So, you’re getting married! The first few things a couple usually thinks about are when and where to have their wedding and reception. Then it’s on to choosing the DJ and Florist and Photographer and the list goes on! But who is going to preside over the ceremony? All too often, I receive phone calls from frantic brides that with the big day just around the corner, they forgot about the Officiant! If you are not planning to have your ceremony at a place of worship and/or do not have clergy waiting in the wings to help you with the ceremony, then it is recommended to find your Officiant as soon as you have your date, time and location decided on for the ceremony.
How do you go about finding an Officiant and what qualities are important for them to have? In Pennsylvania, it is important to choose an officiant who is legally ordained as some counties do not recognize those who have received ordination through online churches. Each county courthouse lists their regulations for ministers and others who perform wedding ceremonies. Secondly, make sure the officiant is open to your spiritual views and that they are willing and able to create a ceremony that is fitting for you as a couple. It is important to hire an officiant who is experienced and comfortable as a public speaker. Whether standing in front of just a few family members or a large gathering of 200 guests, a confident and personable Officiant will be able to present your ceremony as it is intended, allowing you and your guests to fully experience the most important moment in your life as a couple. Another quality that comes in handy is the ability to remain calm under difficult situations and sometimes with difficult people. A wedding day can cause quite a bit of stress for families, and sometimes situations do arise. Being able to count on your Officiant to remain calm, and therefore helpful, can be a life (or wedding day) saver.
Now that you have your Officiant booked, the next step is the creation of your ceremony. Although your Officiant will most likely be the one to create the foundation of your ceremony, it is important that you have input along the way. Some things to think about are: What is fitting for your ceremony? Would a religious, non-religious or interfaith ceremony fit you as a couple? Are you more in line with a traditional or non-traditional ceremony? Some other important aspects are whether you would like to have some of your loved ones involved such as with sharing a poem or a song. For those who are blended families, would you like to have your children involved and perhaps with a set of Family Vows? How long would you like your ceremony to be? Civil ceremonies, which are the legal sections only, usually take just a few minutes. More traditional ceremonies which include a reading or two and blessings (whether religious or non-religious) can run anywhere from 15-30 minutes or more.
I mentioned Family Vows. Some other unique and newly resurrected traditions are ring warmings and handfastings. Processional and recessional music is taking a new turn from the old standards. The newest pop love songs have become favorites or even older love songs like, “All You Need is Love.” More and more, couples are writing their own vows, which is not an easy task. What I share with my couples is that when you write from the heart, you can’t go wrong. If you do write your own vows, know that there probably won’t be a dry eye as it is quite touching to hear a bride and groom speak their own words of love.
The very most important thing to keep in mind is that it is Your ceremony and your moment to shine in the sun. As long as you include the legal sections, you can have anything you want. There really are no rules. So, once you find your Officiant, keep the communication open and let them know what ideas you may have, and also what will not be fitting for you, so the final creation is a ceremony that is a reflection of your love for each other and one to remember always.