Choosing your Officiant
How to choose the perfect wedding Officiant for your event
· Start a list of qualified Officiants
· Have a list of questions to ask the potential candidates
· Take time to ask questions and screen your choices
· Determine who you feel comfortable with and who gave the best answers
Questions for Officiants:
Do comparisons and questioning with each wedding company or officiating service to know how qualified your candidates are. Find out how thorough your officiant is when it comes to documenting your event. Lack of attention to Officiating details can lead to a potential nightmare for all parties involved. Make sure you have a contract agreement. This is a serious issue where we had to step in at the last minute for others that could not or would not fulfill their officiating obligations for a multitude of reasons. Make sure you have a contract and monetary consideration to protect yourself from a last minute flake out situation. Check if your Officiant has a back up plan in the event he or she is unable to make it to your ceremony, and that you are not responsible for any rate differences as a result.
Your questions when screening an Officiant should be:
1. What is unique about your company or your services?
2. What is different about you from others in this area?
3. How accessible and responsive are you by phone and by email?
4. Is the officiant flying solo, or is he or she part of a group? If they are solo, do they have a backup in case of an emergency?
5. Is he / she willing to give you the benefit of his / her experience of what has worked and not worked in the past, and then leave the final decision up to you?
6. Do you have a ceremony starter package with ceremonies and vows?
7. How much input do we have with the script of the ceremony?
8. Do you offer more than one level of service in order to accommodate our needs and the budget, or is it "one size fits all?"
9. Do you offer a source of options for personalizing our ceremony further?
10. Is the Officiant knowledgeable about the procedures for obtaining a marriage license, and do they advise you on the process of obtaining your license?
11. On our wedding day, do you read from a script, or have the ceremony memorized?
12. Do you only use the script or do you say something extra?
13. Do you keep a log or journal of our personal information?
14. Do we need to present our driver’s license to you at any time to prove we are who we say we are?
15. Do you take our Thumbprints for legal verification in case something happens to the marriage license?
16. If something happens to my marriage license in the mail, etc., how would you go about dealing with the county Clerk of Courts office to have another one issued?
17. How long have you been Officiating / how many weddings have you done?
18. What is your fee?
19. What's included in your fee and what’s not included?
20. Do you include a rehearsal? What are your rehearsals like? How long? Why do we need a rehearsal?
21. Are there any extra costs after we agree upon and pay the initial amount?
22. Do you require a deposit?
23. Is there any amount that is non-refundable? Under what circumstances?
24. Do you charge for meetings in-person to work on the ceremony script?
25. Are you registered with the city, state or county? If not, why?
26. Is he / she a professional wedding ceremony officiant, or is officiating ceremonies his / her sideline business?
27. What are the policies?
28. Do you require a contact agreement?
29. May I see a copy of your contract in advance of booking your services?
Things to Consider when Choosing an Officiant
Many bridal couples are looking for creative alternatives to the traditional cookie-cutter ceremony.
You deserve to have your wedding ceremony be like no other, and to develop a warm and personal relationship with your Officiant. If the photographer or florist is a no-show, it’s unfortunate, but your special day can go on. If your Officiant doesn't show up — you've got BIG trouble. Type in the name of the city or State where you plan to marry, followed by wedding Officiants. Look for someone with an established internet presence, who has contracts, who has a fairly sophisticated website, and who is associated with reputable wedding affiliations, These are good clues that the person or business is reliable, and will be around for your big day. Ask questions and follow the guidelines when you speak with potential candidates for officiation.
When you speak with them, do they exude a calming presence? Does their energy fit in with what you are seeking for your ceremony? Are they interested in hearing your story? Do they come across as enjoying or being passionate about performing weddings? If you find yourself relating, smiling, or nodding in agreement as the Officiant speaks to you, that's a good sign that your wedding ceremony will be one that you will happily remember for many years as a result of their work.
Will he or she help you to craft a ceremony without restrictions--including all of your ideas? Are they thorough and easy to understand in explaining the ceremony writing process to you? Does the Officiant view your wedding ceremony as the heart of your wedding day, or is it a job. Does the Officiant honor all spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof) and view their primary role as that of facilitator of your ceremony? Are you clear on how it all works, the booking procedure, how many meetings you will have together, timelines, etc? You will want an Officiant who explains things easily and clearly so there will be no confusion on your wedding day.
Do they seem to be an adventurous spirit and willing to try unconventional things? Ask them if they have an example or two of creative touches they have worked into other ceremonies.
Is their speaking voice pleasing to hear? Are there pauses, "ums" and irritating phrases such as "you know," "like," and "OK?"
Do they try to get you to book on the spot, telling you that they may not be available for your date unless you book immediately, or do they give you the opportunity to go home, discuss it with your partner, and get back to them?
Is there pressure to upgrade to a more expensive level of service (perhaps including things you don't need)?
Officiants styles and items included in the fee will vary. Some Officiants may not do rehearsals, or only do rehearsals under certain circumstances. Some may not be comfortable with changing their prayer -or in not having one at all. This is another reason for thoroughly interviewing, especially on matters that are important to the both of you.
