A wedding officiant’s role in your wedding is often short and sweet, lasting only the time of your ceremony, but when you think about it, they are actually the most important person there – without them, you don’t have a marriage at all!
Whether you’re planning to be married in a church, in a garden, or in one of NC’s beautiful wedding venues, you will need to do some research, both practical and intuitive, to determine who will be the best officiant for your ceremony.Photo: f8 Photo Studios
1. Make sure he or she is legit
Ministers who have been ordained online are controversial in NC. The last thing you want to worry about after your wedding is the validity of your marriage, so first off, make sure your officiant is ordained according the laws of the state in which the wedding takes place.
2. Get on the same page
Secondly, choose an officiant who shares in your vision of your wedding ceremony. You want to make sure you are completely comfortable with your minister or officiant and that the three of you are on the same page. After all, the ceremony is the first event of the wedding day with your guests and it sets the tone for the rest of the day, which is spent in celebration of the marriage.
Photo: In His Image Photography
3. Add elements of personalization
A good officiant will work closely with a couple to plan a meaningful ceremony. Having a close friend officiate who is ordained can be fun because they know you on a personal level, but any good officiant will take the time to get to know you well. Hiring one with experience also means that he or she already knows how to write and deliver wedding ceremonies with grace and confidence.
The best and most memorable ceremonies are not cookie-cutter – they are personal and invoke just the right amount of emotion from tears to laughter. Many wedding ceremonies include the couple’s story and thoughtful commentary about why they love each other and how well they compliment each other in life, and now, in marriage. If you’re officiant does not take the time to listen or read about your story, you risk a ceremony that feels impersonal. This day is all about you as a couple, and that should start right from the beginning with your ceremony.
If you’re unsure about how to go about writing vows or choosing readings, an experienced officiant can be of tremendous help, pointing you to helpful resources and offering advice. Readings can be one of the most difficult things to choose if they do not have a direct connection to the couple. Your officiant may recommend cutting any unnecessary readings to shorten the time frame, or at least, offer guidance about what type of reading might fit in.
When I was married, for instance, our minister questioned every reading we wanted until we hit the perfect one. He challenged us to not just pick a pretty poem, but to really find one with authentic meaning about us as a couple. Two short nights before our wedding and multiple rejections later, I was about to give up when I came across a love poem by Pablo Neruda that put into words exactly the type of relationship we had. Our bridesmaids took turns reading versus (and crying) – it turned out to be the perfect reading for us.
Photo: f8 Photo Studios
4. Plan for punctuality
Your officiant should also be punctual, making plans to be at your rehearsal dinner the day before so he or she can get familiar with the layout and provide important guidance to the wedding party so that everyone feels prepared and less nervous for the real thing. On the day of the wedding, your officiant should plan to arrive with sufficient time to get set up (at least 30 minutes prior to start of ceremony, especially if there is any sound equipment like a microphone). A responsible officiant will even have a plan in place in the event that he/she is unable to attend at the last minute.
5. Filing the proper paperwork
Another nice thing about hiring an experienced officiant is that they know how to take care of the paperwork. The officiant is responsible for getting the marriage license from the couple prior to the ceremony, having it in his/her possession during the ceremony and having two witnesses at the ceremony sign the license. He or she is responsible for completing his/her part of the license and returning it to the issuing Register of Deeds office within 10 days.With the right person to lead your ceremony, your wedding – and your marriage – will be off to a flawless start.
Special thanks to Reverend Kayelily Middleton for providing input for this article.