The officiant/celebrant of your ceremony has a pretty hefty job when you think about it: setting the tone, saying the right things, actually marrying you… it’s no small task. So we’re here to help you figure what types of officiants are out there, how to snag the right person for the job, and give you a few helpful tips for choosing a wedding officiant.
Disclaimer: laws vary widely from state to state and out of the U.S., so consult your local laws for details in your specific area. We’re mostly focusing on U.S.-based weddings this time around.
Types of officiants
A Justice of the Peace
Contact your local county clerk’s office to find one near you. It’s even easier if you’re getting married at city hall itself. Just make an appointment and be prepared for a short wait.
A friend or family member
We discussed this at length over here, but the biggest issue is making sure it’s legal in your area. Call the registrar in the township where you will be getting married to see what needs to be done by your officiant to ensure that they can legally solemnize your marriage. This not only varies by state, but can also vary by municipality within the state. Just because someone is an internet ordained minister does not automatically let them perform marriage ceremonies everywhere — marriage laws are governed at the state level, not the federal level. But if you’re on the up-and-up, you can get your officiant ordained at some pretty fun places, like the Church of the Latter-Day Dude.
A professional officiant
Many professional officiants will work with your secular or religious ceremony and often have an arsenal of awesome readings, ceremony structures, and are usually super flexible. Many are non-denominational meaning you can include or exclude traditions that don’t fit your lifestyle or belief system. This is great if you’ve been married before, want their different religions incorporated into the ceremony, and/or are a same-sex couple.
We’ve got a whole slew of them in our Offbeat Bride vendor guide if you’re looking for someone very offbeat-friendly.
Your local clergyperson
If you’re already part of a ministry, it’s not too hard to book your local minister/rabbi/priest/pastor/etc. for the ceremony. Just make an appointment and find out about costs and restrictions.
A new-to-you clergyperson
If you aren’t already part of a local congregation, you’ll have to find one that matches your beliefs, whatever they may be. Once you’ve made your choice, it’s a matter of contacting them to see about their rules. Here are some questions you’ll want to have on hand:
• Are you allowed/willing to perform the ceremony at our venue?
• How much are we allowed to customize the ceremony? Can we write any of it ourselves, including vows?
• If we are of different faiths, is that an issue?
• Do we need to join the clergy/church/synagogue/etc.?
• Are we required to attend any classes or counseling?
• If you are of two faiths, can you have a second officiant as well?
Tips for choosing a wedding officiant
Meet with your officiant in person
If your officiant is not already someone you know well, take the time to meet with them in person to discuss the ceremony, get comfortable, and let them know who you are as a couple. Make sure they understand your ceremony goals and what flexibility exists to make it your own. Plus, it’s so nice when the officiant can speak about you from personal experience, if possible.
Figure out the costs
Unless you’ve got a willing friend, you’ll likely have a fee for an officiant’s services. Find out what is included in the fee including any pre-wedding counseling/consultation, travel to the location, performing the ceremony, and your legal registration.
Read reviews online
If your officiant is a professional, you can usually read reviews on wedding directory sites to see if they’re right for you. Read the specific reviews to see if couples are finding the same benefits for which you’re looking.
Feel free to invite them to the reception
While it’s not required, couples often choose to invite their officiant to the reception, often at the table with the parents. But as you know, this is your show and it’s not required, especially if you don’t know them personally.
Need more officiant advice?