Selecting a Wedding Officiant
"I dreamed of a wedding of elaborate elegance, a church filled with family and friends. I asked him what kind of a wedding he wished for, he said one that would make me his wife."~Author Unknown
The person conducting the ceremony is called an Officiant. The officiant can be one of the following:
-Religious leader from your place of worship or religious tradition
-Justice of the Peace
Selecting the person that will conduct your ceremony is an important factor of your big day. The person you choose will help to set the tone for the day. Remember, it is the ceremony that gives us reason to celebrate. Make certain you find someone who is willing to perform the type of ceremony you have always envisioned. Also, he/she should have the same belief system similar to yours. A couple should feel comfortable asking this individual to share in such an intimate day of their lives.
Making A Decicion
The first decision you need to make is whether you want a religious or secular ceremony. Some couples choose to get married in their specific place of worship and use their services for the ceremony. Others may choose to have a civil ceremony. Usually there are a large number of celebrants which you can find in your area, (try a search online or check your local telephone book).
Choosing a Secular Officiant:
-Justice of the Peace-If you contact a marriage license bureau or county clerk's office, they will be able to supply you with a list of local Justices of the Peace that perform wedding ceremonies. As I have mentioned before, you can look online or check your local telephone book, however, it is probably a good idea to get a referral from someone who can tell you if they are legally certified to perform the ceremony. Call the ones that are close to your area and ask to meet them in person to get an idea of the types of ceremonies they have performed.
-City Hall-Getting married at your City Hall is generally a simple process. If you call them they will provide you with all the necessary details. Essentially you will have to make an appointment. Typically, the ceremonies are very short and sweet so make certain that this is what you are looking for.
-Friend or Relative-Some couples want an intimate touch to their ceremony so it is becoming quite popular for a friend or relative to become licensed to perform the ceremony. Depending on where you are living, some places offer a one day designation for a fee. There are other options such as being ordained online. Sites like the Universal Life Church gives you this option, however, you will have to check and see if it is legal in your area. Most importantly, choose someone close to you who will understand the seriousness of the task and the significance of the ceremony.
Choosing a Religious Officiant:
If you are getting married in a house of worship or already have a clergy person to perform the ceremony then you are pretty much set. You will still have to meet with them to make certain you are comfortable. Also, they will most likely have questions for you and you will have questions for them. Some religious denominations require that the couple attend marriage classes or retreats before they will marry you, so find out first.
When meeting with a religious officiant you should ask the following questions:
-Do they marry couples in secular settings? You will be surprised to know that many will not perform ceremonies outside of their house of worship.
-Can you customize some of the wedding ceremony?
-Can you write your own vows? Don't forget to ask because some will not allow it.
-Will they marry you even if you are not members of their church, synagogue, parish, temple or house of worship? If the answer is no, then how do you become a member? Oftentimes if you are not members of a particular congregation, they will not perform the ceremony. However, there are some religious officiants that will gladly perform your ceremony. Also, becoming a member of certain congregations may not be a simple thing either so it is very important to ask.
-Find out if there would be a problem performing the ceremony if either you or your partner are of different faiths or are not very religious or practicing.
-It is important to ask if the religious officiant can perform the ceremony if either of you are divorced. Unfortunately, some religious denominations do not acknowledge divorce and will not perform the ceremony. Certain faiths may perform the ceremony if an annulment has been performed. This is a very important question to ask.
-Ask if non-religious friends are allowed to take part in the ceremony such as giving readings or singing. In most cases, they can, however they most likely will not be able to take Communion.
Regardless of who you choose for an officiant, make sure that they are the right fit for your day and that they perform your ceremony the way you and your partner want it performed. The ceremony is the most important part of your day and evokes many emotions on so many levels, so take your time and choose wisely.