When it comes time to start planning your wedding, at some point, you’ll need to search for an officiant or wedding celebrant. One thing about wedding celebrants that many of us don’t consider is that they play quite an essential role in your wedding. The officiant will likely handle more talking during your wedding than you AND your partner combined, so choosing someone who feels like a good fit for you is imperative.
What is a marriage celebrant/wedding officiant?
Your marriage celebrant is someone who is legally trained to conduct your wedding. They’re also known as officiants, civil celebrants, or wedding celebrants.
First, you’ll need to decide whether you want a secular or religious celebrant.
If you are part of a religion, spirituality movement, or faith, you’ll want a religious officiant to be part of your wedding. Having someone well-trained in your faith will ensure they get everything right on your wedding day.
Alternatively, if you aren’t religious, or at least aren’t having a religion-based wedding, then you’ll probably want to choose a secular officiant. By dictionary definition, ‘Secular’ means “Not connected with religious or spiritual matters” or someone who isn’t bound by religious rule and doesn’t operate from a church, monastery, mosque, or something similar in your faith.
There is also technically a third option here that I’ll add: you can have what’s known as an ‘interfaith’ minister, who is trained and well-versed in carrying out ceremonies that capture two different faiths at once. This is the go-to option if you and your partner have different faith backgrounds.
The second step is doing your research.
When seeking a religious officiant, my first advice would be to ask at your place of worship and do it sooner rather than later, as many pastors, rabbis, etc., can become booked out so far in advance.
One thing to keep in mind for religious or secular wedding officiants is that you should always do your due diligence and research. I mentioned earlier that an officiant does play such a massive role in your wedding, and you need someone that goes well with you and your partner, so take time to read reviews, ask others who might have used them, or look into testimonials from other couples is a great place to start.
Remember: ALWAYS meet your officiant in person, or if that’s not possible (for example, destination wedding), then have multiple video calls. Doing this gives you face-to-face time with your officiant to get a good idea of how well you’ll gel with them. Getting to know them on a more personal basis helps in so many ways, such as;
- Knowing you’ve found the ‘right one.’
- It keeps you and your partner at ease around someone who feels familiar.
- Allows your officiant to get to know you, your partner, and how you are together.
One thing is sure when you look back on your wedding day, you will never forget your wedding celebrant and the role they played in your wedding ceremony, so you need to be as confident as you can be that their values will line up with yours.
If you’re a traditional and religious person, it might cause friction if you choose a secular atheist celebrant.
Understand what planning is involved for everyone.
Some wedding celebrants will require you and your partner to fulfill specific requirements and obligations before they’ll assist you in tying the knot. Some examples of this are;
- Financial obligations (e.g., can you make payment and pay your deposit to withhold the time slot for that officiant)
- Some may require pre-marital counseling, with both of you as a couple or separately as individuals.
- Meetings regarding faith and how it will play a role in your wedding.
There are four types of wedding celebrants.
Religious wedding officiant: Religious officiants are leaders in their area of faith and generally perform ceremonies from their church or place of worship.
Civil wedding officiant: Civil wedding officiants work in government roles where they can legally perform marriage ceremonies per their local laws.
Professional wedding officiant: professional wedding officiants, more commonly referred to as wedding celebrants, are experienced, licensed individuals who can be hired to perform wedding ceremonies.
Ordained wedding officiant: An ordained wedding officiant is someone who has been ordained and can carry out a ceremony. These are often done by friends or family of a couple and are not always considered legally binding.
Questions To Ask Your Celebrant
These are the six essential questions you should ask your wedding celebrant upfront to keep the process smooth and stress-free.
How long have you been a wedding celebrant?
Experience is essential; you wouldn't want your next trip flown by a pilot who's never been in a plane, and you don't want an officiant who's never done a wedding. You can ask questions to gauge their experience, such as how many weddings they've officiated, how long they've been offering celebrant services, or ask for a list of references.
Are you available on this date?
If the wedding celebrant isn't available on your locked-in date, you have two choices; find another officiant or change the wedding date. You can work your wedding around your chosen officiants' free spots if the latter works. Otherwise, you'll have to return to the drawing board and find someone else to help carry out your ceremony.
Additionally, it's a good idea to throw in an extra question: what time will you arrive at our ceremony?
Can you perform a wedding that includes our specific ideas?
If you require a religious wedding celebrant, you'll need a specific celebrant who is part of, or trained in, that faith. You can apply this to any faith, religion, or culture you may be part of and ask the appropriate officiant within that if they can carry out the type of wedding ceremony you desire.
How many times will we need to meet?
Having the expectations of how often you'll need to meet with your wedding celebrant known upfront will help with wedding planning. Some celebrants require pre-marital counseling, while others need basic information to form the ceremony. Ask about this upfront, so you're aware of your commitments.
How long will the ceremony go?
Each wedding celebrant will have their time range for each ceremony. If you'd like them to accommodate your personal preferences in how long your ceremony will last, this question is important to ask!
Will you read from a script or personalize the wedding?
Some wedding celebrants will have a relatively specific script with some leeway, and they'll use this at your wedding, while others may opt to go a fully personalized route. If the celebrant is doing a fully personalized reading, be sure to ask what input they'll require from you and what you'll need to convey to assist in this process to make the wedding more 'yours.'