5 things to consider when hiring a wedding officiantby Beverly Sullivant--NJ Wedding Minister on 07/26/12
Since most brides (and grooms) are on a budget for their big day, they often shop for their officiant by price. Price is not the only marker of value. Here are 5 other things to consider when selecting the person who will help you make the most meaningful commitment of your life.
First, find out if the officiant is based in a place that is close to your ceremony location. I recently was considered as a possibility for a wedding in Ocean County, NJ. Since I live and work in the northern-most part of Morris County, NJ, this distance was going to be a serious challenge. As much as the couple and I enjoyed getting to know each other in our phone conversations, the decision about hiring me came down to geography. It just didn't make sense to risk my being able to arrive in time for their weekend-at-the-shore celebration. I was glad for them that they continued their search and found an officiant who was much closer to the venue.
Questions to ask a prospective officiant: How long will it take you to get to my ceremony venue? Have you ever driven to this area on a day and at a time that is similar to my wedding day/time?
#2 Rehearsal needs
Will you need your officiant to be present at, and even coordinate, your rehearsal? This question requires a lot of thinking and depends upon the management at your ceremony venue and/or your wedding coordinator (if you are having one). Some bridal couples may think they are doing the right thing in saving money by hiring me at my most inexpensive level--the Basic Package. With this package, I work with the couple ahead of time to create the right ceremony text for them. And then, on the day of the wedding, I arrive (at least) an hour in advance and wait to take my place to perform the ceremony we agreed on. With this package, I have not been hired to coordinate any kind of rehearsal.
This works when there is a coordinator at the venue, or you have hired your own wedding coordinator who can line up the bridal party and give them directions for walking to their places (including the pacing of the walking, how to stand, what to do with the bouquets, etc.). A good officiant, because he or she has been to and led many weddings, will know how to rehearse the group for the ceremony. But this rehearsal takes extra time (even an extra drive to the venue because most rehearsals take place on a day other than the ceremony day) and preparation (we need to put our "rehearsing" caps on long before we arrive!). If you are going to need the officiant to lead the rehearsal, plan for this cost as you shop for this person.
Questions to ask yourself: Do I have the rehearsal covered already? Or, will I need/want my officiant to do this?
#3 Ceremony Needs
Some couples want to have a very short ceremony, with the guests being seated for only a brief time while the vows and rings are exchanged and the couple is pronounced husband and wife. Then it's off to the main attraction--the reception.
Other couples desire a ceremony that sets the tone for the reception as well as for the rest of their lives. This kind of ceremony includes a couple of well researched and carefully matched readings that reveal the nature and nuances of the couple and their families. This kind of ceremony has unity rituals that reflect the combining to two or more lives into one relationship. This kind of ceremony might include a personal message presented by the officiant. Such a message would be based on in-person meetings as well as the completion of questionnaires that illicit specific and special information about the couple and the kind of life the dream of together. Lastly, in many cases, this kind of ceremony comes with a keepsake copy of the ceremony text so that couples can pore over every word of the experience that made them married.
Seriously think about the importance and priority do you intend to give your ceremony during the course of your whole wedding day. After a lot of thinking, then start interviewing the officiants you think can provide the wedding you want.
Questions to ask yourself: What kind of ceremony do I/we want? Short, simple? Or full and vibrant and able to speak for us as a couple? Can this officiant provide the ceremony I/we are envisioning?
#4 Flexibility with other vendors
The officiant is not the only important vendor at your ceremony. You'll have a photographer, or two, and possibly a videographer. You'll have someone to provide music whether it be a string quartet, a pianist, a soloist or even a DJ with and iPod. You might have a wedding coordinator who is under a lot of stress making sure all of the details are correct. Your officiant needs to be a professional who provides respect and deferential treatment to the rest of your ceremony team.
Let me offer an example of the kind of flexibility I provide. Recently I presided at a wedding held in the church where I serve as pastor. During a downtime in the ceremony (i.e., not during the vows or the readings), I noticed that the bride and groom were whispering to one another and giggling and displaying a loving regard for each other and for their special day. I figured that the photographer might want to capture these tender moments. In order to do so, the photographer needed to stand behind me up on the altar, which is rather taboo for a church setting. I decided that, for this specific situation, the flexibility of having the photographer walk around for a few minutes was warranted. Later, I learned how appreciative he was of my flexibility when he thanked me profusely for the generosity of the moment.
Questions to ask a prospective officiant: How will you interact with the other professionals at my wedding? What wedding vendor is most important during the ceremony? (This is somewhat of a trick question. You are looking for someone who will say all of the vendors are important.) What are some of the things you've done in the past to help other vendors do their job well?
#5 What do others think?
Check the reviews about your proposed officiant. Find out what other couples (brides mostly) say about the person you consider hiring. Look at the words more than the scoring and determine if there are matches between another couple's wedding experience and the one you and your fiance hope to have.
Questions to ask yourself: Were the other couples pleased with the length of the ceremony? Have the other couples mentioned the work this officiant did in advance of the wedding day? Does it seem like the officiant was personable and likeable?
I hope all of this provides you and your fiance with a roadmap leading you to the officiant who can do the best job at your wedding.
For more information about me and my services as an officiant, visit my website at www.beverlysullivant.com.