Your wedding officiant plays one of—if not THE—most important roles on your big day. This is the person who will set the tone for your ceremony and legitimize your union; it’s not a decision to be made lightly. So how do you find one who fits what you’re looking for?
Decide What Kind of Ceremony You Want
Do you want a ceremony that’s traditional or unique? By the book or personalized? Religious or secular? Couples hire Harris Bloom because they want a ceremony that’s infused with humor (he’s also a stand-up comedian). He says, “We’ve all been to so many wedding ceremonies and don’t remember them because they’re pretty much the same.” He offers something different and memorable by blending personal stories about the couple with light-hearted moments. Whatever you want, there’s probably someone out there who offers it; it’s really just a matter of knowing what that is. For example, Mack Harris is an ordained minister, but he does all sorts of weddings. He says, “My tagline is: it’s your day, your way.”
Make Sure You Have a Connection with the Officiant
Mack Harris loves doing weddings. “People are happy. They’re in love. It’s a time to celebrate.” But he points out there’s a big distinction about what the officiant brings to the day. “The flowers, reception, cake, music… that’s all about the wedding. What the officiant brings is all about the marriage. And while the ceremony is only going to last twenty minutes, the marriage is going to hopefully last a lifetime.” Therefore, he says, he really focuses on getting couples to emotionally show up and be in the moment. He says having a personal connection is very important which is why he likes to meet couples face to face. Sometimes that’s not possible (a lot of people come in from out of town), so he makes sure to talk with them on the phone or Skype. He says, “If you don’t feel good about the officiant after spending 15 or 20 minutes with them, don’t go forward.”
Find Out if They’re Flexible
Mack Harris says you don’t want to go with someone who is locked into doing the ceremony a specific way. Instead, find out if the officiant is okay with you providing input. If you want to have a family member doing a reading, make sure that’s something he or she can work into the ceremony. The same thing goes for tone, Harris Bloom says who sometimes has couples ask if they can read what he’s planning to say ahead of time. “I’ve had people ask me to take out some of the funny parts–and that’s okay,” he says. It’s all about making the couple happy.”
See How Personal They’ll Make the Ceremony
Harris Bloom uses the personal details he learns about a couple ahead of their big day to make the ceremony funny. But even if you don’t want humor to play a major part, it’s still important to decide how personal you’d like the officiant to make the ceremony. Bloom gives his couples a questionnaire to fill out and asks things like “How did you meet?”, “Give me three words to describe your fiancé,” and “Why do you want to spend the rest of your life with this person?” These are the types of details that make guests feel like he’s known the couple for much longer than he actually has.
Ask How Much They Charge
The officiant’s rate will likely be based on the date, time of day, and how far he has to travel. Some officiants may charge extra for additional ceremonies like unity candles or sand ceremonies. It’s important to understand all of the costs upfront.
Plan Ahead of Time
Harris Bloom says, “People spend so much time thinking about the venue, the food, and the flowers, and then I get a call two weeks before the wedding.” The officiant is important so you want to start thinking about who it will be as soon as you book the venue.
Find Out the Officiant’s Schedule on the Day of the Wedding
Mack Harris points out that it’s important to ask potential officiants if they will be flexible if the wedding starts late, as is wont to happen. “Life happens. Schedules get messy,” he says. “The bride needs to feel the officiant is not putting additional stress on an already stressful situation.”
Ask Them About Their Favorite Wedding
A good way to get a sense of the officiant is to ask him or her to describe a favorite wedding. Mack Harris tells a story about a wedding he did in Laguna Beach. “It was a rainy day,” he says. And it was just himself, the bride, the groom, and a photographer. The couple had picked their perfect spot on the beach and everyone had to climb over a few rocks to get there. “Here I am with an umbrella in one hand, helping the bride climb up the rocks with the other hand…” And when they got to the spot, it started raining harder. “I’ve got my book in one hand, my big umbrella in the other hand, and the three of us are all standing beneath it…” And something about that, he says, made the couple so much more emotionally connected. “They were brought to tears during the ceremony.” And afterward? The rain left up and the photographer was able to get some amazing pictures. He says it’s one of his favorite weddings to this day.
Read Their Reviews
We asked Mack Harris and Harris Bloom to offer advice for this article because of their outstanding reviews on Thumbtack. After all, no one knows about whether or not the officiant was a success more than the bride and groom who hired him.
Here’s how to find a wedding officiant in your area.
Top image: Edmund Blair Leighton “Signing the Register”