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How To Choose a Minister/Officiant To Marry You
By Rev. Marcy Ann Cheek, The Wedding Specialist

Congratulations on your decision to get married. I have been marrying couples in Southern California for the past eleven years and have probably married over 1,000 couples. I would like to give you some facts and some ideas that may help you choose the one who is going to marry you.
The person you choose to marry you is going to share a very intimate, personal, holy moment in your life. Marriage is considered a sacred passage. This Rite of Passage is worthy of a grand celebration. And in every Country of the World, this celebration is a Wedding! Your Wedding is a glorious celebration of your love, and a public declaration to all of your family and friends of your intent to live together in marriage with your True Love.

If you are a member of a church, usually your pastor will marry you. But what if you do not go to church on a regular basis, or you do not go to a church or temple at all? And what if you are pregnant or you are already living together or you are marrying someone who is not of your faith. Then you will need to find someone to marry you who is approved by the State in which you are going to be married. To find out who is legal to marry you in your state, click here.

You can usually find a professional Officiant in the Yellow Pages of the telephone book
or some officiants run an ad in the wedding section of the newspaper. More recently, a good place to look today for a minister to marry you is the Internet. The National Association of Wedding Ministers’ web site (http://www.aministry.net) offers non-denominational ministers in almost all of the States. You can also search by "wedding minister" plus your area. Many professional officiant web sites have a picture of the minister as well as their fees.
Your Officiant should be able to advise you where to go to get your marriage license and be able to answer such questions as: Do You Need a Blood Test, Is there a waiting period, if you’ve been married before, do you need to take your divorce papers. The Officiant should also tell you how to get the Certified Copy of the Marriage License afterwards which is what you need to make the legal changes to your name, bank accounts, social security, deeds of property, health insurance and many other legal papers.

The Officiant you choose needs to know how to work with the other wedding vendors you have selected, such as the photographer, videographer, musicians, DJ and wedding coordinator. You should ask the Officiant if they allow all other vendors to do their work for you during the ceremony with as much freedom as possible so they can provide you their highest quality and best abilities of their craft.

Always know, you have the complete say-so about what you are going to say at your Wedding. You do not need to have a canned wedding ceremony that comes out of a Book of Rituals. Bride, are you sure you want to say “obey” in the ceremony? Most old-fashioned wedding ceremonies in these books of Rituals use the “obey” word! Today, you can find many beautiful expressions of love, vows and promises on the internet. Feel free to select any of these readings, poems, lyrics of songs, vows, promises, ring exchange vows, and any other type of symbolism you want to express your love, such as a Unity Candle, Breaking the Glass, jumping the broomstick, Celtic tying the knot, (these are just a few things I have done in my ceremonies) and tell your Officiant - not ask the Officiant - tell the Officiant that you want to do these things in your Wedding Ceremony. As I have already said, the Officiant you choose should be willing to do whatever you ask, unless it oversteps their boundaries.

When you meet with a prospective Officiant, you can tell if he/she has a pleasant voice.
Remember, this voice is going to go out over a microphone for about twenty minutes.
And he/she should speak professionally. Your Officiant is representing you to all of your family and closest friends. He or she should speak with eloquence and pronounce the words correctly. It’s "your" wedding ceremony, not "yer" wedding ceremony!

Your Officiant should have experience to be able to handle any unexpected or embarrassing moments that could develop during the Wedding Ceremony. If a minister has been doing weddings for awhile, they have a cache of stories to tell about what has happened at their weddings – from the groom forgetting the rings to a family member getting into an accident on the way to the church - the list goes on and on! A professionally-trained Wedding Officiant will be poised and calm no matter what happens and be able to quickly and efficiently handle any situation with dignity and be able to finally declare that the bride and groom are husband and wife! (By the way, make sure your Officiant says husband and wife, not man and wife!).

It is good to ask the Officiant if he/she works with other Officiants. What if he/she is sick on the day of your wedding or has a personal emergency. Does he/she have other professionals to call to fill in. You want to also ask what the officiant is going to wear. Many have a clerical robe. Some wear just a black suit or black dress.

The professional you hire to conduct your wedding ceremony should offer you a Contract for Services that spells out exactly what he/she will be doing for you on The Wedding Day and several methods of payment should be available for your convenience, including credit card, check or cash.

How much should you pay the Officiant? First of all, you cannot even have a wedding without the Minister to marry you! If your pastor is marrying you, a gift of $100 to $200 is appropriate to give to him for the Ceremony. But you have to remember, he is being paid a salary by you and the other members of the Church and has housing and car allowance as well. The Professional Officiant who does not have a church is running a business. We have many of the normal expenses such as computer/internet/fax/printer , cell phone expense, office expense, etc. and since it is our full-time profession, we also need to pay the rent and utilities, and most Officiants like to eat! I researched the fees of professional wedding officiants nationwide. Officiant fees seem to be higher on the coasts and lower in the South and middle-western states. According to my research, if you hire a professional Officiant, be prepared to pay between $250.00 and $700.00.

If you are having a large bridal party, you should have a rehearsal, as your bridesmaids and groomsmen are nervous about what they are suppose to do. A rehearsal shows everyone where to be and what to do on the Wedding Day, and makes for a very smooth processional and Ceremony. Usually, the officiant will charge extra for the rehearsal, as a rehearsal is like doing the wedding twice for them. Be sure you ask about this.

By the way, I have found that 20 minutes is the perfect amount of time for a wedding ceremony. Anything less is too short and anything more is toooooo long! I have “breaks” in my wedding ceremony also. Transition times. This keeps the guests very interested, and the ceremony is very enjoyable. Remember, the ceremony is also for the guests! The guests can have a profound experience at a Wedding. They are bathed in your love, and the love in their heart is quickened and revived, and they are refreshed and renewed in their lives.

You may not know the Officiant beforehand, but by the time the Officiant marries you, you will feel like you have known one another for all time. You will have developed a relationship that is filled with caring, comfort and confidence.

Your Wedding is the most important day of your life and the Wedding Ceremony is the moment of the most profound change in your life. In choosing the person to marry you,
I encourage you to allocate a professional amount of money in your wedding budget and
to dedicate a portion of your Wedding preparation time.

Rev. Marcy Cheek is a professional ghostwriter and has written for Dr. Lester Sumrall of LeSea Broadcasting Corporation and for Blue Mountain Arts Greeting Cards. In her wedding ministry, she specializes in writing personalized, romantic wedding ceremonies for her brides and grooms.
Her web site is www.marcyann.com.

Article Courtesy of WeddingHowTo.Com.

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