Making all of your wedding dreams come true – from the napkins to the dress – is a long, involved process.  The actual moment of marriage, however, is over before you know it. The Wedding Officiant is there to unite you and your best friend together “from this day forward”. But who is this person who can officiate your wedding?  There are a few things to remember when looking for a wedding officiant for your big day:

1. You want to feel comfortable with them.

Even though it may seem that you only need them for the thirty minutes that they preside over your ceremony, you will definitely want to choose someone that will do your ceremony justice and interact well with you as a couple. Always schedule a face to face meeting before making a decision.  If you can’t meet because you’re in a different city, ask if they will do a Skype call with you, or even just a phone call to see if you feel comfortable talking with them.  This is a person that everyone at your ceremony will be indirectly excited about – because they’re doing the most important thing! – but you should also feel happy with the sound of their voice and the manner in which they speak. If you like what you hear at the first meeting, your wedding guests will feel the same way.

2. You want to know you’re in good hands.

If you and your betrothed are both from the same faith and parish, then you should be able to find a wedding officiant easily. Consider someone that you’ve grown up with or someone that you’ve grown to respect in your religious or spiritual life. This is a decision for you and your spouse to make together, so that you both are comfortable and happy with your choice of wedding officiant. If you are meeting with officiants that you don’t know personally, see if there are reviews or testimonials of their work at other weddings. Maybe there are even video samples of the weddings they have officiated. You want someone who will calm your nerves and keep a light tone throughout the proceedings. They’re your backup should you forget anything—your vows, your name, or what you need to do next!

3. You want to feel like you’re all on the same page.

Meeting with your potential wedding officiant before committing to their services is important – there have been cases of brides being surprised by what the officiant has to say once in front of their friends and family! In one instance, the officiant interspersed their wedding vows with religious political views! You want to know that your officiant has the same views as you and your fiance, but even if they don’t, they’ll keep their thoughts to themselves. This is no time to risk someone getting on a soapbox. Be clear about what’s in the ceremony. The couple should have final say on what language, readings and rituals are included in the ceremony, and be assured that there will be no surprises or unwanted preaching.

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4. You want to speak the same language.

This doesn’t refer to having a French-speaking officiant when you’re getting married in Hawaii. This is about how you want the ceremony to be worded.  Unless you’re having a religious ceremony where certain protocols must be followed, check to make sure your officiant is okay with how you want things phrased.  Maybe “til death do us part” isn’t something you want said, or perhaps you just don’t want to hear “thee” or “thou” anywhere.  Even traditional officiants can be open-minded about what they are willing to include and leave out. Definitely speak up about what you’re looking for.

5. You want to know if you’ve got work to do ahead of time.

Many times a wedding officiant will require pre-marital counseling before they will conduct your ceremony. There are often a series of marriage classes you must attend in order to be married in a particular church. So if your desired pastor is from that church, you may need to set up these dates. Pre-marital counseling is all about how to solve problems as a married couple and finding out more about your partner.  Even if you’re not religious, it’s a really great idea to look into secular pre-marital counseling to make sure you know what you’re getting into.  It’s better to feel over-prepared than to be a divorce statistic.

6. You want to stay within your budget.

Wedding officiants aren’t cheap.  The cost of the marriage license aside, the wedding officiant fee can range from $50 t0 $400. A great place to look for someone within your budget is on Thumbtack Events. If your state allows it, a great budget idea would be to ask a close friend to get ordained as a non-denominational minister, and perform the ceremony. But…

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7. You want to make sure they’re legally able to marry you.

What you will need to find in a wedding officiant is going to vary by state/province and country. Ideally, if you’re at all religious, a pastor, rabbi or minister that represents your faith would be perfect since they have already been ordained and vested to legally marry the two of you. If you’re not religious or would prefer to have a secular ceremony, you’re going to be looking for someone who is able to legally marry you in the state in which you plan to be married.  If your friend is getting ordained as a minister, make sure that their license will be recognized as well.

Click this link to find out Marriage License Information By State (US).

8. You want to get things in writing.

This is just as true for finding a wedding officiant as it is with any other vendor for your wedding.  No one wants to be surprised on the wedding day to find that their officiant ‘forgot’ what time to be there and showed up two hours late. Get all details in writing, and make sure you both have copies of the intended vows. Conversations cannot always be perfectly recalled at a later date, and it’s important to have a clear agreement with your wedding officiant. If they don’t work with a contract or have one available, at least follow up after the first meeting with an email detailing all of the important information.

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