public can marry you, while in Colorado and Kansas couples can get permission to marry themselves!

Next, consider your relationship and values; the officiant and how they conduct a ceremony should reflect both.

Religious or Interfaith Ceremony
If you have close ties with a church, synagogue, or place of worship, your search will probably be a lot easier.  Start with the clergy you know and see if they are available.  You will want to confirm a date as soon as possible, so this should be an early task.  Remember that most clergy are employed full time and have families.  They often only accept 5-8 marriages each summer to maintain some family and personal time.  If the person you are thinking of is not available see if they have a recommendation.

Secret Option
If you are having trouble finding an officiant that can legally marry you, you can always have a secret ceremony ahead of time at the courthouse or by someone official.  Get the legal part completed, then go have fun with your wedding and ceremony anywhere in the world with whomever you want to preside.

Destination Weddings
A destination wedding limits your options to officiants available at your location. Most couples will use an interfaith minister or local judge. Many venues, especially hotels in popular destination wedding locations, will have an officiant available.  If you can afford to fly your officiant to the wedding’s location, ask if travel is something they are comfortable with. We can’t imagine many people would turn down a trip, especially to a sunny location! A destination wedding is an excellent occasion to have a friend preside; you will be able to meet with them before the ceremony and they are likely to work closely with you to make sure all the details you want are included.

Local Weddings
Not traveling to get hitched? Start calling local officiants and first make sure they are available on your wedding date and then set up an interview. After you set up an interview check out what other brides have to say about them on their website or through their listing on OneWed!

Choosing an Officiant
Think about the interview like a first date; do you feel comfortable, are there sparks? Pay attention to how they answer your questions. Do they try to brush off your concerns or circle around the question? Or, do they listen carefully and respond thoughtfully? Besides your initial feelings there are a few technical issues you need to consider and we have crafted a list of questions to go over in every interview.

1. Will they work with any readings you’d like?
2. Is premarital counseling required?
3. Do they have a contract? Are you comfortable with it?
4. How long do their ceremonies typically run, are you ok with that length?
5. Are they flexible with the wording, style, and tempo of their ceremonies?
6. Can you write your own vows?
7. Can you add in a blessing?
8. Do they expect to be reimbursed for travel expenses?
9. Do they have references they can show you?
10. Are they legally allowed to conduct ceremonies in your area?
11. Will they conduct the ceremony outside of a church?
12. Is including pets ok?
13. How do they feel about including children?
14. If you are pregnant are they comfortable with this?
15. Do they have other weddings on your date?
16. How many times will they need to meet before the ceremony?
17. If you have been divorced and are remarrying are they ok with this and do they require you to have special documentation or a dispensation/
18. Are their religious requirements for your bridesmaids or groomsmen?
19. When will you sign the marriage contract?
20. Will they be available for a rehearsal?
21. Are they a professional wedding officiant or is this a side business? If they are not professional, how frequently do the conduct wedding ceremonies?
22. Do you like their voice? This may seem silly, but if the way they talk sounds horrible to you chances are you will not enjoy hearing them marry you!
23. If they unaffiliated with a church what is their fee? If they are affiliated with a religion do they expect a donation or honorarium?

For Interfaith couples there are a few additional concerns

1. What are the cooperation limitations of each officiant?
2. Are both officiants available to meet, together, before the wedding?
3. Are they comfortable with each other and the other religion? Discomfort will show through and put a damper on your ceremony.