Of all the plans a bride and groom must make, choosing an officiant is perhaps the least discussed task but one of the most important to the actual day.
So what are the key things to remember when choosing the officiant who will marry you?
Choosing the perfect officiant requires you to have a clear vision of your wedding day beforehand. Be sure to interview several candidates & do your research on each of them. Don’t be afraid to make demands & don’t compromise unless absolutely necessary. Also, give yourself plenty of time to choose.
If you are coming up to making this choice for your special day, you’ll want to read my tips and advice below. I’ve compiled the key ideas you have to think about before hiring your officiant, so read on for more information.
An officiant can make or break a wedding ceremony
So you are counting down the days to THE day after that impressive proposal evening you and your fiancé(e) spent together. After posting on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and getting warmhearted blessings from friends, co-workers, and families, it is now the exciting part of planning out the wedding and making this celebration memorable for those who have been cheering for you both all along your journey together
Besides the seemingly important elements that complement the wedding, such as the dress, the gift list, the venue, one of the most underestimated element is picking an appropriate wedding officiant to not only host an impressive wedding experience but also to provide that meaningful moment to bring the bride and the groom together forever.
Picking out a wedding officiant is critical, as he or she will most likely be the person that catches the most attention, except for the happy couple of course. Therefore, the wedding officiant’s performance at the wedding could almost make or break your guests’ experience to say the least. I have been to many weddings myself, religious weddings, civil ones, cross-cultural ones as well as weddings in English, French and Chinese.
I have personally experienced the highs and lows of certain wedding officiants who could either bring people to the edge of their seats or just played a lackluster role that you wouldn’t remember much after leaving that wedding.
Important decisions to make before choosing an officiant
To make matters easier and to break it into parts, If you and your fiancé(e) are involved in a certain religious group, it would be straightforward to have the head of that place of worship conduct the vows, statements, and other religious related rituals.
If you and your fiancé(e) are planning a civil wedding ceremony or one without a specific religious emphasis, then I really recommend that you narrow down your search with a list of certain criteria to help you pick out the most suitable wedding officiant for your special day.
The first thing on the list should be fairly easy. Decide whether you want to have a religious-themed wedding service. If that’s what you want, then job done! Trust in your Priest, Rabbi, Imam, etc. they know what to do!
If you and your future spouse aren’t theists, then carry on reading for my top tips on how to choose a wedding officiant who rocks.
4 important questions
Here are the four questions to research about the officiant:
- Does this person have a proven record to confidently speak out in front of a crowd?
- Does this person share a similar wedding value or cultural background as you?
- Can you rehearse with him or her more than once to prevent unexpected hiccups during the service?
- Has this wedding officiant served your style of wedding venue and agenda before and how did he or she do?
So, let’s go into a little more detail about these questions and exactly what you should be looking for so that you can tick each and every box. Grab a pen and take notes, because this is going to be useful stuff to remember!
Proven record to speak confidently in front of a crowd.
As much as this seems like a no brainer, you would be surprised how many wedding officiants can’t live up to this basic standard.
The confidence here is not just in presenting every detail of the service correctly, but also to keep the audience fully engaged and interacting rigorously throughout your wedding.
It takes a strong personality to deliver such a high energy packed event versus “just getting the tasks done”. Your guests will fully appreciate a charismatic, humorous, and elegant officiant more than one who simply ticks off everything on their list and then calls it a day.
A memorable wedding service revolving around a memorable performance by the wedding officiant will not only leave your guests with warm impressions of you as newlywed, but some of those same guests who might soon get married will continue to refer back to that impressive wedding party that you and your fiancé(e) organized.
So what would be some good ways to figure out if the wedding officiant meets your requirements or not? Check out some of his or her video performances in past weddings (remember to pick the weddings similar to your style) or even find out if he or she will do any officiant works prior to your wedding date.
Of course, it would be poor taste to crash the wedding (check out this article I wrote which explains how to stop this at your own wedding) but you could approach the other couple through your prospective officiant and get a copy of the wedding video. At the very least, they may give you their take on the performance the officiant gave.
I suggest you start talking to the officiants at least 3 months ahead of your wedding if not more so you and your partner can have enough time to measure his or her ability.
