You’ve thought about the dress, the dinner, the cake, and the photographer to capture all these beautifully-crafted details. But have you thought about the ceremony?
Because it can be one of the toughest parts of the wedding planning process, people often leave hiring a wedding officiant until the last minute. Let’s face it, deciding how to best profess your love and commitment is overwhelming. But an experienced wedding officiant can guide you safely through the process (and help you remember why you’re getting married in the first place).
How Officiants Can Help
If you need guidance on finding the best fit for your relationship and background, a wedding officiant can be a veritable godsend. Reverend Bonnie of Ring in Love says, “I do a little educating to let the couple know that there’s a difference between religious and spiritual, and how that can be expressed through particular language in a ceremony.”
A wedding officiant can also manage the details of the ceremony itself. “I customize the ceremony, meet with the couple, answer unlimited phone calls and emails, travel to the wedding site, conduct the ceremony, send in the paperwork, and remain available for any other questions they might have,” says Brian.
Standard Versus Customized Ceremonies
Many officiants have standard ceremonies prepared. “It’s a bit more vague and not specific to the couple,” says Brian Borgia of Monterey Bay Weddings. That’s always an option, if you’re on a tight timeline or budget or feel so overwhelmed that you’d prefer to go with basic wording.
But if you’d like it personalized, most officiants offer custom ceremonies – penned just for you and your soon-to-be-spouse. “I sit down, interview the couple, then tell the story of how they met and fell in love and why they decided to get married, with funny stories intermixed,” says Brian. He’ll add readings, either chosen by the couple or by him. “I sit down and write their ceremony from scratch rather than saying, ‘Here are ten different templates and I’ll just insert your name’.”
What You Need To Know Before Sitting Down With a Potential Officiant
How many folks are attending? Where’s the venue? Are you going to be inside or outside? Do you have a bridal party? Will you need help with the rehearsal? How did you fall in love? What’s your pet name for each other? How do you show love for each other? What does getting married mean to you? What do you cherish most about each other? “I use those kinds of questions to help the couple get centered and hone in on what they really want for the ceremony,” says Bonnie.
How To Plan For Taxes and Tipping at Your Wedding
Taxes can be tricky as it depends on who you want to perform your ceremony. Pastors or ordained ministers fall under a different tax law than licensed wedding officiants. “You probably don’t understand clergy tax,” laughs Mark, a pastor. So be sure to ask.
Brian, on the other hand, only charges sales tax if it’s part of one of the larger packages his company provides. “If we have a package that includes chairs, music, flowers, et cetera, the entire thing is taxable. But if it’s just me as an officiant and all I’m doing is performing the ceremony, it’s not.”
Tipping your officiant is not required, but always appreciated. Brian wants to make sure people don’t feel obligated, but “I think for any service industry, it’s a nice thing.”
How To Hire Right Officiant For You
“If a person says they’re an ordained minister, ask them how they became ordained,” suggests Bonnie. “Often,people will just go and get an internet ordination. I’m not saying they can’t be good officiants, but I went to seminary for seven years and worked very hard, so when I do a wedding, I go with my full being. This is a real calling.”
“How many weddings do you contract in a day?” Bonnie suggests asking. “If it’s more than two, I would ask about it. Don’t be afraid to ask your officiant, ‘Tell me about a ceremony that you’ve done. Tell me about the simplest ceremony and tell me about the most complicated.’ An officiant that has experience and expertise won’t even blink.”
Make sure your officiant is reliable – you can do this by checking their Thumbtack reviews. Mark Turansky, an officiant and pastor in Hawaii, has a fully prepared list of questions to help brides think through every detail of their wedding. “If you want to get married at sunset, what time is sunset? How do you get your wedding license the minute you set foot here in Hawaii? It’s all there, baby. All a bride has to do is go down the list. That kind of detail is what brides are looking for because they’re overwhelmed.”
Ready to get started? Hire a wedding officiant.