Marriage can be “the triumph of our lives.” And often in the hustle and bustle of wedding planning, we spend little time deciding whom we would like to officiate at the ceremony.
A few months ago, a couple shared a wedding horror story. They had attended a friend's wedding. The ceremony concluded with a three-part charge. The Officiant offered that marriage encompassed three “rings.” The three rings represent in marriage: the engagement ring, the marriage ring and suffering. They were not impressed, and as we crafted their service, they wanted clear guarantees: No references to suffering!
With attention in choosing an Officiant, these challenges can be avoided. A ceremony that is personal and inspiring not only adds immeasurably to the couples’ wedding day, but to the experience of all those gathered as well. It can be the start of a lasting relationship with a valued fellow traveler on the journey we call “marriage.” What, then, should a couple consider when they chose an Officiant?
What Kind of Ceremony Does He/ She Perform?
This is a critical starting point. Ceremonies vary widely by denomination and by particular clergy. Some clergy are limited in terms of performing a second wedding, a same-sex wedding, etc…. Some have limitations on days and locations.
Likewise, couples will want to inquire about how much they can craft a ceremony in consultation with the Officiant. Some will want just the “standard” or “classic” service. Others search for something more unique. Finding an Officiant who is able to offer what a couple is looking for, then, is significant.
Is Pre-Wedding Counseling Offered?
To build a personal and inspiring service means couples should meet with the Officiant before the service. Some couples may be searching for more from those meetings – searching for help as they learn to move into marriage.
The wedding is important, true. However, the marriage is even more so. Effective pre-wedding counseling is not about giving couples iron-clad answers, but about opening up conversations that lead to closer and closer connection. Can we learn to listen better? Can we “seek to understand before being understood?” Can we learn to “fight fair?” A good Officiant can help you develop and refine those tools.
In my wedding ministry, I ask couples to meet a maximum of six times. These meetings take place in person or online. There is fun homework, great conversation, an occasional tear, and inevitably, a deep “thank you” at the end as they enter their wedding day having built something of value for their marriage.
What About After the Wedding?
For many, the connection with the Officiant is limited to one day. For others, a more lasting relationship develops. Inquire if there are other offerings.
I believe strongly in offering couples not just the ceremony, but also in offering a community. We keep couples in the loop via our newsletter, “Marriage Monthly.” We also host open houses several times a year as well as community service opportunities at locations like the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia.
Many couples make use of those connections. One of the first couples I married still returns every year to talk about their “theme” for the upcoming 12 months. Others get in touch as marriage hits its inevitable challenges – the “dishes and diapers” of relationship. Having a third party to help chart those waters often helps in moving forward.
Your wedding should be the start of a wonderful dance. Memories of your ceremony will last far longer than memories of flowers or food. Marriage can really be “the triumph of our lives.” It takes work to get it there. A well-chosen Officiant offers help with a wedding, true, but also with a marriage.