If you ever wondered what goes into officiating your wedding this article if for you! Your wedding ceremony is usually about 30 minutes long but what makes that 30 minutes the most memorable 30 minutes of your life? The time the officiant spends preparing! The truth is I can only speak for myself and let you know that I invest many hours and days of time working with each couple I have the honor of marrying. When I initially receive an inquiry, I first check my calendar, review the website of the venue and set up an information sheet with all of the details provided in the inquiry. Once I do that, I reach out to a couple via their preferred method of communication, perhaps it's a phone call or maybe an email. Once I have connected with a couple, an important initial call is set up so that I can answer preliminary questions and set up an in-person consultation. The initial contact, research, emails and call can take an hour or two over the period of a few days.
Once the consultation is scheduled, I allow plenty of time to meet with the couple. I want us all to get to know one another without feeling rushed. Therefore, I spend as much time necessary to ensure each couple has the chance to share their story, ask me questions and discuss their ceremony wishes. I love to meet over a cup of coffee or tea (my treat!) so that we can relax and enjoy the consultation. I travel to the consultation location, spend at least an hour or two with each couple and then head back to my office to send follow-up information. Once the date is booked the joy of creating the personalized ceremony begins!
In creating a ceremony, I write an initial draft and consider all the details that the couple expressed as being important. I proofread and edit and then I pause. I like to let a draft sit for a bit so that I can go back to it with fresh eyes and make any further revisions that I feel are important. This process takes a number of hours over a few days until I think it's ready to send to the couple.
Once sent, I happily await feedback and make any changes requested until the ceremony feels exactly right to the couple. Sometimes this involves researching additional reading options, adding an element not previously considered or assisting with vow writing. This part of the process is very important because it leads to the final version for the wedding day. For that reason, I am always available to each couple to assist in edits, additions, moral support, suggested revisions, etc... My goal is to make sure the final draft reflects the ceremony each couple is dreaming of. This process takes as much or as little time as each couple needs but minimally several hours over the period of time leading to the wedding day.
As the day of the wedding approaches, I email each couple with reminders regarding licensing and items to have at the venue for the ceremony. I will touch base via phone, email or in person to discuss the rehearsal, the processional, last minute details, etc... Every couple I work with knows they can reach out to me at any time and I am happy to answer their questions.
On the day of the ceremony I arrive at least one hour ahead of ceremony start time. I check in with the venue, the other ceremony vendors and of course, the bride and groom! I oversee the signing of the license, complete the officiant section and provide a copy to the couple. I make sure the ceremony site is set and ready and that the wedding party is organized and assembled.
Finally the big moment arrives! The processional music starts and the ceremony begins! For the next 30 minutes of your life, time will stand still as I officiate your ceremony elements, and you share your vows and I do's. Rings are exchanged and you are pronounced married, share a kiss and head to the celebration!
After the wedding day, I file the signed license at the appropriate municipality. I continue to remain available to each couple for questions they may have about their marriage certificate or anything else. From the wedding day to the license filing I spend several hours in total depending on the location of the ceremony.
The bottom line is that I will spend as much time necessary to create ceremonies that resonate with each couple. I provide this information so that you can be equipped with knowledge when you are in the process of selecting an officiant. Keep in mind that your wedding ceremony is one of the most beautiful, meaningful, memorable and profound moments of your life; you will want an officiant who understands that. As an officiant, I find joy in investing the time each couple deserves to have the wedding ceremony they wish for.
As always, please feel free to reach out to me if I can be of assistance. Thank you and I wish you happy wedding planning!!
Once in awhile I meet with an engaged couple and one or both of them tell me that they have never attended a wedding. Although this is the exception, it got me thinking about how much (or little) any engaged couple knows about the elements in a wedding ceremony. Even if a couple has attended a wedding or two, how much knowledge was retained about how it all went down? Afterall, the ceremony is followed by an evening of cocktails, dinner and dancing.
