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Choosing an Officiant for your Wedding Ceremony

By Rev. Mandi Neiser...Married by Mandi

   Congratulations! Chances are you´ve recently become engaged. How exciting for both of you! If you consider the wedding ceremony the most important part of your day, we´ve already got something in common, and I´m happy we´ve found each other!

   The date is booked, the hall is rented, the D.J. is hired and the dress has been chosen. You think you´ve covered everything, until you realize one small detail. "Who´s going to marry us?" Of course, if you plan to marry in a church, your Minister, Pastor or Priest will have the honour of presiding over your vows, but if you don´t belong to a church, or simply prefer a more non-traditional or more spiritual ceremony, you will need to find someone to perform the ceremony at the location you have chosen! So now the daunting task of finding an Officiant begins. But it certainly doesn´t have to be an overwhelming task, especially if you are prepared, and know what you´re looking for!

Begin with the end in mind:
   First of all, you need to decide what type of ceremony is most important and suitable to you and your fiancé. Are you looking for a religious ceremony, a secular ceremony or something in the middle; a more spiritual ceremony that incorporates the traditions of your individual families. For example, this past summer, I married a couple who wanted a very spiritual ceremony, and also wanted to incorporate some of the Philippine wedding traditions into the body of the ceremony. We worked together to find a way to make it happen. In this particular case, a member of the family was asked to facilitate that particular portion of the ceremony, while I stepped aside and watched it unfold with wonder; like the rest of the guests. It was such a pleasure to witness!

   There are many instances where a couple with completely different faiths come together, and I believe it is so important to incorporate the blessings, prayers, rituals, customs and traditions that are most important to you and the families involved. In cases where couples are not sure whether or not to incorporate religious material into their ceremony, like a specific prayer, for example, I ask them to consider their guests; especially grandparents and other members of the family from the "older" generation, who are quite happy with the ways of the traditional wedding ceremony. I know through experience and feedback over the years that they certainly appreciate hearing the word of God in a simple, yet elegant blessing or prayer.

Choosing a Flexible Officiant:
   Of course, all this is only possible if your Officiant is flexible, creative and willing to work with you to create a ceremony that is special and unique to the two of you! As the couple getting married, you have the right to make decisions based on what you believe and how you feel you would like your ceremony to flow. You need someone who will guide you through the maze of options and decisions helping you and your fiancé along the way to make choices that are most suitable for the type of ceremony you desire.

   In fact, sometimes couples don´t even know what they want! Either they´ve never been involved in a wedding ceremony as part of the wedding party, or they have never even been to a wedding themselves! Quite often I get phone calls from either the bride or the groom, and they aren´t even sure what to ask, let alone voice their wants and needs. I can usually sense their apprehension, so I just begin telling them a bit about myself and the service I provide. It breaks the ice, and they feel much more comfortable with me after they´ve listened to me talk for a minute or two. I do try to set up a meeting with each couple providing they live in the area, so we can meet each other and get to know each other. Face to face meetings and phone conversations are obviously a lot more personal than a connection through email. Although I have booked many weddings by email, I find the connection with the couple is just not the same as when I meet face to face and have a chance to begin building the rapport that is so important between an Officiant and the couple they are marrying.

   Below is a guideline you could use to get to know the Officiant when you are inquiring about their services.

  • Are you willing to travel?
  • Will you perform an outdoor ceremony?
  • Will you allow us to work with you to come up with a ceremony that pleases us both? In other words, how flexible are you?
  • Do we have to attend pre-marital classes before you will marry us?
  • Please tell me what is included in your fee?
  • What is your fee?

   Be prepared to pay anywhere from $200 - $600 for their service! A wedding Officiant is a business professional just like anyone else you have hired for your wedding services, so be prepared to pay them well for it!

