You’re engaged! Amidst the hugs and flurry of excited congratulations from family and friends you’re asked about the date of the ceremony, a venue for the service and reception and what kind of dress you’re hoping to find. All very legitimate questions and ones that many couples can answer because they’re the first to get crossed off the never-ending list of things to do before their special day.
One thing that doesn’t get asked and usually doesn’t even make the never-ending list of things to do is “who is going to officiate your ceremony”? Not as much fun to think about as decorations, dresses and wedding cake flavors however, you’ll need an officiate to perform your ceremony, sign your marriage license and register it with the state to be legal. Unless you’re planning on the clergy of your church, you will need a person who has their credentials registered with the state you are holding your ceremony. State laws do vary, if you are in question, check with the state marriage license office located in the court house.
Every officiant will have a different way to handle the weddings they preside. I am basing this article on the way I officiate weddings. I specialize in non-denominational and non-traditional weddings and consider it an honor to be included in your special day. My goal is to make your wedding ceremony to be exactly as you’ve pictured it. I believe that you and your fiancee’ should be comfortable with whom you choose to perform your ceremony. If at all possible, ask for a face to face meeting BEFORE you make the decision to book your date with an officiate. That isn’t always the case if you’re from out of the area. If a meeting isn’t possible, personal calls, texts and emails should be utilized.
Be sure to bring your list of questions you might have to your meeting. When I meet with a couple, I ask questions to determine what you’re hoping to accomplish and try to offer ideas and helpful suggestions. A good officiate will try to anticipate the needs of the couple and their guests, for example if it’s an outdoor wedding with no chairs, I will ask if there are grandparents or elderly guests that we be more comfortable during the service in a folding chair. Or, the suggestion of an agreement with an indoor facility as a back-up in case of inclement weather.
The ceremony script should be personalized to the couple. I share previous scripts as a template and work with my couples to write their own. Some couples find a ceremony script that fits them perfectly, most take different paragraphs to piece theirs together and still others will write their own completely. When I am complimented on the ceremony, I am proud to tell them that the couple wrote their own service. With my officiate services it is entirely up to you to decide how much, if any, religion is included. You make the decision if you will have a sand, candle, marriage license signing or another type of ceremony within your service. You choose if you want music, scripture or poem readings, a rehearsal or if you want to use a sound system during the ceremony. (whichI offer at a slight additional charge).
If you are not enlisting the services of a Wedding Planner, a thorough officiate should be able to conduct your wedding rehearsal, should you want one. They are also responsible for making sure your marriage license has all the proper signatures and information required and must mail it to the appropriate state marriage license bureau within five days after the ceremony.
I always tell my couples to laugh and enjoy the time you spend together planning your wedding, those moments are just as memorable as your wedding day itself. Again, I can only speak for my services, but during the ceremony it isn’t unusual for the bride, groom and myself to form an intimate bubble. A conscientious officiate will allow that to happen while still making the guests and wedding party feel as if they are also part of the ceremony and not just looking in from the outside.
Remember, while choosing your wedding officiate may be the last thing you cross off your list, it is also one of the most important decisions of your ceremony.
By: Cathy Holman, Wedding Officiate