We have a guest blog post for you today. We asked Rev. Virginia Bishop from Loving Unity to share the insight on what to look for when choosing an Officiant. We have included all of the information from her below:
Reverend’s Virginia & David Bishop
Who recommended the officiant? If you receive a referral from a family member, there may be a strong expectation that you simply accept the person as the one who will tie your knot. Referrals from friends or people you find on your own usually have fewer “strings attached”. In any event, you will receive input and opinions from family members and friends, and although they are welcome, this is your wedding day, and the ultimate decision should rest between the two of you.
Do you like the officiant’s voice? A person’s voice is not the only consideration in choosing an officiant, but it is very important. Is the voice soothing or shrill? Does he or she speak slowly or clearly? Can you understand what is being said? Remember, the officiant is communicating the special words of the wedding ceremony to every single guest. If the voice is too soft, be sure that amplification will be provided. The voice must be able to carry to the last row of guests and hold their interest.
How flexible is your officiant? If your uncle wants to sing a solo during the lighting of the unity candle, will the officiant forbid it? Are you able to select your own vows and special romantic touches? Do you want a little humor in your ceremony? Even if you don’t know up front what kind of ceremony you want, are you confident that the officiant will allow for changes as the day approached? Can your officiant work with you to develop a ceremony that will honor the religious traditions and beliefs of both families, still speaking meaningfully to the two of you? For example, if you were a Christian and your fiancé is Jewish, is the officiant willing to read a passage from the Old Testament instead of a New Testament scripture? Will the officiant allow flash photography to be taken during the ceremony? How about a video camera near the altar? (Cameras on the altar may be a distraction).
What is your officiant’s background? The government doesn’t issue licenses to ministers, so an officiants experience with weddings is important. How many have they performed, and is there any other pastoral work that they have done? (baptism, memorial services). The officiant should be willing to share names and phone numbers for references.
What is the religious slant of your officiant? Most ministers work with and subscribe to the doctrines of a particular faith. There are officiants that are non-denominational. It is your choice to have the minister work with you on a ceremony that is true to your own beliefs, and you should not have to fit into the denomination of a particular minister.
Are you looking for a church to attend? Some people are looking for a lifelong relationship with a minister and a church. Others just want a minister to officiate their wedding. Be clear about your preference.
What moral criteria does the officiant expect you to meet? If you and your fiancé are living together, already have children, are expecting a child, or have been through a divorce, it is important to tell the prospective officiant your situation during your first phone conversation. Some officiants will advise you whether you need to see an alternative person to conduct your ceremony. Others, non-denominational, will be glad for your honesty and will work with you to create a beautiful ceremony that is pleasing to everyone.
What about premarital counseling? Some couples want counseling. In the state of Florida, if a couple completes the pre-marital counseling course, they receive a discount on the cost of their marriage license. It is important to find out if our officiant provides the counseling as part of their arrangement with you for your ceremony, or if there is a separate cost involved.
What is the cost of the officiant services? Officiants spend many hours meeting with you and working with you to prepare for your big day. They research, counsel, advise, and work hand in hand with you to make the ceremony truly unique and stress free. Fees vary from county to county but generally are in the $250-$500 range. Some fees may also include a video and the marriage preparation course.
How many meetings will you have? Some officiants may say that there are no meetings necessary and that they will just show up for the wedding and that you can run your own rehearsal. Others will want you to go through a personal meeting, phone calls, pre-marital counseling and a rehearsal. Some officiants are willing to meet with you in person if you would like if you were seeking information for a “good fit”. Can the officiant meet your wishes? Will the officiant be available by phone or email if questions arise? Can you trust this person with family secrets if you need to talk with someone about personal matters? You would like to find an officiant that is as helpful to you as you want them to be without being overbearing.
Will the officiant run the rehearsal? An experienced officiant at your wedding rehearsal can be very helpful, but she or he may not be available at that time. If the officiant is not going to be available, other arrangements should be made for someone to put your wedding party through the paces. Don’t believe an officiant that says you can easily run a rehearsal without some advance practical help! If the officiant is running the rehearsal, does the facility have an assistant there to help? If so, the best way to run a rehearsal is to have the wedding coordinator help walk you all up to the front and then have the officiant rehearse the ceremony (without the actual words) and then have the coordinator direct the recessional march at the end. Ask the officiant if it is alright for the two of you to face each other during the ceremony. It is nicer for pictures, and the guests get a better view of what is happening during the ceremony.
Should I invite the officiant to my rehearsal dinner or reception? If the officiant has a long-term pastoral relationship with you or the family, by all means issue and invitation. Otherwise, the decision is entirely yours. Some officiants will provide a dinner grace or blessing at the beginning of the reception. The decision is yours, but if you plan to invite them, make sure they get an invitation in the mail and have them listed in the seating plan.
How will the officiant be dressed? This may seem like a silly question, but ask it right up front! Some male officiants wear a suit and tie, others may wear robes. You can ask to see a picture of the robe, if it is the wrong color or has symbols that may be offensive to some family members, ask the officiant if they would consider wearing a plain suit instead. Some officiants are willing to wear special items for wedding if there is a theme, for example.
How elaborate will the ceremony preparations be? Many officiants only offer one or two ceremonies. Be sure you get to read their ceremony and make sure it harmonizes with what you want said at your wedding. Ask if they have an extemporaneous sermon as well. Others have other choices with the option of adding your own ideas, so that you can create the ceremony that speaks to you. Others will sit down and design a customized wedding just for you. Always ask how long the ceremony will take, this is important information for your facility, photographer, caterer, etc. You may prefer something simpler than what the officiant is offering. Whatever it is that you want, be sure to let your officiant know up front.
Do you feel taken care of? Many people feel that they have to meet the ministers standards and in some religious traditions that is entirely valid. Remember, the original meeting of the word “minister” is “servant”. Is the minister serving your needs on your big day? Are you comfortable in the minister’s presence? Find a minister who is eager to serve you and your wedding day will be a beautiful one for everyone!