Ceremony and ritual offer rewarding opportunities for human connection, and have the potential to be as rich and varied as the people who participate in them. A thoughtful, well-presented ceremony should be reflective of your beliefs and values, experiences and aspirations. This is why it’s so important that you find a Wedding Officiant who you trust and connect with.
But finding the right person to guide your ceremony can be a daunting task — especially if you are not affiliated with a particular tradition or if yours is an interfaith or intercultural relationship. My advice? Treat your ceremony with the reverence it deserves – and find a Celebrant who does too.
The key to finding a Wedding Officiant who is a good match is to ask questions. To help you, I’ve put together:
My Top TEN Tips (and FIVE things to secretly consider!)
ONE: How do you create the ceremony? Officiants who are skilled in the craft of writing meaningful and emotive copy are hard to come by. They also need to have superior interviewing and reflective skills to uncover your hidden stories. Ask them how they do that… what is their own creative process? Ask to read some ceremony samples. This can be very telling. Some will not share even small samples or you may find an Officiant has used the same or similar copy in a number of their ceremonies. If you want a custom wedding ceremony – this isn’t it!
TWO: What training do you have in creating and officiating at ceremonies? Many Officiants have no specific training in ceremony. Look for those who have a sound background in the history of ritual and ceremony, knowledge of ceremonial traditions around the world, the ability to manage and choreograph the ceremony itself, and experience in public ceremonial speaking. They should have a rich background in ceremony, from theory to writing to public speaking. Don’t feel embarrassed about asking for credentials, references, and testimonials.
THREE: What makes you different than other Wedding Officiants? What makes your wedding ceremonies and client experiences special and unique? What inspires you about being a wedding Officiant?
FOUR: Will you suggest and create wedding rituals and traditions, readings, and vows especially for us? Let’s say you are Chinese and your partner is Jewish… how will your Officiant blend these two richly ceremonial cultures through your wedding rituals? Or you are a musician and a dancer, how might that be reflected in the elements of the ceremony?
FIVE: Will we have final approval over the script? Don’t let a fill-in-the-name ceremony be imposed on you. The Officiant should collaborate with you every step of the way so that the ceremony is completely custom made for you. Ensure that you will be given the chance to proof several drafts of a ceremony so you know that it is right. Remember, if he or she asks you to choose between several options, it is not a custom ceremony.
SIX: What do people say about you as a public speaker? Great writing is lost when an Officiant has a stiff, monotone, or overly formal delivery. Memorable Officiants bring written words to life. Ask if he or she has trained with a vocal coach. Ask to see testimonials, or better yet ask for references. Find out what former guests and clients have to say about the Officiant’s performance. Were they warm yet dignified, engaging, able to breath life into traditional elements, and did they have presence? Did they hold the audience’s attention? Were they able to project without using a microphone?
SEVEN: What exactly is included? Some Officiants charge a base fee and then add on for meetings, interviews, travel, and rehearsals. Some provide you with a beautiful keepsake copy of your ceremony and some charge a fee to do so. Additional fees can add up quickly. Make sure you know what is and what is not included in the fee.
EIGHT: How many ceremonies do you do in a year? And more importantly, in a day? Many wedding officiants now say they ‘limit’ the number of ceremonies they perform. Ask them what that means. Their answer will reveal how custom their work is. Anyone who does a number of ceremonies in one day may well be doing customized, not custom work. There’s a big difference. (It takes many hours before even putting pen to paper to craft a truly custom ceremony. The number of ceremonies definitely reflects how custom the officiant’s work is.)
NINE: What is your legal authorization? Make sure they are legally registered to perform wedding ceremonies in your province or state, and will submit the paperwork for you.
TEN: How do you work with our other ceremonial professionals? The Officiant should coordinate as needed with musicians to provide music cues for the ceremony, with photographers and videographers to assist them in getting the best shots, and with the staff of your venue to ensure that the ceremony will not conflict in any way with their requirements.
FIVE Things to secretly Reflect upon when Meeting a Wedding Officiant:
ONE – Do you have the sense that the Officiant will work hard to get to know you and convey the essence of who you are? Do they seem to really care about their work and love doing it? Or do you get the hit that it’s more of a business to them?
TWO – Will you feel comfortable stating your preferences to the Officiant? Even those that may seem insignificant? How responsive do you think they will be to any edits or concerns you wish to put forward?
THREE - Do you like the sound of the Officiant’s voice?
FOUR – Do you feel trust and emotional connection with the Officiant? Are they the right sort of person to engage and inspire you as well as your guests?
FIVE – Does the Officiant respect and understand your faith traditions (or absence of them)? Do they seem to genuinely be interested in approaching the ceremony from the perspective of your background and be able to draw in elements to suit it?
Modern Celebrant hopes this will inspire you
to find a good match for your match!