How to choose an officiant
Although the services of an officiant are only a fraction of the cost of wedding flowers, the officiant you choose will set the tone for your whole wedding. If you engage an officiant who also provides pre-marital counseling, the results of your investment will last longer than any bouquet and be put to use much more often than any bridesmaid dress ever will.
Talk to your partner first
Before you meet with prospective officiants, talk with your partner about what you are both looking for. You don’t have to agree with each other. A good officiant can help you plan things through.
Questions to discuss
- What does marriage mean to us? How do we want that meaning reflected in our wedding?
- Why do we even want a wedding? What kind of wedding do we want?
- What kind of experience do we want our family and guests to have at our wedding?
- How religious/spiritual/secular do we want our wedding to be? How do we want it to feel?
- What elements do we want to include in our wedding ceremony?
- How much help do we want from our officiant in planning our wedding?
- How much help do we want from our officiant in preparing for our marriage?
If you want a wedding that is about you and your values, you should interview prospective officiants, in person if possible. Learn what you can about their philosophy about marriage and weddings. Ask about their credentials.
Most important, find out whether they are interested in working with you the way you want to be worked with. Find someone who listens to you, gets you, and respects you.
Questions to ask
- Are you able to officiate our wedding at the venue and on the date we selected?
- What do we get when we engage you as our officiant?
- How would you feel about working with a couple like us?
- What is your training and experience in weddings? In pre-marital counseling? Can you share references with us?
- How open are you to crafting a personalized wedding ceremony with us? How open are you to doing it all yourself?
- Do you have ground rules for weddings? Anything you won’t do?
- Do you offer pre-marital counseling? Would you do the counseling yourself or refer us to someone else?
- How many meetings do you think we should have before our wedding? Are you willing to meet with us virtually if we live far away?
Wedding to Marriage offers you…
- Vicky Jones as your escort officiant
- A nonjudgmental yet enlightening marriage preparedness assessment
- Up to six pre-marital counseling meetings thoughtfully tailored to your unique dynamics as a couple
- A wedding planning handbook, and lots of wedding planning resources
- A wedding ceremony crafted with you to reflect your vision and support your values
- Joyful orchestration of your wedding rehearsal and ceremony
Yes, we serve LGBT couples, too.
Know your officiant
There are two basic types of officiants: those in the wedding business and those in the marriage business. Each of those falls into two groups.
Officiants in the wedding business
Celebratory officiants are all about the wedding day. They range from professional celebrants to wedding planners to deejays to folk singers to your college roommate who got “ordained” online last week. Some celebratory officiants will go all out to to design the kind of wedding ceremony that the couple desires. Others are happy to conduct a five-minute wedding so everyone can get to the party asap.
Legal officiants officiate weddings as a civil function. They include judges, court commissioners, justices of the peace, ship captains, and the like. They take a couple through their vows and sign the marriage license. Ceremonies are typically brief and perfunctory, but some legal officiants will work with a couple to plan personalized ceremonies.
Officiants in the marriage business
Escort officiants guide and accompany couples on their journey from wedding to marriage. They believe in the importance of cultivating strong and vibrant marriages and view their work as a calling. Escort officiants see their mission as being to both help plan a wedding ceremony that reflects a couple’s distinctive values, and to provide premarital counseling to help ensure the couple has the skills and resources they need to navigate the challenges that lie ahead. Wedding to Marriage’s Vicky Jones is an escort officiant.
Religious officiants regard marriage as a sacred institution established by their Creator and essential to a couple’s relationship with their faith community, family, and one other. To these clergy or clergy-authorized officiants, a wedding ceremony is a sacramental ritual, a rite of passage into a holy bond that upholds the values, theological beliefs, and practices of the couple’s faith tradition. Religious officiants usually require pre-marital counseling to instruct the couple in the kind of marriage they believe God wants them to have. When a couple calls upon a religious officiant to lead their wedding ceremony, they can feel confident that their order of service will follow the liturgy of their faith tradition.
Looking for an officiant?
The meaning of marriage begins in the giving of words. We cannot join ourselves to one another without giving our word. And this must be an unconditional giving, for in joining ourselves to one another, we join ourselves to the unknown… You do not know the road; you have committed your life to a way.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Who may officiate weddings?
A wedding officiant’s responsibilities are to…
- Witness the sharing of vows
- Pronounce you and your partner to be married
- Sign and file your marriage license
Your officiant needs to be legally recognized by the state in which your wedding will take place. The requirements vary from state to state. Some states require that officiants register with the state. Some require that officiants purchase a license or permit.
In Wisconsin, pretty much any adult human who wants to officiate a wedding can do so in the eyes of the law, including couples themselves.
If you want your wedding to be recognized as a religious ceremony, your religious community may require that your officiant is qualified in the eyes of its authorities and according to its traditions and practices. Some religious organizations have quite specific standards. For example, In order for a marriage to be recognized as valid by the Roman Catholic church, it must be performed in a Roman Catholic church by a Roman Catholic priest.
Notwithstanding the whole “separation of church and state” thing, some jurisdictions require wedding ministers to show proof of ordination or a letter from an authority stating that they are qualified to perform weddings.
In response to this, a number of “ordination” websites have cropped up in recent years that serve up ministerial credentials without any requirements other than a credit card. This proliferation of fake ordination certificates may be why Wisconsin no longer requires officiants to include clerical credentials on marriage certificates. There are some states that are beginning to challenge the legitimacy of online ordination, so be sure you check out the laws in the county where you plan to be married before your Uncle Biff wastes twenty five bucks on an ordination certificate from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.