What to Consider When You Ask Your Friend/Relative to Officiate Your Wedding

This week I've had three, yes three, different brides get in touch with me because the person they asked to marry them backed out at the last minute. This week... this doesn't include the couples I've already talked to this year, and countless brides and grooms I've heard from over the years, just simply this week.

I get it, you're getting married and want to make sure your ceremony is personalized, unique, meaningful, and performed by someone who's known you for years. Plus, added bonus, you want someone who you think will be fun officiating your ceremony.

We all want to feel absolutely comfortable with those whom we chosen to take on big responsibility. We want to know that we can trust that person no matter what. After all, it's your BIG day, so why not get someone who's loyal to you and your fiancé? Why not get someone who's known you throughout your ups and downs, who can really communicate well your relationship during your ceremony?

Here's the thing that you need to consider: most people will obviously say "yes" when you ask them to take on such a HUGE task for your wedding. Why would they want to deny you? I mean, come on, they love you guys, and what an honor. But most people haven't a clue as to what it takes to officiate a wedding. 

People tend to think it's a piece of cake (no pun intended), and all you do is get up, say a few words, and BOOM! you're kissing, everyone is crying, and they've got the biggest smile on their face because they had the best seat in the house. I wish this was the case, and it was that easy. 

For some it works. They just have this innate ability to stand up in front of large groups, speak well, remain calm, and keep the attendees engaged with the ceremony. In my experience though, this is far and few between. 

What happens most of the time is quite a few "ummms" and "aaaahhhhhs", along with nervous ticks. Some get flustered, lose their train of thought, and begin to mumble. Or in quite a few cases, they freak out and at the last second, they cancel on you guys. 

Now, I'm not saying your old college buddy, or grandfather, or your hilarious uncle Bob from Florida won't be able to handle it. I'm not even saying that they'll cancel on you. But here is a list of questions you really need consider, and ask, before you move on to the other things on your "Wedding To-Do" list:

  • Are they comfortable talking in front of large groups?
  • Will they have the time necessary to write out the ceremony, and practice it so it flows smoothly?
  • Have you given them an opportunity to say "no"? (This ones tricky because, like I stated earlier, most will say yes to not offend or hurt you. But have you honestly let them know it's ok for them to say "no"?)
  • Can they speak in a clear, loud voice for all to hear?
  • Are they aware of what all is involved in officiating a wedding, including paperwork?

I'm sure there are other good questions to ask them, but you get the point. 

You see, I've now been officiating for 10 years, and in that time I've had countless brides and grooms call me frantically trying to find someone to officiate their wedding due to someone cancelling at the last second. (I've even had a bride call the night before her wedding!) And let's face it, although I wish I could help every couple who calls me, I've been unable to help some them out because I'm book solid, especially if it's wedding season. (I get couples booking me over a year out sometimes)

So, I'm in no way trying to scare you into hiring me, a professional officiant. Trust me, I'm busy, and I don't want to scare couples into booking me. What I am trying to do, I'm trying to help ensure that you won't be a frantic person, calling me to see if I can cover for your crazy Aunt Tilda, who backed out on you two weeks before your wedding. 

Keep in mind, most professional officiants I know, myself included obviously, will take their time discussing your ceremony at great lengths. They'll make you feel comfortable with your ceremony choices (and there are quite a few you need to consider), they'll personalize your ceremony with your tastes and likes, they'll make it meaningful (it's your wedding, so it has that going for it), it'll be unique since you had a part in it, and the officiant will make it calm and fun for you and your guests.

This is your BIG day, which you've spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours thinking about, planning, coordinating, and organizing. Make sure you have the right person officiating it. 

Ten Questions to Ask When Selecting a Wedding Officiant

Your wedding should be a reflection on the both of you, and highlight the love you both have for one another. From the flowers, to the cake, to the photos, to the music played… And yes, the ceremony should be the star of the day.

Yet, for most couples, the actual wedding ceremony can sometimes be pushed off or put on the back-burner, and then they tend to find themselves scrambling trying to find someone who can officiate their nuptials.

How do you find the right person who can pull it all together for you? Do you hire a professional, or ask a friend or family member to help? If you’ve decided to not play chance with your wedding, and want to hire a professional officiant, then the following is for you!

Ask yourself these ten important questions to assist you in your wedding officiant search:

1.) Will you have a religious or non-religious ceremony?

Most couples are unaware that certain officiants have guidelines to adhere to, depending on their religious affiliation. On the other hand, some couples are unaware that quite a few officiants are able to perform both religious and non-religious ceremonies. It’s important to ask up front before you go too deep into the process of hiring your officiant.

2.) What is your budget for a wedding officiant?

