Choosing who will marry you may not be as crucial as whom you will marry, but it is still an essential part of your wedding ceremony. Your officiant will not only set the tone for the occasion, he/she will make sure your marriage is legal! Many times, in the rush to set the date, choose the venue, arrange for food, take care of decorations, and meet with the band or DJ, we forget about who will be standing up there with us as we take our vows. You may have read it once or twice in a wedding planning guide, but have you really thought about it? Who do you want with you on the most important day of your life?
The first step is to decide if you want a religious ceremony or secular. If you choose a religious officiant, like a pastor or priest, they may require that you and your future spouse receive pre-marital education or counseling. The religious or secular nature of a wedding is an important consideration, too, because it often affects the ceremony itself as faiths celebrate marriage in different ways. In many religious ceremonies, there is a great deal of tradition and ritual, which may be just what you want. Or it may not be. Your choice of officiant may be affected, at least in part, by the type of wedding you want.
Before you speak with possible officiants, think about what, exactly, you want them to do. Yes, they will pronounce you husband and wife, but do you have other expectations? Do you want him/her to plan or write the ceremony? Help at the rehearsal? Help ensure the ceremony runs smoothly? Book another officiant for you if he has an emergency or is sick on your wedding day? These details may seem small now, but they won't when you are walking down the aisle.
You should like your officiant. If it is not possible to engage the services of someone you know, then meet with possible candidates and see how you respond to them. Are they warm and personable? Do they have a nice voice that will carry? Do they speak well and fluently? Do they seem happy about performing your ceremony? More and more weddings today can be termed “nontraditional.” Will your officiant be open and accepting of blended families, of couples in which one or both partners has been divorced, of interracial, interfaith, or same sex couples? Will he be willing to perform the ceremony in your chosen locale? All of these questions, and more, are important to discuss prior to any agreement.
In the hustle and bustle of planning a wedding, don't forget to dot your i's and cross your t's. Make sure to book your officiant as soon as possible to ensure he/she will be available. And do make sure he/she is legally authorized to marry you! The requirements vary by state. Check your state here to make sure that everything is in order.
Another consideration is the officiant's fee. This, of course, will depend on the individual, the area, and the specifics of the ceremony, as well as how much responsibility the officiant has. The fee can be as little as $50 or as much as $1,500. According to the Bridal Association of America, the average fee for a justice of the peace is $50 to $100. A retired judge or intern minister typically costs between $100 and $200, while a church official or professional officiant costs between $200 and $400. If this seems high, remember that this is often the lowest fee among all the vendors you will engage, and it is the most important as well.
An option more and more couples are choosing is to have a friend or family member ordained. This way, a loved one can perform the ceremony. The Universal Life Church, for instance, ordains clergy for this purpose. They have ordained more than 20 million people online. The laws in your state may allow this or have conditions, so if you are interested, check the ULC site for more information.
Choosing an officiant for your wedding takes some consideration and time; don't settle for less than your ideal. It will make all the difference on your wedding day when you like both people who are waiting for you at the end of the aisle.