May 13, 2008

Choosing A Wedding Officiant

Choosing a wedding officiant can be a big task. If you and your partner are members of a house of worship and close to your clergy person, or have a family member who is able to officiate at weddings, they might be your natural choice. But if that's not the case- you're not religious, you're having an interfaith wedding, you're getting married far from home, you're having a non-traditional ceremony, or any of a number of other reasons- you can put some thought into the person you want to perform your marriage.

Here are some things to consider:

Will this be a religious ceremony? Discuss what values are important to you. If you want to have clergy from each of your religions officiate, talk to each and see what they are comfortable with. Would an interfaith or nondenominational minister be more appropriate? Are you looking for a priest or rabbi to perform the ceremony and bless the marriage?

Are there pre-wedding requirements? Ask the officiant what steps you must take prior to the wedding. They may want to meet with you a number of times before the wedding. They may also have guidelines for couples about to be married. Make sure you understand and are comfortable with these requirements.

Can they legally marry you? If you're unsure, ask. Make sure they are ordained or otherwise legally authorized to perform weddings. A judge is licensed by profession, other wedding officiants need to obtain the proper state licenses.

Can they marry you in your chosen location? If you know where you want to have your ceremony, make sure the wedding officiant can perform the wedding in that place. If there are spiritual or legal barriers, keep that in mind. Also be aware that if you want to have a priest or minister come from another parish to marry you at your place of worship, this may be possible, but you need to check with them and get permission from the parish first. It always good to know the marriage laws for your state.

Are there date restrictions? Are there any days of the week or the year when they cannot marry you? Whether a religious holiday or personal obligation, is there a time when the officiant can't perform the ceremony?

What is their philosophy of marriage? Do the officiant's ideas of what marriage is all about match with your own? Do they share and respect your values? Are they going to give the blessing or tone to your marriage that you are hoping for?

Will they let you write your own vows and customize the service? If it's important to you that you will be able to recite your own vows, or control other elements of the ceremony, make sure the officiant allows that in ceremonies he or she performs. Keep in mind, most organized religions have set parameters for you to work within.

How will they run the ceremony? What sort of things will they talk about during the ceremony? Do they have a set of points they always cover at weddings? Will they go over with you beforehand what they will say in enough detail to make you comfortable? Will it be very personalized? Can you request that they do or do not mention certain things?

What is their fee, and what does it include? Find out what the officiant's fee for a wedding is. Does it include a rehearsal, or pre-wedding consultations? Are there any other fees?

There are plenty of things to consider in choosing a wedding officiant. Make sure you are comfortable with the person you choose.

Modern Wedding Advice offers a state-by-state guide of wedding officiants.

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