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Marry Me? // Choosing Your Wedding Officiant

bride and groom under covered porch for their wedding ceremony

When you’re planning your wedding day, a decision that might be more important than you think is the selection of your wedding officiant.  Not only does this person perform your ceremony and lead you in reciting your vows, he or she will most likely help you in planning the kind of ceremony you want, and often provide some form of counseling in the months leading to the wedding day.  For some, the decision is easy: their officiant will be the religious leader with whom they’re already affiliated.  But for others, the choice isn’t clear at all.

bride and groom in their church at the altar for their ceremony

There are some rules, of course, when it comes to choosing your officiant to be sure your marriage is legitimate.  The trusted person who leads or officiates your wedding ceremony must be ordained and legally recognized to do so in the state in which the marriage takes place.  Also, in many cases, if the marriage involves a traditional religious ceremony, the officiant must be recognized by that particular religious organization.

Rabbi at a couple's wedding ceremony

If your officiant will be someone outside a religious institution that you may attend and you're in the process of choosing who it will be (or will be soon), we’d like to offer some help!  So where should you begin?

An easy starting place is to inquire within your wedding venue for their recommendations and ask other vendors you’ve chosen for their favorites as well.  This will help you narrow your options down to a small, select group of endorsed officiants.

bride and groom at altar at an outdoor wedding

Once you have your list compiled, research the officiants’ own websites for a synopsis of their personal views and beliefs to be sure they match your own.  Search for videos that show them actually performing at least portions of a real ceremony so you can gauge their public speaking skills and style.  And be sure to read reviews and testimonials on their site, as well as on outside sources such as The Knot/Wedding Wire.

groom dips bride after their kiss at the altar

Now that you have a much smaller list ready, collect final vital information from those who are available for your date to help you decide which one is the one and only officiant for you and your fiancé:

  1. Find out how many and which types/styles of weddings he or she has officiated.

  2. Ask for qualifications and knowledge regarding your state’s laws on marriage licensing.

  3. Find out how much you can customize the ceremony and/or write your own vows.

  4. Determine if he or she has a back-up in case of emergency or illness.

  5. If it’s important to you, determine if and when you’ll need to meet with him or her in advance for counseling or advice.

  6. Get exact pricing, including any travel fees involved, as well as contract information.

bride and groom kiss during their outdoor ceremony

Keep in mind, you should research and interview at least two officiants.  Be sure to have in-depth discussions on the content and style of the ceremony that will be performed.  You’ll find that your selection really will hinge mostly on the person that you feel most comfortable with and whose ideas and personal beliefs most parallel your own.  Once you’ve chosen your officiant, you’ll have more specific questions to ask later (such as dress, rehearsal info and specific day-of timing) as the wedding day approaches.

And don’t forget to look at options that are a lot closer to home too… your most personal and comfortable experience will most likely be with a friend or family member that you know well.  And we find that these wedding officiants are often simply fantastic!

bride and groom at their outdoor ceremony

One brilliant wedding ceremony we filmed that comes to mind immediately is Kelli and Greg’s Down Town Club wedding.  Their ceremony, performed by the bride’s brother-in-law, contained the perfect combination of funny quips and touching personal stories. 

Marianella and Kevin were married by Marianella's sweet aunt, who prepared a beautiful, very personalized ceremony to be delivered inside their venue, The Ballroom at Ellis Preserve in Newtown Square, PA. She was such a natural speaker and her message was delivered so effortlessly.

And Shannon's brother-in-law did a wonderful job officiating her ceremony as she married Drew at the oceanside venue of Bridgehampton Club in the Hamptons. Another natural orator!

bride and groom with cord of 3 strands during ceremony

So if you have a family member or friend who would be happy to get ordained to marry you, and excited to be a part of that special moment, be sure to consider that, too! 🙂


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