At the end of the screening process ask yourself: Do I feel comfortable with this person? What does your gut tell you when you talk with this person? Do you feel confident to hire their services? If not, don't move forward until this is entirely resolved. Sometimes, just talking about your concerns to the prospective Officiant will clear matters.
If it feels right, then you've probably found the best fit for you.
The Officiant's Fee
Beware the Officiant who charges a ridiculously low fee, does not have adequate experience, doesn’t require a deposit, doesn't offer a contract, doesn’t keep a journal of events, doesn’t fingerprint the bridal couple, or doesn’t have liability insurance. I can't tell you how many calls we get from panicked couples because their "professional" wedding Officiant backed out of the wedding less than a week before, and they have no signed contract. You don't want an amateur handling this aspect of your big day. Florida Nuptials has a contract to review on the website. Your deposit is a legal and binding addendum to the posted contract and guarantees our services.
A professional job is worth a fair price considering the time, work, and expense put forth by a high-quality Officiant. If you've been secretly wondering why the rate for some Officiants seems high for the amount of time it takes to deliver your ceremony, let’s clarify some things.
First of all, let’s look at the actual time that is included:
· Most basic ceremonies last around 8-15 minutes and custom ceremonies last around 30 minutes.
· Officiants generally arrive up to 30 minutes prior to the ceremony to facilitate last minute coordination, and stay an additional 15-20 minutes after the completion of the ceremony to sign the license, congratulate the couple and pose for photos.
· With the Custom Plan, the initial getting acquainted meeting lasts 45 minutes to an hour.
· It takes an hour or more to work on the ceremony.
· Driving time to and from the ceremony must be included.
· There is generally an additional 30-60 minutes of email time during the course of our pre-ceremony relationship to answer questions, etc. The staff at Florida Nuptials advises couples on everything from bringing children into the ceremony, the marriage license, wedding etiquette, perfect location, alternative locations in case of rain, etc, etc, etc..
When you factor in the additional information, this actually brings a "15 Minute Ceremony" up to nearly 4 to 5 hours of time on the part of the Officiant.
Let's also take the following expenses into account.
· How do the bridal couples find us? Through one of the wedding sites upon which we advertise or our website that costs to design, maintain and host in order to give prospective clients complete information on our services as well as access to other helpful resources.
· Add in the cost of gasoline, car insurance and maintenance to get us to the ceremony on time
· Office expenses, ministerial vestments, clothing, dry cleaning, binders, phone costs, bank fees, postage, business taxes, membership dues, paper, ink, postage, etc. etc.
Don’t forget to include the ceremony resources that which each couple has access to in order to create their ceremony. Most Officiants have been writing ceremonies for years and have compiled a wealth of options for vows, prayers, blessings, readings, etc, as well as creative ideas to incorporate into the ceremony. Florida Nuptials has an 83 page booklet of resources compiled and used over the years through the Custom Plan.
The job as an Officiant is not as simple as showing up and reading the script. Consider the following mishaps that have happened to couples that we have wed in the past. Flower girls go off in the wrong direction, microphones choke mid ceremony, brides and grooms cry uncontrollably during their vows, Dads need calming, family members squabble, lines get flubbed by the bride and groom, the drivers license gets misplaced, the ring bearer drops the pillow & rings, the rings are left in the hotel room, rain begins to fall halfway through the ceremony, the sand ceremony table blows over... The groom is starting to stress and turns to the Officiant, who offers reassuring words of encouragement. It goes on and on. A professional wedding Officiant is going to be able to handle just about any situation that comes along on the day of the wedding.
The ceremony is filled with wonderfully creative ideas that the Officiant has provided. It is delivered by a proficient public speaker who projects loudly enough for even those in the back row to hear. Along the way, the Officiant has offered support, guidance, and encouragement. A professional wedding Officiant is equal parts emcee, etiquette adviser, coordinator, script-writer, organizer, frayed nerve-soother and legal resource.
The wedding Officiant is one of the lowest wedding vendor fees that a couple will pay, yet having a bad one can ruin what should be the couple's most special day. While we respect the right of each couple to prioritize their wedding spending, it is always surprising when a couple will spend tremendous amounts of money on things like cake, cutesy favors and a limousine, only to seek a bare bones ceremony--which is the heart of the wedding day. Down the road, you will want to remember the words of commitment you spoke as being meaningful and poignant compared to how moist your cake was or that you had a limo.
The bottom line is, expect to pay a fair price for a professional service and remember the simple rule - you get what you pay for. Choose an Officiant you feel confident with, and allow them to guide you in the process to create a wedding ceremony that you will look back and smile about!
Do I Tip The Officiant?
Tipping is discretionary, and of course greatly appreciated. It is a common practice to give a gratuity if you are pleased with the services that have been provided. As previously mentioned, there is the time of ceremony preparation, office phone & utility bills, printing & misc. office costs, gasoline, automobile expenses, drive time to & from any meetings, clothes to officiate in, dry cleaning for clothes, and all the time involved with responding to emails and phone calls. There's a lot more that goes into an 8-30 minute ceremony than meets the eye. A good officiant makes it seem effortless, which makes it a smooth process for you.