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Some Advice About Working with an Officiant

A good or great wedding does not happen by accident. It takes a lot of planning and coordination.  When guests enjoy the ceremony, they have more fun at the wedding. Your officiant can make your ceremony beautiful or not.  It is better to have the officiant you want rather than the one you can find on short notice.


It’s important to book your officiant well in advance.  You should arrange for an officiant as soon as you have a firm date, made a decision whether you will be holding a rehearsal, and the location is narrowed down (if not firmed up). 

Generally, officiants include a get-to-know-you meeting with the couple, followed by two or three planning sessions. Most officiants provide several options for ceremony wording and structure, as well as a choice of readings. On the wedding day, the officiant arrives early to make certain everything is in order (including the couple).  Afterward, the officiant mails the marriage license to the county so it can be officially recorded.  In most cases, the couple’s copy of the marriage certificate is available immediately after the ceremony, so if you are going to be busy with photographers and such, it is good to have a designated person who can ensure you receive your license in a timely manner.  The certified marriage license is something you'll need to request from the local office that is responsible for issuing the license to you, so don't expect the officiant to take care of that for you(as the officiant can't do that for you).

Officiants usually are not wedding planners.  Most are happy to offer suggestions about how the ceremony may be planned so things run smoothly, and to help with the choreography of the wedding party:  getting in and out of the wedding space, where to stand so those who are participating in—and those viewing—the ceremony are positioned so everything is visually appealing and no one is tripping over anyone else.  Officiants have been around the block and may have some useful suggestions.  If they offer, take them to heart—and do as you see fit.  If you want some help, ask.


As with any other professional, the person performing your wedding ceremony is providing a service. You’re not just paying for his or her time; you are also paying for knowledge and experience, just like you would be with any other professional.  The fee an officiant may charge is based on a number of factors.  A “cookie-cutter” ceremony will most likely cost the least and will be the least personalized.  If you are looking for a more customized ceremony (and many officiants prefer to work on these kinds of ceremonies), the fee will be a little higher.  Travel distances will also make a difference in cost (and sometimes this is in addition to the fee for the ceremony itself).  Make certain you and the officiant are in sync regarding what you are looking for and what the officiant can provide.


Because you have many things to be concerned with, one approach may be to prepare an envelope in advance with your officiant’s payment inside and give it to someone you trust with strict instructions. Make certain you include in your plans how you will pay the fee (if any); it's not something to be left to chance. The best man or the bride’s father are two possibilities, and the designated person will then pass the envelope to your officiant.  just a couple of things to bear in mind:  If your officiant invoices you, pay the invoice. If your officiant has a contract, abide by the terms of the contract.  If you plan pay at the rehearsal or the ceremony, it's best to have someone (other than the folks getting married) take care of this--maybe including it with the delivery of the marriage license is the best approach.

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