12 Jan 2016

Is your Officiant Legal, Trustworthy and Creative?

So, you are getting married. One of your first appointments, after you are engaged, should be with your officiant. Once you set up a date to meet and you have heard what the officiant has to offer, you will want to hire someone with an agreement/or contract. You will want someone who blends it all together and makes your ceremony as unique as you and the love you share with one another.

1. First make sure your officiant is licensed and recognized by the local government. Each state and sometimes counties have their own laws. At the meeting just ask to see the credentials of your officiant. In some states, you can obtain a day of permit for a friend or family member. Just make sure they have met all of the state’s regulations and everything is legal. If not, your marriage may not be legal. I have had to bail out many couples. over the years because the officiant thought he/she was legal and licensed in all 50 states. Many states, just to name a few Pennsylvania, Virginia, Nevada and DC, have restrictions on who can register to officiate weddings.

2. The second thing is to make sure your officiant has registered his/her business with the state where the business started. For example: Did the officiant record the name of their business in the state where they reside? Can you go and look at that on‐line? Most states have a list of all of the businesses formed in the state. Make sure your officiant is a real business. Does this business they have liability insurance? This type of insurance is to cover the cost of your inconvenience should they not show or mispronounce your grandmother’s name. It may seem like a simple thing, but public speaking, writing, and other skills required to be an officiant are not necessarily naturally acquired. These types of skill require training and thought. 

3. Some states allow members of the Universal Life Church and other online ordained individuals to marry couples, this is an on‐line certificate easily obtained in less than 5 minutes (one of many different ones), However, many states do not recognize these online ordinations as legal. I am not slamming officiants who do this, but often people will sign up thinking that officiating a ceremony is easy; it is not! The ULC and others offer to train officiants, but many people opt out of this option. Training is not something that is required…but personally I feel it is necessary to be an effective officiant; just like any other profession updating your training should be a priority. Many couples don’t understand the complexity of wedding ceremonies and, as a result, do not get the ceremony they could have had, had they hired a professionally trained officiant. Just like any other profession…if you hire an unskilled laborer you get what you pay for.

4. Hire someone with experience. Make sure they have performed a lot of ceremonies, have experience in the wedding business and an understanding of your needs and desires. Nothing is worse than having someone with little or no experience officiate your ceremony.

5. Beware the minister or pastor who hijacks your ceremony with religion if you don’t want that. Have a detailed conversation and ask lots of questions. Please understand me, when I tell you, this conversation is about your wedding ceremony!

6. Make sure the officiant is available on your wedding date and for any other meetings you want to have, such as ceremony review meetings and rehearsal.

7. Meet with several officiants. You can learn a lot about them when meeting face to face. Ask to see some of their work and credentials. If ready to move forward, sign a contract and be prepared to put down a retainer. Signing a contract will protect you and the officiant and ensure everything you discussed at the meeting, will happen they way you want it to.

8. At the meeting, ask about pricing and any special needs you have. Come prepared to ask lots of questions. Consider the distance your officiant may need to drive, time of day of your ceremony, and if you will want them at the rehearsal. 

9. Your officiant should be willing to create and perform a ceremony that meets your needs and makes your celebration special. If you are looking just to get through your ceremony and are only concerned about getting an official signature on the license; this is fine, just make sure you understand what your officiant is planning on doing and that you are ok with it. 

10. Make sure this is the one person you want to officiate your ceremony. Make sure they have the personality, speaking skills, experience to handle everything such as rehearsal and is legal to officiant in your state. If this is good, then it is the correct way to go. I would also make sure this person is someone with a back‐up plan, has lots of ideas and is very creative.

11. Professional officiants can create the ceremony you didn’t know you wanted!!

12. Make sure your budget includes a reasonable amount set aside for a professional officiant. This person should be at the highest priority; after all, if there is no ceremony, your wedding day is just a big party. Here on the East Coast Wedding Officiants with skills and talent average around $600.

Believe me, when I tell you taking the time to meet with a professional officiant and hiring them to officiate your ceremony will be worth it! You and your guests will talk about your wedding ceremony for years to come!

Sandra Lynch

Sandra Lynch, a Wedding Officiant who officiates weddings in the Mid-Atlantic region is Owner of Ceremony Alchemy (formerly, Weddings by Sandy), creator of the Perfect Officiant Mentoring an Officiant mentoring service author of, “You CAN have the Perfect Wedding Ceremony,” and the Perfect Officiant Handbook. Ms. Lynch is retired military and lives in Frederick, Maryland with her husband Tim Lynch and their two fur babies Skipper and Ziggy.

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