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
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
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
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
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
Her web site is www.marcyann.com.
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