Getting the wedding service you want
For the religious specific weddings, it is obvious you would want the officiant to thoroughly understand your religion and to conduct the wedding the proper way, any civil ceremony should also take your core values and shared background with your future spouse into consideration too.
You want to interview the officiant and figure out his or her personality more before you confirm that you want to work with that officiant. If you and your fiancé(e) tend to view the wedding ceremony in a more lighthearted, humorous, and laid back way, you do not want to pick an officiant who is more uptight and serious during the vows, ceremony, and so on; and vice versa.
Sometimes, it’s a question of mixing more than one traditional or cultural approach to weddings. Since cross-cultural weddings are more prevalent nowadays, you want an officiant who can understand both of the cultures and respect them without coming off in a mocking or teasing way.
I once attended a wedding with a black groom and an Asian bride in Taiwan. The officiant tried to get some laughter out of the congregation and to engage the participants by commenting in a joking way on the skin of this couple’s future children.
Sure it brought laughter from some of the tables, but for others who had a better understanding of both cultures, it was a fairly offensive and quite disturbing, to say the least. There was some awkward tension afterward for some guests as you could imagine.
So, if you fall into this category, as my wife and I did, you need to make sure that you either work with a sympathetic officiant or brief them fully on protocol before the big day.
Rehearse with the wedding officiant more than once
Let’s be honest, practice really does make perfect. When a professional choir is about to perform their music, or when a circus is about to put on a show under the big top, they have had multiple rehearsals already. So, why would you settle for a quick run-through of your marriage ceremony the day before, or worse, no practice at all?
Also, remember whatever plans the wedding officiant, you and your fiancé(e) put down on paper will not turn out to be how you imagined your day to go.
A suitable wedding officiant should have the patience to communicate with both of you guys to figure out the details on what to do during the wedding day and how to go about your wedding day plan to satisfy both you and your guests
Experience in the style of wedding you want
Relevant experience and a proven track record are always the best references to pick out your ideal officiant.
You can always rely on your friends and family to recommend one, but at times these suggestions may not be adequate enough to find the person that fits your needs. So, don’t be afraid to cast the net far and wide and not just limit your choice to the most convenient choice.
I once attended a huge wedding where there were at least 500 guests invited. The groom’s younger brother was a famous actor in Taiwan and something of a celebrity. There were also many guests from the entertainment industry with a few media types in attendance. Though the wedding was conducted in a relatively smooth way, the spotlight and attention were constantly given over to the younger brother and his entourage.
I remember thinking that he wedding officiant was showing signs of stress at not being able to calm down the congregation at times. If fact, the wedding got a little behind schedule and the situation became more and more chaotic as increasing numbers of fans just showed up outside the venue and began chanting to have a selfie with this actor.
The reason I’m talking about this is because the bride and groom had chosen their officiant poorly, and perhaps even the venue. It was clear to see that the organization was not conducted well, and the officiant had obviously never dealt with such a high profile client before. Although the wedding was fun and memorable to attend, you could tell that the night did not fully belong to the bride and the groom as it should have done.
So, picking the right wedding officiant seem just as important as picking out a reliable partner. Not only does the officiant’s expertise and professionalism need to match your preferred wedding format, his or her personality and approach is also critical to create the type of atmosphere that you desire. You may see this person’s role as fairly straightforward, but it’s not so.
As a general rule of thumb, I would suggest any couple to have at least 3 months before their wedding to finalize their choice of wedding officiant. Ideally, sorting this out as far ahead as 6 months before your wedding would be best. This way you could have plenty of time for any changes you may need to make.
I also suggest that you interview at least 3 wedding officiants before you land on your definitive choice. It is always good to check out more options, but do not go crazy and overwhelm yourself with more than a handful of options.
Some of the best ways to find competent officiants are usually from recommendations from friends or family who have attended one of their weddings before, or from your desired venues that have an agreement with a certain officiant that is already familiar with the environment and so forth.
Last but not the least, be open to your officiants about every one of your requests and concerns, they are generally very willing to cooperate in all your needs because they understand that you and your fiancé(e) are the main focus for that day. So feel free to ask anything which will make you two the most comfortable and feel at ease.