So now it's your turn to tie the knot and plan your wedding ceremony. It can be overwhelming knowing where to start if you have no or limited knowledge about the framework of a wedding ceremony. Here is where an experienced officiant can help!
A wedding ceremony begins with the processional. Once the officiant takes their place after the guests have been seated, the parents, grandparents or other VIP guests enter down the aisle to processional music. Sometimes the groom (or same sex partner) enters with his/her parents. The groom and groomsmen can also walk down the aisle, enter from the side or escort the bridesmaids and then the bridesmaids (if not escorted by groomsmen), flowergirls and ring bearers proceed. Usually there is a change in music, the guests rise and the bride (or same sex partner) and his/her escort walk down the aisle. In same sex weddings, sometimes each partner comes down the aisle with an escort immediately following the rest of the bridal party. Although these are all pretty traditional options, there is no "right" way. This is your day after all and you and your future spouse can make up the rules!
Once everyone is in place the ceremony officially begins. Oftentimes the couple will want the officiant to first ask the escort(s) or parent(s) for their blessing. This is an old tradition that originally intended for the "bride" to be given away to the "groom". Nowadays there are ways of approaching this that are modern and can include all the parents or special loved ones. Of course, this doesn't have to be part of your ceremony if it does not feel right to you.
As the ceremony begins, your guests are welcomed and thanked and the option of acknowledging loved ones as being present in spirit can be included. As the ceremony continues the officiant will usually share a few words about you and your love and perhaps some wisdom about the meaning of marriage.
If a prayer or blessing is important to you, of course it should be included in your ceremony. You can discuss with your officiant how much or how little reference to spirituality or religion you would like. Many times, a couple getting married are from two different religious backgrounds, or perhaps religion was not a part of their lives. It's good to be open about what feels right to you when you meet with your officiant. Your wedding day is about you!
Vows are a big part of the wedding ceremony. You may choose to write your own or you may choose to have your officiant provide them. The vows can be read or memorized (although this can be a challenge on your wedding day!) or your officiant can prompt you to repeat after him/her. Vows are the promises of commitment you are making to one another and therefore should be meaningful and thoughtful.
The declaration of intention is the moment when you say "I do!" Your officiant will ask each of you if you take one another to be wed and you will each respond I do or I will. This is the part of the wedding ceremony (along with the marriage license) that makes the marriage legally binding. The declaration of intention is essential!
You may wish to have a unity moment during the ceremony. The unity moment is a symbolic, visual way to represent your union. This moment can be classic and traditional (like a unity candle lighting) or unique and unexpected. An experienced officiant will help you design the perfect unity moment. I have lots of ideas to share and I have been given lots of unity moment ideas from couples as well. Sometimes cultural traditions are recognized during the unity moment. The unity moment is a way you can put your signature on your wedding ceremony.
Sometimes a couple decides to invite someone up to do a reading in honor of their wedding day. The reading can be spiritual, biblical or something from literature, poetry or music. Usually one or two readings is perfect. The reader may be someone you wanted to include in a special way in your wedding day, maybe it's a parent, a member of your bridal party or a dear friend. Your officiant can give you options or you may select your own readings. The most important thing, if you choose to have readings, is that they resonate with you!
Once vows and I do's have happened, wedding rings are exchanged. Traditionally the best man holds the rings, although sometimes the ring bearer has them. I find that most couples give the ring bearer symbolic rings to carry down the aisle and have an adult hold on to the actual bling! Another variation is to have the best man (or woman) hold one ring and have the maid/matron/man of honor hold the other. The officiant will ask for the rings and give them to each of you to place on the other's finger as you say a few words. Like the vows, those words can be your own, memorized or prompted by the officiant.
After the ring exchange, the officiant may say a few closing words, you are pronounced married and you get to share your first married kiss - yay!! You may ask your officiant to introduce you as Mr. and Mrs. before the music begins again and your recessional begins.
