Your wedding ceremony is the most sacred part of your big day, and it's a time that you will want to remember as heartfelt, intimate, and exciting for years to come. So when picking someone to marry you, it's kind of a big deal. To help find the best person for the job, make a list of questions for your officiant to ask before you book them. Whether you pick someone you have known forever or find someone that fits you and your partner as a couple, it's an important decision that will set the tone of the rest of the day—and the rest of your lives. Just because an officiant falls within your budget, doesn't necessarily mean they're the right fit.
When hiring any vendor for your wedding, you want to create a relationship. This is especially true when it comes to the officiant. "A professional officiant is focused on the well-being of any couple who comes to them for a consult," says celebrity officiant JP Reynolds, MDiv. Your consultation is like a first date with your possible vendor. You want to feel the connection, not just be their next sale. How do you know if there's a connection? To put it simply, you'll have to know what to ask—and what to look for in the answers. "You want to make sure you are inviting a person to officiate your ceremony who aligns with your vision and who takes the time and effort to get to know you as a couple," says Reynolds. "These questions help bring that about."
If you're unsure of what to look for or what questions to ask, have no fear—here are 11 things you must ask your officiant before booking them for your ceremony.
Meet the Expert
JP Reynolds, MDiv., is a celebrity officiant who has officiated more than 1,000 non-denominational, interfaith, cross-cultural, and same-sex wedding ceremonies. He is the author of How to Officiate a Non-Denominational Wedding Ceremony.
Take note of whether or not the officiant asks you any questions. Reynolds warns that if they don't express interest, then they are likely not going to be interested in what makes you unique.
1. Will you be able to create a personalized ceremony?
Some officiants will take the time to create and write a personalized ceremony for you and your partner—and some will use a generic template. If you want a ceremony that fits more of your personality, be sure to ask if this is something the officiant can do for you before the wedding.
2. Do you have a video we can watch of you at a past ceremony?
You might have found a skilled and revered officiant with positive reviews and testimonials on their website, but before hiring them, ask for videos from past weddings where they have acted as officiant. This will be the only true way to see their style, presentation, and poise when officiating (guests' tears are a bonus!).
3. How do you handle a noisy guest?
In the unfortunate situation that you'll have one or two rowdy guests who are either whispering during the ceremony or loudly Snapchatting every moment, it's important to know how he or she will handle it. Depending on the answer, this will let you know the level of professionalism when settling the situation.
4. How long do your ceremonies usually last?
If you're looking to have a quick ceremony, discuss your time limits and expectations beforehand. Some officiants are totally amenable to creating a ceremony in accordance with the couples' wishes—and others have a standard amount of time and programming to which they like to adhere.
5. How many pre-wedding sessions do we have with you?
If you'd like a very personalized wedding ceremony, you may want to meet with the officiant several times before the wedding so that he or she can get to know you as a couple. Sometimes officiants charge more for those pre-wedding meetings, so it's best to know in advance.
6. Will you help us obtain our marriage license?
Chat with your officiant beforehand to see if he or she will be able to mail in your signed marriage license after your wedding day or if you have to handle it yourselves. Some officiants will prepare the documentation for you—which is a definite luxury while you're enjoying some R&R on your honeymoon.
7. How many weddings have your officiated?
To get an idea of how much experience your officiant has, you should ask how many times they have actually, well, officiated. Keep in mind, however, this is just a starting point. "The number of ceremonies performed does not guarantee they are 'professional'," warns Reynolds, who suggests also learning about why they officiate, how they initially became interested in officiating, and what kind of training they have.
8. Do you do rehearsals?
Despite common thought, it's actually not customary for an officiant to participate in wedding rehearsals. If this is something you feel you will be wanting or needing, do not just assume it comes as part of the package, because in the most likely case, it will not. Rehearsals are generally for practicing things like the processional line-up and where to stand—not the actual ceremony. In the case that you have a specific ritual within the ceremony that needs rehearsal, be sure to mention to your officiant before booking.
Find out how soon your officiant typically arrives prior to the start of the ceremony. A good rule of thumb is at least 30 minutes.
9. What do you wear when you officiate a wedding?
Your officiant will be right there with you at front and center of your ceremony (and in your photos), don't risk them clashing with your attire. "What your officiant wears should match the tone of the celebration and should not upstage or distract either of you," says Reynolds. A guaranteed way to hate your wedding photos is having a poorly-dressed officiant in the background of your first kiss.
10. Do you have a back-up to step in if necessary?
In the unfortunate case that some unpredictable, unavoidable event prevents your officiant from being able to perform the ceremony, you'll want to have your bases covered with a back-up. Ask if they provide the back-up and speak with your planner, as more and more (as well as other vendors) are getting ordained online, they can serve as a back-up in the case of an emergency. This is a good question for all your wedding vendors, not just the officiant.
11. What are your fees for officiating our wedding?
Ask about base prices plus any additional costs like running over the time booked, travel fees, meals, etc. Have the officiant explain the contract fully. Learn the protocol for the deposit, final payment, and what the accepted methods of payment are. Of course, this may be the first question you want to ask your officiant. But know that this can be a red flag for the vendor. "If this is the first question a couple asks me then I know I'm not the officiant for them because officiating is not a transactional encounter. It's about a relationship," says Reynolds. "You want to explore if an officiant shares your vision for the ceremony and if there's that 'click' in terms of style and personality." When the "click" is there, that's when you discuss fees.
Jen Glantz is a "Professional Bridesmaid" and the founder of Bridesmaid for Hire. She's the author of All My Friends Are Engaged and frequently wears old bridesmaid dresses to the grocery store and on first dates.