Choosing Your Wedding Officiant

Megan . April 20th, 2021

There are many key aspects to consider when planning a wedding, such as the venue, photography, and catering. However, one key participant that often doesn’t get the attention he or she deserves, is the wedding officiant!  No matter where you decide to have your wedding or what type of ceremony you opt for, you need someone to officiate the wedding.  It’s important to find an officiant that is right for your desired ceremony!

Bride and Groom Holding Hands in Front of Officiant

The Role of the Officiant

Without question, the officiant has an essential part to play in the wedding ceremony. He or she presides over and sets the tone of the ceremony and makes the pronouncement that the couple is married. Yet wedding officiants aren’t simply announcers. They perform an official function and ensure that the marriage is legal. He or she needs to have the legal authorization to perform a marriage ceremony.

Depending on whether your wedding is going to be religious or secular, you can choose from the following types of officiants.

  • Religious – Traditional marriage ceremonies are officiated by a religious figure such as a priest, minister, or rabbi.
  • Non-denominational – This is someone who has a religious or spiritual message but doesn’t represent a specific faith.
  • Civic – Secular weddings can be officiated by a civic officiant who is authorized by a local or state government to perform the ceremony.

What to Consider When Choosing a Wedding Officiant

Choosing the appropriate officiant for a wedding can be simple or complicated. This often comes down to the backgrounds and preferences of the couple and, in some cases, their families. It’s always simpler when everyone has the same vision for the wedding. However, it is not uncommon for differences of opinion to arise in this area.  Here are some of the most important points to consider.

  • Religious vs. Civic. This is the biggest consideration. If everyone hails from the same tradition, whether religious or secular, the choice is usually straightforward. However, if there are significant differences of faith, it may be necessary to compromise. One potential option is to have a non-denominational religious ceremony.
  • Style and personality. Even two officiants from the same tradition may have very different styles. For example, some have a formal and serious tone while others are more casual or humorous. It is important that you feel comfortable with the person who will be officiating the wedding.
  • Traditional or customized wedding vows. Some couples create their own vows or have a customized message while others are content to have traditional words recited. Therefore, it is important that the person you choose be accommodating to your preferences in vows.

Bride & Groom Getting Married at SoHo63

Where Can You Find a Wedding Officiant?

Most couples have never given any thought to where to find a wedding officiant until they are planning their own wedding. But just like any other service or need, the internet will have a lot of information and how to contact officiants for hire. In addition to online searches, there are other ways that can help you find the right person.

  • Ask married friends and acquaintances for recommendations. You can casually ask people you know, who officiated their wedding and if they were happy with the results.
  • If you’ve chosen a venue, ask the owner, manager, or event planner to suggest officiants. They likely have developed a feel for the tone of your wedding based on the arrangements you’ve been making with them. Plus, they have probably seen dozens, if not hundreds, of officiants in action!
  • Check out reviews. If you do end up relying on Google to help you find someone, check out previous customer reviews to help you decide.
  • Get a friend or family member to officiate.  However, if you want someone in your circle to take on this role, give them plenty of notice so they can obtain the necessary authorization.

Bride & Groom with Officiant and Wedding Party

Tips for Choosing the Right Officiant

Every couple should discuss this issue in some detail and consider multiple candidates. Here are some guidelines to help you find someone who is the perfect fit for your wedding.

  • Have an open and honest discussion with your fiancé about what is important to each of you. Talk about things like; how formal or casual you want the ceremony to feel, if either of you have a preference on whether the officiant is male or female, do you want the officiant to show a sense of humor or be more serious.
  • Interview several potential officiants. Make sure they have ample experience, are available on the date of your wedding, and have the right style for your needs.
  • Ask about cost for officiant service and what forms of payment are accepted. With religious officiants, this may be a voluntary donation.
  • Make sure you clarify every point regarding the ceremony. It’s important that the couple and officiant are on the same page on every issue. For example, if you’re having a religious ceremony, ask if they plan on quoting any particular passages. If you want to write your own vows, make sure they are amenable to this. How much can you change the order of events? Can you add or omit parts or certain words?

Make Sure the Ceremony Proceeds as Planned

Ok, you’ve chosen your wedding officiant and everything is planned, what is next?  You should still make sure that you’ve covered all bases. You don’t want any surprises during the ceremony. It’s best to discuss everything in detail, whether you’re acquainted with the officiant or not.

  • Legality.  If the officiant is an ordained religious or civic authority, you probably have nothing to worry about.  However, if you are going a less conventional route, you should do your research. For example, if a friend is going to officiate, make sure they understand the requirements, which can vary significantly by state. Leave sufficient time for any paperwork to get processed and make sure everyone knows who is responsible for each part of the process.
  • The content of the wedding ceremony.  If the couple is going to write the ceremony, you need an officiant who is open to this. If they are going to write it, or use a prepackaged ceremony, you’ll want to look it over and make sure it’s what you want. Either way, the couple and the officiant should all be 100% clear on what is going to be said during the ceremony.
  • Length of the ceremony. Do you want a quick and simple ceremony or one that is more elaborate?  If your vision is a long ceremony filled with quotations and scripture passages, you don’t want to select an officiant whose style is to wrap it all up in five minutes.
  • Timing. You will want to make sure your officiant is aware of the timing of any parts of the ceremony where music will be played or particular unity ceremonies will happen.
  • Reference notes for the officiant. Discuss with them the manner in which they will deliver the wording of your ceremony. Often officiants will reference or read the words that they will say. If it is at all important to you, there should be no surprises if your officiant reads from a piece of paper, a religious text, or a tablet.
  • Attire of the officiant. You probably won’t have much of a choice with certain religious officiants as they will likely be wearing clothing traditional to their faith. But with secular officiants, discuss what you would like them to wear. Their attire should be more neutral and not a focal point. Their attire also should not clash with your wedding party or décor and should be in keeping with the formality of your ceremony.

While the officiant is usually only front and center for a brief period of time relative to your wedding day…he or she can really make that moment special and in line with what you and your fiancé had envisioned. Taking a few extra steps to find the right wedding officiant can make your wonderful day even more special!

Happy Bride & Groom at SoHo63