by Holly Kline
January 5, 2017
From a wedding officiant to you. Wedding planning is a huge endeavor, one that will probably take up many of your days between engagement and the wedding itself. It helps to have a few guideposts along the way - here, from a wedding officiant, is what you can expect when you meet an officiant. If you've never heard the term before, an officiant takes the place of a religious figure or judge, for those who prefer not to use them. They are legal to wed in most states, but check your local laws. (see sidebar)
Before you meet with your officiant, there are a few questions you should know the answers to. It’ll help you and your officiant plan your day as easily as possible, and you won’t be surprised when your officiant asks. Most of my first meetings with couples run about an hour, so arrange a time you can relax and enjoy talking about your wedding.
First and foremost, of course, your officiant will want to get to know you and your fiance. I like to ask my couples how they met. It’s a great way to open up the conversation, and for me every meeting story has something special. Maybe you were in high school, at a party, or introduced by a friend – it still tells me a little about who the two of you are together. I also like to ask each person how they knew the other was “The One.” More wonderful stories! It’s one of the most fun parts of my job. Sharing those stories helps your officiant make your ceremony personal.
Those are the easy questions. The harder, and more important questions, come next. What are the values that are important to you in your marriage? I think this question often surprises couples, but I do ask with several motives. Knowing what values are important to my couple helps me shape and focus the ceremony. Family, true partnership, love, honesty, and loyalty are great to talk about during the vows. Maybe education and travel mean a lot to you; maybe exploring or special activities or interests are a big part of what got you together. Either way, it helps me craft your perfect ceremony.
I also ask where couples see themselves in ten years. All marriages have challenges, and I like to think that this question will spark some good conversation between bride and groom before the wedding. Some couples have a very carefully defined plan for their future; others just know they want a house and kids somewhere together. How you and your fiancé talk about the answer is as important to me as the answer itself. You can tell a lot by how two people interact!
Once we’ve talked about the two of you together, I’m going to want to talk about the practical aspects of the ceremony. It’s crucial to nail down a style – short and sweet? Romantic and flowery? Solemn but joyful? Warm and familial? Knowing the “feel” will let me look through my library of ceremonies and point you to the ones that suit you best.
How about vows? I need to know if you’re writing your own. If not, do you want me to write something special for just the two of you, or are you set on the tried and true? It's okay if you don't know yet. A good officiant will help you figure out what works best for you, and if you write your own, will help you polish them.
I’ll ask about the wedding party, if you’re being escorted down the aisle, and if you want to honor anyone special. Some brides and grooms honor Moms with a rose, or Dads with a kiss or a handshake. Some want to leave an empty seat for a special loved one who has passed. Some want to include their children in the ceremony. You and your officiant can discuss the best ways to work all these into the ceremony itself, and still keep it flowing smoothly. It may be that you don't know yet, or haven't settled these questions with your family and friends. That's OK! You'll have some time to do it, and your officiant will be happy to make suggestions on how to structure your ceremony. We know that you haven't ever thought about the elements of a ceremony before.
Still with me? After we’ve got all that settled, there might be extra ceremony elements you want to include. Perhaps a rose ceremony, the water or sand ceremony, the hand ceremony, or a hand-fasting are on your dream wedding list. You may have a cultural ritual you want included. Knowing that when you meet with me means we’ll have a great time talking it over and coming up with ideas on how to incorporate that element into your ceremony.
A good officiant won't insist on specific requirements and will give you every consideration on your day. It's your wedding! Shop around - if there's anything about the person you're talking to that makes you feel uncomfortable, remember that you do have other options. Pricing varies widely based on location, so you may want to do a little research to make sure you're getting a reasonable rate. Check reviews! It's worth the time to investigate anyone you hire for your wedding.
Last, but still important - it's great to go with someone you feel a connection with at your meeting. Feeling like you're on the same page as your officiant will put your mind at ease about the ceremony overall. A good officiant can also help you find other great vendors when you need them.