Choosing the right person to marry you!
You’re getting married! Really, the most important part is someone to marry you! No not your future spouse silly, I mean the person who will legally perform your ceremony! Without the ceremony, there’s no marriage! As a wedding planner and DJ of 20 years, I have seen just about every kind of ceremony and style of officiant out there at most locations throughout the Adirondack Region and Lake George area. Some have been very elaborate, some very simple, some knocked it out of the park, and some, sadly, made the most important part of the day, a disaster. (This blog is going to focus on weddings outside of a church, on property where your reception is being held.)
Like any wedding professional, you should be looking for someone who fits your style and budget with EXPERIENCE! What type of disasters have I seen that experience could avoid? Well, an officiant who makes sure the person who has the rings actually has the rings BEFORE starting the ceremony is a great one. An officiant who is on time to the ceremony because they took the time to note which “Holiday Inn” resort the wedding was at…yes, it happened! An officiant who is prepared to work with all the other pros involved that day, I.E.-the venue manager, the music provider, the wedding planner, the photographer, etc. And in my opinion, an officiant who is used to public speaking…there’s nothing worse for 150 guests than someone reading through a hand-written script, fumbling through and missing things in the correct order because they are too nervous. (I actually saw a ceremony once where the officiant started to say “By the powers vested in me...I now pronounce…” and they didn’t even exchange rings yet or do the vows! Another when the ceremony was half way through, they got to the vows and then realized the groom left his vows in the room….13 minutes later…we resumed. A good officiant will make sure everyone involved, has everything they need BEFORE starting the ceremony.
If you are not having a church ceremony, and are getting married on the same property your reception will be held, make sure to choose a venue that has a solid rain or inclement weather back up plan. There are many in our region that simply do not have a backup plan, such as a different outdoor covered space or room inside, other than the dance floor in the ballroom. Another thing I strongly suggest is for any wedding of 35 or more guests, you really should have a microphone for outside ceremonies. Ask your musician or entertainment provider to provide this for you. While it’s not always possible for your officiant to come to the rehearsal, having your wedding at a good venue that does a decent amount of weddings can be a bonus as the venue coordinator has experience in directing the ceremony rehearsal in their absence. Make sure you bring your marriage license too! (yes, it has happened!)
Finally, what type of officiant is best for me? What types are there? Simple. While budget may constrain who you can hire, there are solutions for your budget, just ask me and I can help! Lower cost officiants are typically judges (many who do an incredible job) and beginners. Judges generally charge about 125.00 or so maximum by law. You may not get the type of ceremony you want, or not be able to customize too much, so ask before hiring one of them. Beginners, usually have less than 2-3 years of experience, may be in the 200.00-300.00 range. Seasoned officiants are the norm I work with most often, allow for different types of ceremonies, have experience, and allow for customization. They generally are in the 500.00-700.00 range. Still there are other officiants out there that provide a very unique experience, often times write the entire ceremony anew for each couple, bring more personal elements into the mix and can charge 800.00-1000.00 or more depending on what they are doing for you. Lastly, there’s the discussion about having a friend or family member do it, and they will get ordained on-line for the occasion. There’s no right or wrong here, I’ve seen it go both ways, many times…some were really good, others, well, not so much.
I took the time to talk to some local wedding officiants and ask their advice I could relay to you to help you in your search for an officiant for your wedding. I hope this helps you in your decision making process and hope you have a GREAT wedding ceremony experience when the big day arrives!
The picture below is from a 2016 wedding at Dunham's Bay Resort. What I like the MOST about this picture, not only after pronouncing them did the officiant step out of the shot, but they took the microphone with them. That, is epic in my book! Photo credit: Total Entertainment Music Instant Memories
Now, let's get to the pros advice!
-Whomever you choose to officiate your wedding is an important decision. The truth of the matter is, that it is very easy for anyone to become ordained through the internet which allows them to legally perform the ceremony. This has become a popular option especially for couples who are interested in having a friend or family member perform the ceremony. This can be a wonderful experience or can be a disaster, depending on how well that person is prepared. It’s really not as easy as it looks. What I have found is regardless of the type of ceremony, it was important to all of the couples that it be a sacred moment in which their commitment can be solemnized and celebrated in a memorable and pleasing way.
-Because of that, I strongly urge you to consider hiring a professional Wedding Officiant. Look for someone you feel comfortable with who is truly interested in providing a ceremony that best reflects your commitment and how you want to convey that to one another. Check with your wedding venue or other wedding professionals you are working with for recommendations. Feel free to interview more than one Officiant to find the one that best meets your needs. Check references and reviews!
-Final thought… Book your Officiant early especially if you plan to be married during peak wedding season. Our dates fill up fast! I hate having to turn a couple away because they waited too long to consider who will perform the ceremony. While I try my best to refer them to other reputable people, it is not always possible to find a replacement. Chances are if I’m booked, they are too.
-Crafting a wedding ceremony that uniquely reflects who you are is what makes your ceremony unique to only the two of you. Each ceremony is a celebration of two individuals coming together to share their lives.
-This event should be a reflection of your true personalities. It should be a perfect assortment of readings, rituals, elements, story, and music from your lives. All elements of the ceremony are your choosing.
-An officiant helps guide you through the process to craft an experience that you and your loved ones will cherish forever. Consider your intention for the ceremony and what tone do you want it to have. Romantic, light, fun, serious, spiritual, religious, or whatever else. It is your ceremony and one that you will truly love. Ceremonies reflect your love and a beautiful commitment to each other.
- You’ll want your special, once in a life time, day to be amazing! That starts with the person performing your ceremony. First impressions say it all! You’ll want to make sure they are prepared/organized, well spoken with impeccable verbal skills, have great listening skills, are well put together, friendly and have your wants and needs at the top of their priority list, leaving you feeling over the top about your wedding ceremony.
-You should be confident that your Officiant is going to provide the exact ceremony you’ve always dreamed of. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, do your due-diligence, and expect what you are asking for and more. This is one of the first impression your guest will have of your wedding day. Make it a lasting one!!
(Mark's closing notes:) I totally agree with what all these folks said and they do a really great job! Whoever is standing up between you both on your wedding day, make sure they are prepared and ready to go and have your best interests in mind. Take their advice and use it to choose who the right fit for you is. Then, after total success, you can relax and enjoy the rest of your day and dance, dance, dance!
You can find these professionals and everything else you may need through the Adirondack-Albany Wedding Association.
P.S. My wife and I were blessed to have worked with a great professional officiant when we got married in Antigua. He took the time to get to know what we wanted and presented in such an incredible way, even I was crying. Coolest part, he stood off to the side about 90% of the time so he was not in many of the pictures our photographer took. :-)