Checking out a venue, tasting cakes, trying on a wedding dress, and sampling catered food may be more fun than meeting with an officiant, but keep in mind, if it weren’t for them, none of this would be possible.

Just like other wedding vendors, you get what you pay for. So keep in mind, if you’re wanting to have a personalized ceremony, done correctly and professionally, expect to pay for that service. This is the wedding you’ve dreamed about, so make sure you have the right person. And just like with other wedding vendors, you should ask what the fees include and if you’re required to pay a deposit.

3.) Is experience an important factor in selecting a wedding officiant?

Once you’ve answered the above question, then you’ll need to find someone that fits in to your budget. Keep in mind, generally speaking, the fee will give you an idea of experience. So you need to ask yourself, will it matter to you if the officiant hasn’t performed very many weddings, or would your prefer someone a bit more seasoned and professional? The cheaper the fee, the less experience someone may have.

A good rule of thumb for any officiant is to check out their reviews on social media, on their website, and on other wedding sites. The more reviews, the better the potential for you finding the perfect officiant. Keep in mind though, some sites such as Yelp! allow vendors to “pay a fee”, or dispute it, in order to have negative reviews removed.

4.) What are your expectations of the wedding officiant?

I know, most of you reading this are probably saying “I have no idea. I’ve never gotten married before. So how am I supposed to know?” Most officiants will list out what their fee covers.

Expectations should include a consultation (whether in-person, or on the phone), travel (cost of covering for them, and whether they’re willing to drive the distance), rehearsals (if you want them there, you need to find out their availability & cost for their time), their arrival and departure for the wedding (they should show up early enough to ensure any last minute changes can be taken care of, and they should stay long enough to make sure paperwork is in order), processing of paperwork (making sure everything is filled out correctly, and mailing for you if need be), flexibility on the ceremony (last minute changes, picking out your own Scriptures, readings, and vows, etc.), and availability to you throughout the planning process (some actually charge more to be able to text, email, or call whenever you need something).

You should discuss any expectations you have of your officiant prior to hiring them.

5.) Will you follow a traditional order of service according to your faith or create your own ceremony service?

Some members of clergy strictly follow traditional orders of service specific to their faith. Perhaps you want to write your own vows, or perhaps you want both your mother and father to escort you down the aisle. Maybe you don’t want any religious elements at all in your ceremony, or you want certain parts to reflect your faith. These are things you and your partner should discuss with your officiant to gauge his or her comfort level with your wedding wishes.

6.) Will your wedding venue play a role in an officiant’s availability?

If your wedding reception and ceremony will take place at the same location (one where alcohol will be served) ask your officiant if he or she is comfortable performing your wedding ceremony in an environment of that kind. Or perhaps you want to be married in a church or temple where certain standards must be met by an officiant in order to perform the ceremony, find out if your officiant is willing to adhere to these requirements.

7.) Will you be required to attend premarital counseling?

With some faiths, couples are required to participate in premarital counseling. This may be something you will have to consider if your heart is set on a certain officiant who follows this tradition. Also, you’ll need to ask if they charge extra for these sessions. On the other hand, if you want counseling, make sure you have an officiant willing to accommodate this need.

8.) What happens if the officiant cancels at the last minute?

No one likes to think about this situation, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve received calls from frantic couples requesting me for their wedding because someone has canceled on them (sometimes with only a days notice). It’s a very real possibility, as nothing in life is guaranteed, and sometimes unexpected situations arise that can’t be put off.

Ask the officiant about his or her cancellation/rescheduling policy to protect you in case of an unforeseen emergency. If they’ve been in the wedding business long enough, they should have backups ready to help out at a moments notice.

9.) Will the officiant perform your ceremony if you are not married in his/her church?

Some officiant’s require that you’re married in their place of worship, and some even go a step further by requiring that you’re a member of their organization. You’ll need to find out if they allow exceptions to this rule.

10.) Will your wedding day affect the availability of certain officiants?

Some couples may choose to have their wedding ceremony on an off day (a day other than the ever-popular Saturday). If your wedding day is one that the officiant holds worship services on, or is on the day of a religious observance, you’ll want to sort out any scheduling issues that may arise.

Some officiant’s don’t work during the week either, so if you’ve decided on a “non-traditional” day, like a Tuesday, you’ll need to consider this as well.

I hope this has helped you. These questions are designed to set the standard for what you want in a wedding officiant. Especially since he or she will important part in your wedding ceremony. Ideally, you should look for someone who best reflects your ideals and beliefs, and can also beautifully articulate your feelings while allowing your personalities to play a part in your ceremony. Remember, your ceremony should be as unique as you and your love should shine through every word spoken!

If you’d like to discuss how I can help you have a truly beautiful wedding ceremony, please visit my website and contact me. I’d love to serve you!