Selecting a Wedding Officiant
By Natalie Tsang
August 26, 2011
Nowadays your officiant pool is no longer limited to federal judges and local religious officials. While different states have their own age requirements, in most cases anyone from your barely legal kid brother to your grandfather can help you exchange vows. In some states, your would-be officiant can pay a fee to be a Deputy Commissioner of Marriage for a day at City Hall or become an ordained minister for free online.
With a move towards personalized weddings, it has become trendy for couples to choose officiants that they have personal ties to. But whether your officiant is a friend, your childhood youth pastor, or a professional wedding officiant you know, this is an important job that should never be taken lightly.
The role of the officiant depends on your individual needs and desires as a couple, though keep in mind that some officiants have their own rules, too. If you and your fiancé decide to write your vows, the officiant has more of a mediating role. Some people know from the start who they'll ask, while others look to their venues for recommendations. Remember that certain houses of worship have dress codes (i.e. bridal gowns that covers the arms or shoulders) and some officiants also have restrictions. For instance, they may refuse to perform a ceremony where an animal has a role. In other words, your desire for a traditional church wedding may compete with your dream of walking down the aisle with your loyal dog behind you. It may be that you must weigh the benefits of a strapless sweetheart wedding dress or a church ceremony.
It's important that you and your officiant know and perhaps even share each others beliefs and values. This also includes politics. This is best done in person, but it can also be done by phone or e-mail. Be frank and don't make assumptions or the results can be disastrous. For instance, an interfaith couple once had a Catholic priest officiate their wedding. At the altar, the priest asked the Jewish bride if she would raise the children in the Catholic faith. As you can imagine, the outcome was incredibly awkward.
The decision to use a professional officiant or a friend depends on each and every couple. A professional officiant will mostly likely require a fee, but they dont just belong to formal weddings. Nowadays you can easily hire an officiant to match the mood and budget of your wedding. You dont have to go to Vegas anymore to have Elvis officiate the ceremony.