“I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.” – Groucho Marx

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Now that virtually anyone with $35 in their checking account can become an “ordained” minister, couples often wonder why they should pay a professional Wedding Officiant.  For most of us, funds are limited and anyone who goes to the movies knows that  weddings can get very expensive.  Why not just ask Uncle Charlie to get “ordained” online, and have money to spend on a few more margaritas when you get to Puerta Vallarta?

This is a fair question. There’s plenty of unbiased evidence around that, when it comes to finding the right person to perform your wedding ceremony, as in most other areas of business, you get what you pay for.  Sadly, most wedding professionals have heard horror stories about weddings that were total disasters because the bride and groom made choices based on price, alone. This is almost never a good idea. Your officiant is a crucial part of your special day. This person is the guardian of the wedding ceremony, the person connected to you forever by sealing your relationship in the eyes of both the law and your family and friends. It has been said that “while your wedding Officiant may not make the ceremony, he or she sure can break it!”

We’ve done some asking around, and based on what we’ve heard, and our own experience, here are some pretty good reasons we’ve found for hiring professional wedding Officiants (specifically, us :-)) , and letting Uncle Charlie enjoy the wedding from the audience:

  1. Flexibility.  You decide to totally change the ceremony 15 minutes before the scheduled start time.  You decide you want to write the entire ceremony yourselves.  The bride decides she wants her dad to read a traditional blessing…in Cantonese!  The groom has a falling out with his Best Man at the last minute.  A groomsman faints during the ceremony (you told him not to lock his knees). Someone drops the cake!  After performing nearly 450 weddings, there’s not a whole lot that we haven’t seen. When things start to go sideways, a professional Wedding Officiant will know how to keep it all from falling apart.  How would Uncle Charlie do?
  2. Personality.  Your wedding is, or at least, should be, a celebration, a joyful and fun experience for everyone involved.  Does the prospective Wedding Officiant have an easygoing nature, an upbeat personality, a good sense of humor?  How about style, and grace, and the ability to improvise?  All of these attributes come in handy if something unexpected occurs during the wedding ceremony (and by the way, something almost always does).
  3. Experience.  Performing a wedding ceremony is more than just reading a script.  It requires empathy, insight, inflection and understanding of what you’re trying to say to your audience, and to each other. Anyone can read well with a bit of practice, but the professional Wedding Officiant can take the words you’ve chosen for your ceremony and give them life and resonance.  A lackluster Wedding Officiant with a boring ceremony – like most of the weddings we’ve all been to – can leave everyone cold and uninspired.
  4. Patience. This should be a no-brainer.  Things change, weddings start late, someone forgets the Unity Candle, couples get choked up and can’t get through their vows, kids won’t stop screaming.  A professional Wedding Officiant will take this sort of distraction in stride, and become an island of transquility in a sea of chaos.
  5. Peace of Mind.  This may be the best reason of all for hiring a professional Wedding Officiant: knowing all you have to do is make it to the altar (sometimes enough of a challenge by itself) and the person you’ve hired to perform your wedding ceremony will take care of the rest.

So, the bottom line: you should choose a vendor based on reputation, on service, on background, on experience, and always hire the best you can afford. The vendors you choose for your wedding ceremony and reception have a lot to do with just how successful (and stress-free) everything turns out.