Why “15 minutes of my time” is not equal to “short and sweet”!
15 Aug 2013

Why “15 minutes of my time” is not equal to “short and sweet”!

I can’t tell you how many times I hear, “I just want a simple wedding, short, sweet, and only 15 minutes of your time” from couples. That’s awesome – so what is your definition of this? What does it mean to you? Does it equate to “cheap, low-cost, no-cost” or something else?

For me, these words don’t mean very much. Why? Well, the factors don’t change much for an elopement or a full blown big fat “simple wedding” since most wedding ceremonies are only around 12-20 minutes in length and all weddings include two people who want to get married. The major difference is that elopements are typically in my office while weddings with guests, cocktail hour, and receptions are not.

So, before we can agree about what “15 minutes of my time” means to me, let’s start with your expectations. Are you willing to pay for a quality wedding ceremony with personalized, customized vows? If so, we will need to meet months in advance to prepare your personalized, customized  wedding. Why? Well, most couples I meet want a wedding that reflects not only their heritage but includes family traditions and a multitude of other things, such as music, special rituals, readings, remembrances of loved ones, spiritual or religious beliefs, personalized vows, and more. So by meeting in advance, I can capture all of this with little or no effort by asking you a variety of questions. If I just show up on your wedding day without first meeting with you, what are your expectations? I will arrive with a generic wedding ceremony in hand that includes none of the things I just listed above. Is that what you expected? Probably not. Also note that the ceremony cannot be amended at this point and it’s likely that you will be disappointed with a oIMG_0043ne-size-fits-all ceremony.

“Will it be OK to meet you just before we begin the ceremony?” Well, yes, if it is an elopement, because an elopement is usually in my office and I meet you for the first time when you walk in. However, if you are having a typical wedding at a venue, chapel, or church, most couples require a rehearsal; and since you hired me to officiate your ceremony, a rehearsal is one of the primary things I do. We can’t know how things will transpire if we don’t have a rehearsal. We will have to wing it…which honestly doesn’t always go very well. This situation is not a good reflection on you, your fiancé(e), your planning abilities, or my professionalism. When the ceremony players don’t know their roles and the ceremony lacks cohesiveness or organization, it seems irrational and impersonal and definitely not the quality of weddings I prefer to officiate.  Here’s the thing: if your wedding isn’t perfect, you are not to blame; your professional vendors take the heat. That’s hardly fair. Since you didn’t want to spend the time, effort, or money to make it perfect, why do you insist on blaming me!

How can we be sure your ceremony is perfect? Have a rehearsal…but if you didn’t, here’s how I’ll try to help you. Typically, I arrive early (1-1.5 hours early!) just in case anything needs to be addressed. I give the last page of the ceremony to the DJ and let them help me set up my microphone; I give the cards of your selected readings to the readers; I find out who is holding the license and review it for accuracy (which is required by law); I make sure your ritual is set up; I discuss the rings with the best man or whoever is holding them and explain what will happen to them; I double-check your vow cards; I check in with the parents of the flower girl and the ring bearer; and I deal with all of the questions from your bridal party. I also carry an emergency kit for any little thing that might go wrong. And even though you didn’t have a rehearsal, I try to meet your parents, coach your dad on his lines, and make sure they know I am here to help. This way at least it won’t look like a drive-by wedding. It will be awesome and you will happily give me  a 5 on your Wedding Wire review!

Is the wedding going to start late? Remember that “15 minutes of my time” line? Well, if I have to wait thirty minutes or more for the ceremony to begin because not all of your guests have arrived, an unprofessional wedding vendor is late, the chartered bus broke down, the limo with the bridal party is stuck in traffic, or any other unimaginable thing has happened, guess what? You will owe me more money so I can stick around… if I have time. And I will leave, if I cannot do your ceremony within the allotted time that it was booked for. Why? You see, sometimes I book multiple weddings on really popular dates, and although I generally leave plenty of time between weddings, there is that pesky travel-time issue to get to another wedding on time. My being late to someone else’s wedding just because your wedding was late is not acceptable. Which brings me to this: I might need to leave right after the ceremony is over. I will find you and congratulate you but I won’t have time to interact with your guests in any way. I hope they don’t think badly of me, but sometimes it is just a busy day!

Your wedding location can sometimes be an issue and can really bite into my time and cash flow. If I have to pay tolls to get to where you are, drive in rush-hour traffic, try to anticipate accidents, pay for parking, and other issues, this just increases the time and money I am spending trying to get to you and your wedding location. Oh, and let’s not even talk about the weather in the winter months! I also need to take the time to make sure I know exactly where I am supposed to go and get accurate driving directions. I also need to leave with enough time to arrive on time, just in case traffic is bad or some other unexpected thing occurs. Just so you know, I don’t think it’s professional to be late and often leave 2-3 hours earlier than needed. So what might appear “quick and easy” for you is not always “quick and easy” for me due to all the possible situations I might run into.

So I think if you were to look at things from my point of view, you’d see straight away that my time is much more than that “15 minutes” previously discussed. By the way, the length of the ceremony is never actually a consideration because most ceremonies are only between 12-20 minutes in length.

What about some of the other considerations? Should I wear a robe, a dress, or a suit? What about the color of the suit? Maybe I should try to blend in with your bridal party? I do usually try to do this, but it requires some thought on my part to make that happen and I don’t charge extra for the clothes I wear.

Weddings are expensive –  I get that. I am planning my own. Remember your ceremony is the reason for the entire event; it is the heart of your entire celebration and your day. Please hire someone you trust – someone who will do a great job emoting and sharing the words you want the world to hear. When the ceremony is over, you will want people to talk about how beautiful and magical it was and how they loved the words you said to each other. This is what every great Officiant wants for you. Your wedding day is the most important and personal day you have experienced in your life. Make it special and unique, but most of all, make it yours! It doesn’t matter if it is religious, spiritual, or secular – what matters is that you are marrying the most important person in your life. Don’t discount this or minimalize it; maximize it and make it amazing. You won’t be sorry – you will have the best 15 minutes of your life to remember!

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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