Wedding Ceremony Weddings

Selecting the Right Officiant

OK, you’re getting married, you’ve settled on a location and a date. Now, who is going to marry you? While some couples go to their local church, others do not. But how do you find the person who is right for you?

Selecting the right person to perform your wedding ceremony can make the difference between a great ceremony and anokay ceremony. Either way it will be memorable. The question is; how will your wedding ceremony be remembered?

Here is a list of questions I’ve compiled that you should consider asking before signing a contract with an Officiant. These questions can be asked on your initial call before you actually meet. Based on the answers you receive, you may want to move forward with this person or move on to the next one on your list.

Contract? Do I really need a contract?

 Simply put, Yes! You need to protect yourself and your wedding day. Your contract is your guarantee that you get what you and your Officiant have agreed to. Contracts are somewhat flexible so don’t be afraid to ask for something to be included in it.

How much do you charge to perform a wedding ceremony?

 Fees vary depending on who is performing, the day of the ceremony, the type of ceremony, the amount of work the Officiant has to do to prepare the ceremony. From what I’ve seen, the fees can range from $100.00 to $950.00.

What is included in your fees?

 Some Officiants call them “Packages” and charge accordingly. Reverend Frank has 2 types of wedding ceremony services. One for a simple civil ceremony (not to be confused with New Jersey’s Civil Union) and one for a full service ceremony. A Civil ceremony would include the ceremony and filing the license. As you go up the ladder with fees, you can expect more from your Officiant.

Do you offer any discounts?

It never hurts to ask this question. Some Officiants including myself offer a discount for active military personnel. All you have to do is ask.

How many weddings do you officiate a year?

Really, what difference does it make? You have to remember that the Officiant, or anyone you hire, is actually interviewing for a job. Rather than ask a question that you may or may not get an straight and honest answer to, ask for references and don’t be afraid to contact them. Don’t forget, you’re doing the hiring and deserve the best!

What makes you different from other local wedding Officiants? Why should I hire you?

This is a question needs to be asked of the references but you should ask the Officiant as well.

What are your standard payment terms?

Get this information up front and make sure it’s in the contract in a way that’s comfortable for you.

How far are you willing to travel? Is there a travel fee? Do you require an overnight stay?

Officiants, like everyone else, need to cover their time and expenses. As such each has a different value on his/her time. Again, find out up front and make sure it’s all laid out in the contract. Need to stick to a budget? Ask your caterer to recommend a few local Officiants.

What kind of pre-wedding counseling is required, if any?

While most Officiants do not require any pre-wedding counseling, some do. If at my first meeting with the couple I sense something that I think may need attention, I will suggest pre-wedding counseling.

How long after the ceremony do you file for the official marriage license?

Believe it or not, some Officiants wait until the final payment check clears and if it doesn’t clear, refuse to submit the license until payment is made.  Most municipalities have a time limit on submission of the license. Contact your local clerk and get this information first hand and be sure it’s included in the contract.

What documents do I need to bring to our first meeting?

At the very least, the bride and groom must bring photo ID. This is required for legal reasons so that the Officiant can verify you are who you say you are. Other than that, if you have an idea of type of ceremony, readings, etc, by all means bring them along.

Will you marry couples of different faiths or previous divorce?

There really isn’t much to be said here. Either the Officiant does or doesn’t. If either different faiths or divorce applies to you, find out on your initial contact.

How long does the ceremony usually last?

Some Officiants are out to break the land speed record and I’ve actually seen postings where the ceremony was completed in 3 minutes 48 seconds. The length of the ceremony depends on the ceremony, vows, readings, etc. There is no set value but you should figure on somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes.  

Does the Officiant normally attend the reception?

Some Officiants do and some don’t. This is something that should be done by invitation and not expectation. If you want your Officiant to attend then extend the invitation. Personally, I wouldn’t stay for the dinner but would consider the cocktail hour to congratulate the couple and say hello to the guests. It all depends on my schedule.

Do you have a back up Officiant on call, in case of an emergency?

This is a very important question and the answer must be YES! The last thing you want is to hear that the Officiant can’t make the ceremony due to accident, breakdown or whatever.  Also, it should be confirmed that the backup Officiant has a copy of the ceremony and that he/she will be available in an emergency.

Will you he/she allow you to write our own vows?

It’s your day not the Officiants. Keep in mind that some Officiants have “cookie cutter” ceremonies. You should be able to modify your ceremony, vows, readings, etc. as you wish. A word of caution is that some Officiants will charge an extra fee for this service.

Can we read or hear your ceremony before our wedding day?

Every ceremony should be finalized and agreed to by the bride, groom and Officiant at least a week before hand.

In which states and communities are you licensed to officiate ceremonies?

Just because someone has been ordained does not mean that every municipality will accept them. Some cities, counties, towns, etc. require an Officiant to register. You should contact the clerk of the municipality you are going to be married in and ask what is required. The last thing you want is to find out after the fact that you’re not married.

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