Picking the Perfect Officiant
Your wedding officiant is so, so, so important to your wedding--after all, without an officiant there is no ceremony, and the ceremony is the reason for the day.
I want to help couples find an officiant who jibes with them on many levels. The right officiant gets and celebrates your personalities and understands what makes your relationship unique. But there's more. In this post, I will go over some important points to consider when choosing an officiant--whether it's Vibrant Ceremonies or not.
No one wants to have a flat, monotone, rigid ceremony. That doesn't interest guests and, more importantly, that is not celebratory. Humor has an important place in a wedding ceremony, and your wedding officiant should know when and how to employ it.
A wedding celebration is not a stand up routine and gratuitous jokes do not put the couple or the guests at ease. At its core, the ceremony is serious--it marks an important point in the couple's relationship--and the officiant who cracks too many jokes is missing the mark. Rather, humor is a way to lead into the serious business of marking the couple's commitment to each other and to their relationship. How is this done? I like to tell an affirming funny story somewhere at the start of the ceremony. Whatever the joke, it must highlight a strong quality of the couple, and must never come at the expense of either the bride or groom, or grooms, or brides. Good choices include something that reveals the couple's own sense of humor, or something with a tinge of irony about how the couple met and fell in love. In telling such a joke, the officiant creates a safe space for the couple and the guests to experience the intimacy that comes later in the ceremony.
There is another time for humor. When something goes off script, humor sends the signal that nothing is ruined--a chuckle will help people relax. Let's say the ring gets dropped--the officiant can pick it up, saying "much like this ring, relationships grow from the ground up". In this case, the humor diffuses any sense that something went wrong and reinforces that it is "no big deal".
If you think the officiant will crack off-color jokes or too many jokes, look for someone else.
A wedding officiant takes part in a very intimate moment in the couple's relationship. As such, the couple deserves an officiant who can make a connection with them. A professional wedding officiant must take a genuine interest in the couple, how they met, their relationship's path, what they love about each other, and more.
If your officiant makes you feel warm, that is a good sign. Do they ask you about your dream ceremony? They should have ideas about how to bring your fantasy celebration to fruition. Your officiant should also understand the elements of the ceremony that mean the most to you, and should take them as seriously as you do.
Communication is key. A good indicator that your officiant values communication is whether or not he or she offers a complimentary consultation. This can be by phone--although in person is better if possible--and provides an opportunity for everyone to get a sense of whether they will form a good team. You should not be charged for this consultation--ever--because it is unfair to ask your to pony up money only to then learn that you don't click with that officiant.
No two relationships are alike. The people in the relationship are unique individuals, as is the way they met and grew together.
A professional wedding officiant will take time to learn about you and your relationship so that he or she can tailor the ceremony to you. An officiant who wants to use a canned template is not a good choice. Instead, an officiant should look for ways to include readings, music, and maybe a unity ceremony in ways that mean the most to you. Also, he or she should be amenable to involving friends and family in the order of ceremony.
A unity ceremony is a lovely element to add to your broader ceremony. An officiant can help you choose one that means the most to you, should you like to include one.
Preparing your order of ceremony should be a team effort. Your ceremony officiant's role is to pose suggestions based on what he or she learns about you and your relationship. The officiant should use his or her expertise and experience to stitch your likings together in a cohesive ceremony. Your role is to share your dreams, likes, and dislikes. Your officiant will prepare a ceremony and you will look it over, saying "yes, this is congruent with us" or "this needs more work". On the big day, everyone should leave the ceremony saying "That was so them!".
If your officiant does not actively solicit your input, or conversely wants you to do all of the work of putting the order of ceremony together, that is a sign that you have not found the right officiant.
A professional wedding officiant should be able to offer you educational materials that will help you in preparing for your ceremony. It might be online items, such as roster of blog posts, or maybe through a call he or she will suggest unity ceremony ideas you had not thought of. Whatever the case, part of the value that a professional officiant adds lies in helping you make informed choices about your order of ceremony.
Your officiant must, must, must be professional. There are a few key things to look for as signals that your officiant runs a professional shop.
Expect a contract. Operating without one is a sure-fire way to experience heartache. Contracts spell out who does what and when. They set expectations. And they tell you that your officiant cares enough about your needs and wants to spell it out for you.
Organization is another cue that your officiant has things buttoned up. He or she should have some way of corralling all of the details about your ceremony--beit you names and when you met or the location of the venue--in an easily retrievable format. If your officiant catalogs things on the back of receipts that are kept in a shoebox, well, that's bad.
Being on time. It is never good when the officiant is late to the ceremony. Big warning signs that this could happen are that the officiant is late for calls or meetings, and that the officiant misses deadlines. If there is not a clear, convincing explanation for such a lapse, move on.
We are more connected to more people than ever before. Your ceremony will likely be attended by guests different from you. You may be an interfaith couple, or your best friends might be in the LGBTQ+ community. Whatever the case, your officiant should be expected to make everyone feel welcome at your ceremony. And "everyone" includes you, by the way!
You can find clues to this by looking at your officiant's website, blog, and socials. Keep an eye out for evidence that he or she is comfortable around people from different walks of life. Be willing to ask about his or her familiarity with specific communities. An officiant who inadvertently steps on toes is bad, and one who intentionally does so is worse!
Putting It All Together
Here are a few questions--and good answers--you can ask when you are talking with an officiant to help you decide if he or she is the one.
How will you get to know us? The officiant should say that he or she will take time to meet with you to discuss your relationship, and should show sincere interest in you.
What process do you use in preparing an order of ceremony? Processes can vary between officiants, but it should involve the officiant's expertise and the couple's ideas and feedback.
Do you use a template and will we get to review the order of ceremony prior to the wedding day? The right answer here is along the lines of "I create something as unique as you two, and of course, I value your review and input.".
How will we communicate leading up to the big day? You should be able to communicate as often as you need and through your preferred means; an officiant who does not encourage communication (the officiant should not limit or charge for communication) is setting the stage for failure.
How do you incorporate humor into ceremonies? Your officiant should see humor as a way of putting everyone at ease and of leading the way into the serious business of joining two people; he or she should not want to deliver a joke-laden monologue.
When can we see the contract? As soon as you like, and of course before any money changes hands.
How can you help us to find meaningful ceremony elements that we may not be aware of? Your officiant should be able to point to a blog, a long list of readings, and plenty of unity ceremony ideas, among others.
Do you offer a complimentary consultation? Officiants and couples must get along--and there is no way to know this without a consultation, ideally in person.
Are you comfortable with [a particular] community? The only right answer is "Yes!".
Looking for an officiant? Add these questions to the list of things you consider when evaluating different ones.