How long is the ceremony?
   Some Officiants read from a script and don´t deviate from it at all. These ceremonies are usually no more than 10 or 15 minutes. In that your guests have travelled far and wide to be at your wedding ceremony, I think it is only fair that they be a witness to a ceremony that is not only substantial in length (20-30minutes), but leaves a lasting impression with each person present; allowing them to have a beautiful and profound experience. Isn´t that what it´s all about anyway?

How do we proceed in order to confirm a booking?
   When choosing an Officiant, find out if they have any testimonials from other wedding service people, like photographers, wedding coordinators, etc. Were they referred to you by the event planner at their ceremony venue? Chances are if they came highly recommended, they probably work well with people in the service industry. Ask them what their rules are regarding flash photography during a ceremony. I´ve heard of many Officiants who won´t allow pictures to even be taken once the bride is down the aisle! Is this how you envisioned your wedding scrapbook, without any snapshots from the actual ceremony? And one more thing.....don´t feel obligated to ask your Officiant to join you for the reception! Many times I feel that couples ask me to stay because they genuinely want me there, and other times I think they ask me because they think they have to. Sometimes I have 4 or 5 weddings in one weekend, and I simply want to go home to my own family and a hot cup of tea at the end of the day, so I´m never offended when I don´t receive an invite to the reception. On the other hand, don´t expect your Officiant to stay for the reception, counting on them to say grace without asking them first! I´ve been surprised a few times in the past when the bride says "We´ll see you at dinner", as I´m walking to my car. Never assume anything!

The Ceremony Rehearsal:
   First, you need to make sure a rehearsal is included in the fee? If not, how much extra is this service? Don´t be surprised if it is in fact extra, after all, guiding you through your rehearsal, is like officiating the ceremony twice! In fact, you need to find out if your Officiant is willing and available to reside over your rehearsal; again, don´t assume that it´s part of the package! If not, you need to decide if not having a rehearsal is within your comfort zone. If you don´t feel comfortable, you need to ask him/her if they would be willing to help you plan the rehearsal so you can carry it out on your own. If you are planning a rehearsal, you need to check with your Officiant first before booking a date and time. Remember, in many cases, you´re not the only couple getting married in one weekend, and it can be very tricky planning three rehearsals on the same night!

My rule of thumb regarding the need for a wedding rehearsal is as follows:

  • if you have more than 6 people in the wedding party (not including the bride and groom).
  • If you have children in the wedding party.
  • if members of your wedding party have never been involved in a wedding or never been to a wedding.
  • if you have chosen different options for the ceremony, like the candle lighting ceremony or sand ceremony.
  • if you are becoming a blended family and want all members of the family involved in some way.
  • if the set up of the location is unusual or complicated.

One last thing to consider...
   Is your Officiant fun & easy to work with? I must say this is one of the greatest compliments I´ve received as an Officiant. People are happy to work with me because I am so easy-going and fun to be around. In fact when members of the wedding party start fooling around during the rehearsal, quite often one of the parents will come forward and apologize to me for their behaviour. I just assure them that I would rather be conducting a wedding ceremony for a group of people that want to have fun, than a bunch of straight-laced and serious sticks in the mud! It works out better for all of us to have a little fun during a time that can be quite stressful.

   You may not know your Officiant before the wedding, but by the time you walk down that aisle with your new husband or wife, you should feel like you have known one another for a long time! Through your meetings, phone calls and emails, you will have developed a relationship that feels comfortable; knowing that the person who will marry you, actually cares about you. In choosing the right person to marry you, I encourage you to allocate a reasonable amount of money in your wedding planning budget, and (something that is most often forgotten), you need to allocate and dedicate a specific amount of time to help plan a ceremony that is meaningful and unique. After all, this will be one of the most important days of your life!

Above Article courtesy of:
Married by Mandi
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   Rev. Mandi is an Ordained, Non-Denominational Minister, committed to providing you with a uniquely personalized, beautifully written wedding ceremony performed at the location of your choice. Serving the Niagara Region to Toronto.
Mandi can be reached at 905-664-4257    www.marriedbymandi.ca

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