Ask the Right Questions: Finding Your Wedding Officiant

July 5, 2019

“You may now kiss the bride.” Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold your horses. There’s a bit more to a wedding than a gorgeous dress and I couple of I dos. Someone has to charm your guests, guide you through your vows, and make it official. Entrusting your ceremony to a skilled pro who also gives you all the right feels can be a tall task. Here are some key questions to make sure your candidate fits the bill.

What sort of experience do you have?

The more weddings your officiant has performed, the more confidently he or she will be to speak before your guests. More experience means better insight and copious suggestions during early consultations. Requesting referrals or video of a wedding they are especially proud of will go a long way toward gauging their comfort level with the job.

wedding in the woods bride and groom stand before officiant

What goes into formulating your script?

Is there a template you follow, or do you craft it unique to the couple? Find out what sort of leeway your officiant has with their wording, and if you will have “edit rights” in advance. While it might be nice to hear the ceremony fresh at the altar, some couples prefer to avoid any sensitive material that might not go over well with Grandma and Grandpa.

How long is your service typically?

Can you walk us through your ceremony structure? Be sure your officiant’s style meets your vision, and their cadence matches yours. A more staid and formal emcee might be a bad fit for a backyard-boho couple, and the pace of a casual, humorous speaker might speed up a more traditional or black-tie wedding. Your preferred tempo and tone might not be every officiant’s forte.

How often will we meet ahead of the wedding?

Shaping the ceremony will require an initial consultation, and more thereafter in order to fine tune the details, and allow the officiant to get to know you better. Be aware as well that some clergy may require premarital counseling to be sure you two crazy kids are well-equipped for not just getting married, but being married.

Is this going to be legal?

It cannot be stressed enough the importance of knowing your officiant is legally licensed to process your documents in the state in which you will be marrying. Additionally, it is best to know who will be sure your forms are submitted to the state, by which means, and within the allotted amount of time to do so. An inexperienced officiant might not know the procedure, and this could spell disaster for an unwitting (and hence unmarried) couple.

What can I expect the day of my wedding?

Knowing your officiant has arrived with plenty of time to spare, and perhaps had a moment with the both of you can provide comfort the day of. This person should be collected, prepared, and enthusiastic to marry you, and not rush in at the last minute with scattered notes. Find out what they intend to wear and their flexibility with that, and if they can attend your rehearsal the day before.

Will we be signing a contract?

Getting the fee, date payment is due, and clear service expectations on paper ensures there will be as few surprises the day of, and give you recourse should anything not go as planned. Be sure to include their back-up plan in the event of an emergency or illness. The protection of a signed agreement is especially comforting for professionals booked long in advance of the wedding, or for elder officiants who might encounter health issues.