Officiator. Minister. Clergy. Priest. Justice of the Peace. Judge. Magistrate. Rabbi. These are all wedding officiators. Some will only perform religious ceremonies within their own churches, while others will perform civil, secular, spiritual, religious and non-denominational religious ceremonies. Each state has guidelines as to what the qualifications are to perform a legal wedding ceremony in that state.

The services of a wedding officiate is required for every wedding being held. A wedding can be held with just a bride, groom, two witnesses, and an officiator. If a couple is getting married in their church, the priest or pastor of the church will perform the ceremony. However, many couples are choosing to get married in more non-traditional venues, such as banquet halls, municipal parks, historic sites, chapels, gazebos, restaurants, and private homes. At these venues, an officiator must be booked separately. Some venues have vendor lists, which they share with their clients.

When deciding who will officiate at your ceremony, there are many factors to be considered. The officiator’s education and training in public speaking, wedding ceremony planning, wedding ceremony and vow construction are a few. Also consider the sound of their voice, their personality, their flexibility, whether they require marriage counseling, and their rules and restrictions for the ceremony. It's also important to inquire about their fees. Are there deposit requirements? How are cancellations handled? These are all important areas that require consideration. Another area to consider would be their "back-up plan," in the event that they get sick or have an emergency that prevents them from performing the ceremony.

During the initial meeting, it should be made clear what specific services the officiator provides, and at what cost. Does the fee include a rehearsal or is that a separate charge? A rehearsal should generally be held to ensure a well-orchestrated wedding, but there are exceptions to that rule. If the wedding is very small or there are only two attendants in the bridal party, then a rehearsal might not be required. A rehearsal is mostly so the bridal party can learn what to do and when. The decision about whether or not to have a rehearsal should be made by the couple, their bridal consultant (if they have one), and the officiator. Some officiators do not attend the rehearsal, as they only perform the ceremony and choose not to get involved with any of the mechanics of the ceremony itself. This may be a concern for some couples.

Many officiators have a set ceremony that they offer, but there are also those that create customized ceremonies specifically for each couple. There are many additions that can be included, such as: the unity candle, the unity sand, the rose, the hand, the family unity, and the marriage vessel ceremony. Some officiators may allow these additions and some may not. Additionally, other religious or family traditions may be desired by the couple. Be sure to discuss your needs with the officiator if this is the case.

Does the officiator provide a draft of the ceremony for proofing? May the couple write their own vows or make changes in the scripts that are offered them? How long will the ceremony be? These are all things that should be discussed with the officiator before he or she is contracted.

Many couples obtain the services of a bridal coordinator or wedding day director, but, unfortunately, not all couples do. Many banquet halls that hold ceremonies have on-site coordinators to assist with rehearsals, but some do not. Therefore, the wedding officiator can be called on to also either coordinate the rehearsal in its entirety, or to assist the bridal or on-site coordinator. Is your officiator experienced in this area? Can he or she coordinate with the photographer, ceremony music provider, vocalist, readers, sound technicians, and other vendors? These are functions that officiators should have experience in, especially if there isn’t a bridal consultant available.

 The attire of an officiator can vary. Men usually wear a suit or a clergy robe. Women, however, can wear a suit, a dress, a pantsuit or a clergy robe. The color of the attire should be considered, especially for women officiators, so as not to clash with the bridal party. The right colors and style of attire is very important for wedding pictures. The best solution is for the bride and groom to discuss this with the officiator ahead of time. The couple may have a preference, or they may leave it up to the officiator. If they leave it up to the officiator, then the color scheme of the wedding should be considered.

It is proper to send a wedding invitation to the officiator and their spouse.  Some invitations will be accepted, although some may not because they have other obligations that keep them from attending. That is a personal decision that each officiator will make individually.

Is a gratuity required or expected by the officiator? No, but if the couple is pleased with how the services have been performed, a gratuity is a way to express gratitude for providing a beautiful ceremony. Even if no gratuity is given, it is nice for the new Mr. and Mrs. to send a thank-you card expressing how they felt about their ceremony and the services received. They might even include a picture taken during the ceremony, which will always be appreciated.

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Loretta McDaniel | Report Abuse

I am getting married on July 4, 2014. I would really like to have a Church of God preacher to do our ceremony. If not a Church of God preacher, a Methodist preacher. My email is lorettamcdaniel34@gmail.com. I live in Cookeville, Tennessee. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. THANK U!!!

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Gaea | Report Abuse

Congratulations, Loretta! We have a listing of officiants in your area: http://www.gatheringguide.com/event_dir/tn_tennessee/cookeville/evl_wedding_officiants.html Hope this helps!

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Linda Lehman-Murphy | Report Abuse

Emily is absolutely right!! Life-Cycle Celebrants are a very special group of people educated in the creation and delivery of meaningful and personalized ceremonies. Choose such an officiant for your wedding to make it an unforgettable day and truly amazing ceremony. Yes, training through the Celebrant Foundation and Institute prepares your officiant to make your wedding day heartfelt and the story of you! Linda Lehman-Murphy, Certified Life-Cycle wedding celebrant. Thanks Emily!

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Emily VanLaeys | Report Abuse

You missed one one type of wedding officiator - the wedding CELEBRANT! Celebrants receive special training in the art and orchestration of meaningful ceremonies that are expressly written for each individual couple. Most celebrants in the US are trained and certified by the Celebrant Foundation & Institute. Emily VanLaeys, certified wedding celebrant

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