Choosing a ceremony officiant for your big day can be a daunting task. If you are getting married in your church or synagogue, the decision is simple.--you take what they give you, usually. But maybe you don't belong to a church yet want a heartfelt ceremony that expresses your personal beliefs. If you are like many brides- and grooms-to-be, you are looking for creative alternatives to the traditional cookie-cutter ceremony.
You deserve to have your ceremony be like no other and to develop a warm and personal relationship with your officiant. With the popularity of out-of-church-weddings, many people are hanging out their shingles calling themselves "wedding officiants". Beware, for you don't want an amateur handling this aspect of your big day. If the florist or photographer doesn't show, it is unfortunate, but the day can go on. If your officiant doesn't show--you've got BIG trouble. Ask some of your recently married friends for recommendations. Or, type in the name of your state or city followed by wedding officiant (e.g. Colorado wedding officiant) into a search engine and you'll get a bunch of hits. Look for someone with an established presence, who issues contracts and has a fairly sophisticated website. These are good clues that the person or business is stable and will be around for your big day. Then follow these guidelines when you meet with a prospective celebrant.
1) When you meet with him or her (or chat on the phone) do they exude a calming presence? Does their energy fit in with what you are seeking for your ceremony? Do they come across as being passionate about performing weddings? Are they interested in hearing your story? If you find yourself smiling, or nodding in agreement as the officiant speaks to you, that's a good indication that your wedding ceremony will be one that you will happily remember for many years.
2) Will he or she help you to craft a ceremony without restrictions--including all of your ideas?
3) Are they thorough and easy to understand in explaining the ceremony-writing process to you? Are you clear on how it all works, the booking procedure, how many meetings you will have together, timelines, etc? You will want an officiant who explains things easily and clearly so there will be no confusion on your wedding day.
4) Does the officiant view your wedding ceremony as the heart of your wedding day--a celebration as opposed to merely a prescribed ritual?
5) Does the officiant honor all spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof) and view their primary role as that of facilitator of your ceremony?
6) Is he or she adventurous of spirit and willing to try unconventional things? Ask them to recount an example or two of creative touches they have incorporated into ceremonies.
7) Is he or she a proficient writer and a dynamic speaker? Is their speaking voice pleasing to the ear and free from pauses, "ums" and irritating phrases such as "you know," "like," and "OK."
8) Is the officiant a one-man/woman show or is he or she part of a group? If they are solo, do they have a backup in case of an emergency?
9) Do they offer more than one level of service in order to accommodate your needs and budget or is it "one size fits all?"
10) Do they have a wealth of written options for you to include in your ceremony?
11) What are their pre-marital counseling requirements, if any?
12) Is their fee in writing? What extra charges, if any, could possibly apply over and above the original fee? Are the payment terms reasonable to you?
13) Is there pressure to upgrade to a more expensive level of service (perhaps including things you don't need)? Do they try to get you to book on the spot, telling you that they may not be available for your date unless you book immediately? Or do they give you the opportunity to go home, discuss it and get back to them?
14) Is he or she a professional wedding ceremony officiant, or is officiating ceremonies his or her sideline business? Are they ceremony experts or do they divert their attention to other wedding services? You don't want your officiant also serving as your DJ or your bartender, do you?
15) How long have they been in business? Do they have a written contract? What are the contract terms?
16) Is he or she willing to give you the benefit of his or her experience of what has worked and not worked in the past, and then leave the final decision up to you?
17) Are they knowledgeable about their state's marriage license procedures and do they advise you on the process of obtaining your license?
18) Most of all, what does your gut tell you when you talk with this person? If it feels right, then you've probably found the best fit for you.