During the recessional the married couple walk back up the aisle, followed by the wedding party, parents and officiant. Of course everyone can't wait to say congratulations to the newlyweds and then the party begins!!
My best advice for creating your wedding ceremony are these three things:
1. Select an officiant that you have good chemistry with. You want someone knowledgeable, experienced, responsive and with good reviews. Ask for references, meet with possible choices and then go with your gut. Your officiant should feel right, it will make all the difference in the sincerity of your ceremony and the feelings that are shared and evoked.
2. Create a wedding ceremony that is meaningful to you. The party is wonderful but it is your ceremony that sets the tone for the rest of the celebration. The wedding day is about getting married after all, so invest some time in making sure your ceremony is memorable. Remember, you have all the creative license in the world to dream up the ceremony you are wishing for and the right officiant will make that dream come true. It's more than okay to color outside the lines, think outside the box or keep close to tradition. Your wedding ceremony is the reflection of who you are as a couple and the only right way to do it is to be you!
3. Breathe, relax, enjoy, take in every moment, be present. This is a once in a lifetime, best day ever experience and you don't want to miss a thing.
I wish you every happiness and all the best as you plan your wedding ceremony. I am happy to meet with you for a consultation and help in anyway possible. May you all enjoy decades of health and joy as you journey through life together!
"Congratulations!! You are engaged and enjoying the moment, as you should. Eventually as you float back down to earth the realization that wedding planning must begin starts to sink in. It's really important (and sometimes very challenging) to not let the "to do's" get in the way of the "I do's"! Remember the whole purpose of the wedding is to begin your marriage. The wedding is fun, but the marriage is forever.
Luckily there are a lot of great resources available to newly engaged couples that provide timelines for wedding planning. The average amount of time people spent planning their wedding is about 14.5 months according to The Knot. This is only an average and I have booked ceremonies anywhere from 2 years out to two weeks out! The sooner you book your wedding vendors, the better your chances of getting your first choice options.
If you are having your wedding at a place of worship, once booked, your officiant is usually a part of the package. However, many couples are choosing to have their ceremonies at their reception venue. Once you have selected the venue, it's not too soon to book your other major vendors. Photography, music, flowers and the officiant should be your next priority. Keep in mind that certain times of year are more popular then others. It's important, especially if you want to book your first choices, that you reach out to possible vendors as soon as you set your date.
Booking an officiant is a process. You should reach out to 2 or 3 that you are considering and learn about how they work with couples. Schedule consultations in person so that you can meet your potential officiant. Having good chemistry with the person you invite to marry you is important and adds to the sincerity of your ceremony.
Twelve months before your wedding day you should start researching officiants. Sites like Wedding Wire and The Knot provide profiles and reviews on officiants in your area. Usually you can find the link to an officiant's website through these sites. Make a list of those that give you a good first impression, dig a little deeper by reading the reviews and then create a short list of possibilities. Start with an email or phone call to see about scheduling a consultation. A good indicator of the type of service you will receive is the response time your officiant candidate takes to get in touch with you. It's the most important day of your life, you want your officiant (and all of your vendors) to be available to you for questions, etc.
Once you have scheduled a consultation or two, meet the officiants! Go armed with thoughts and questions. Ask about experience, how the officiant operates, marriage license, how the officiant handles rehearsal and wedding day, etc., etc., etc. Once you have attended the consultations, make your decision and book the officiant. In order to hire the best officiant for you, the best time frame to make your decision is 6-12 months out. Of course, don't be surprised if an officiant happens to have a date available with short notice! The main thing is that you read the reviews of your final choice so that you feel confident about your selection.
I am always available to answer your questions about wedding ceremonies and officiant searches. I love being a resource to newly engaged couples and welcome your inquiries!
My best advice is to keep in mind that all the little details are beautiful but the marriage is the main event and love is the main ingredient!!