What does an officiant do?
After we talk about how you want your ceremony to “feel,” (that's another article for another time) and the type of ceremony you envision, let's chat about how to make that happen. That's where the professional officiant comes in.
(Photo by Wendy Carr Photography)
When couples come to me to inquire about their wedding ceremony, they know that they must have someone officiate, but don't really have an idea of what's involved.
Trust me when I say that the officiant's job is SO much more involved than speaking for 15 minutes during your wedding.
First of all, an officiant spend an average of 8-10 hours per wedding for personalized ceremonies. Most of that time is spent before your wedding day, answering emails and phone calls from both new inquiries and current clients, interviewing couples about their ideal ceremony, writing and editing scripts, taking the time to answer questions about the ceremony process and legal paperwork, and attending the wedding itself.
Most people do choose to personalize their ceremony. To accomplish this, the officiant will ask you in-depth questions to delve into your relationship, to pick out nuggets of information that can really give your wedding a tone and voice, with a storytelling flow.
Questionnaires can help officiants get a feel for their couples to determine what type of ceremony they want to have. Do you want it to be more traditional or do you want to include something off-the-wall? Do you want to laugh through the ceremony, or do you want it to be more serious and sentimental? Will religion be mentioned, or will it be without religion all together?
A professional can also help you choose readings and unity rituals (such as a sand ceremony or candle lighting ceremony) or give you insight on trending wedding ceremony ideas that will help illustrate the symbolism of your partnership.
Officiants arrive at every ceremony location early, answer questions as needed, professionally officiate the ceremony and stay for a wedding photo with the couple. The officiant is also responsible for ensuring the witnesses are signing the legal documents correctly, that they themselves are filling out the paperwork correctly, and then mailing that paperwork to the proper authority within the specified timeline.
When a wedding planner is not present, many officiants will also offer to help expertly coordinate your bridal party so that everyone knows exactly where to walk and stand. They will ensure everyone has flowers, rings, and accoutrements before the wedding begins.
The officiant will also act in an official capacity in order to ensure your ceremony runs smoothly, which can include stepping in to avert problems that arise as necessary, such as when the ring bearer drops the rings or any number of minor things.
A professional officiant will understand how important “The Kiss” photos are to the couple, and will move effortlessly out of the frame during this special moment.
Finally, a proactive officiant also spends time and money networking with other vendors in their local area. They are also responsible for the behind-the-scenes aspects of business that clients don't see.
I personally take it a step further. In addition to the duties listed above, I show up to every wedding early to touch base with other vendors to go over any unique elements to the ceremony and organize the bridal party (unless a planner is involved.) I'll send couples questions to ask themselves to guide them on the path to writing their own vows, and will offer to take a look at them once they are completed to give feedback. I am also available to my clients through the entire process to answer any questions they may have regarding the ceremony or the legal aspect of the wedding.
Your wedding is an investment. When you consider that, your wedding officiant is one of the LEAST expensive elements of your wedding, yet the MOST important.
Yes, the minister or officiant is absolutely required for your wedding ceremony to be legally binding. But, don't you want your ceremony to be so much more than a tired old sermon?
Give your ceremony LIFE. Give it PERSONALITY. Make it about YOU. After all, your relationship tells a story. You've been there for that person through their ups and downs. You've seen their best and their worst moments. You've cheered them on when they got that big promotion they've been working toward and you've cried with them when they lost a loved one. All relationships have a story to tell.
This is an excerpt from my new book, "Navigating Your Wedding Ceremony." For more, check out my book on Amazon by clicking this link.
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