How to Find the Right Officiant For Your Same-Sex Marriage

Gay Marriage, Planning Tips

This is an unfortunate truth: "Same-sex couples may have more difficulty than straight couples finding an officiant who can narrate their unique story in an authentic way that is clear to all of their guests," says Mark O'Connell, a New York City-based psychotherapist and author of Modern Brides and Modern Grooms. So with that in mind, how can you find the right officiant for you? We've got the scoop.

Do your research.
"We would recommend our clients do a lot of research to find the right person to officiate, whether that's someone in an official religious role or an ordained individual who performs ceremonies," says Erica Taylor, co-founding partner of New York City-based Tinsel &Twine. Wedding boards have numerous suggestions and reviews. A photographer who's shot same-sex weddings may also be a good place to start, she points out. Also, "in considering officiants, a couple should ask for examples of scripts for other same-sex weddings they've performed, as well as examples of suggestions for the ceremony structure, readings, and vows. This is a great way to make sure your stance and values align."

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Ask yourself, "can this person tell our story?"
You don't just want someone spitting out words. "I believe the most important quality for any couple to look for in an officiant is their ability to both tell the couple's story and to galvanize everyone present, with gravitas," explains O'Connell. "Find a person who has a great sense of empathy, of storytelling, of theater, and of the specific couple, whether they are a religious leader, a justice of the peace, or a friend with an online certificate."

Gauge his or her attitude toward you.
"If an officiant seems to be giving you the cold shoulder, move on," warns Taylor. "A couple will be much happier and feel better taken care of to have their ceremony performed by someone who is a joyful and happy cheerleader for their love." Additionally, "you'll want to listen to how they refer to you and your partner and make sure they are telling your story with ease, with understanding, with the proper pronouns, with the words that you call each other — e.g., 'husbands' — and not the words he or she decides to use," O'Connell says.

Make sure you can select his or her readings.
It's important, O'Connell points out, that you approve any ceremony readings before you say "I do." And an officiant who won't let you do so may not be the right fit for you. "I can't imagine any modern couple, gay or straight, wanting something read that describes women as a man's rib at their wedding," he points out. "Make sure that he or she will read what you request — nothing more or less."

Finally, remember: "The wedding industry is all about the beauty of love and in all of its forms," Taylor says. "Same-sex couples deserve the same respect and reverence as bride or groom couples. That means forming a vendor team you can trust to champion your love and not just tolerate it."

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