Reprinted with kind permission of Judith Johnson: Author, Speaker, Life Coach and Interfaith Minister
“If you think a professional is expensive, wait ’til you try an amateur.” ― Paul “Red” Adair
There is a popular trend these days to have a friend or family member go online to receive an ordination certificate in a matter of minutes so they can “legally” officiate at your wedding. While on the surface this might sound like a fun idea, a look below the surface reveals some really good reasons why this is NOT a good idea. As an interfaith minister who has been officiating at weddings for over twenty years now and as author of the bestselling book on wedding ceremony design, here are Judith’s three really good reasons why you should hire a seasoned professional to officiate at your ceremony.
Some states do not recognize some online ordination credentials. The last thing you want to find out after your wedding is that you are not legally married. So, tread with caution. It is the state where your ceremony takes place, not the state where you live that has jurisdiction. Just as state laws about who can get married are changing, so are the laws regarding who can officiate at weddings. Not all online ordinations are equally acceptable, so be very specific in researching what sites are and are not acceptable in your state. Keep yourself informed about any changes that occur in these laws during the course of your wedding preparations.
There are a thousand little details that add up to a great ceremony. Which ones are you willing to have overlooked? Why put someone you love in the position of being responsible for something they know nothing about? Why not let your friend or family member enjoy being a guest at your wedding instead of bearing the burden of doing something so important that they know nothing about? Unless your friend or family member happens to already be a member of the clergy, why put this responsibility on them? Most couples and the friends and/or family member they choose to officiate are clueless about what goes into designing a ceremony, running a wedding rehearsal, or officiating at the ceremony. Think about it – would you hire a band for your reception that had never played together before? Would you want your wedding to be their first gig?
There are better, safer options. A seasoned officiant knows the in’s and out’s of advising you on the logistics of your rehearsal and ceremony as well as the design of the text and the ritual itself. They can be a wealth of information and ideas to help you create the ceremony that is perfect for you. They know what works, and what doesn’t.
If you are worried about not belonging to a religious community, not wanting a stranger to officiate at your ceremony, or wanting to have control over what is said at your ceremony – no problem. There are three fabulous resources for finding the right officiant.
The first is to ask your wedding vendors. Typically, your first wedding decision is going to be your wedding date and location. Ask the wedding coordinator at your venue to share their impressions of the officiants on their preferred vendor list and to recommend the ones they think are a good match for you. Call these recommended officiants and/or make appointments to meet. Trust your instincts about who you are comfortable with, how resourceful and flexible they seem to be, and how they react to your story and wishes for your ceremony.
The second resource is to ask around among your friends. Ask your married friends who they had officiate at their ceremony? Were they pleased or not? Why? Ask friends and family if they attended any weddings where the officiant did a really good job.
Third, use regional wedding websites and major wedding websites that have regional vendor listings. Read the listings and reviews on officiants there. One of the most popular sites is http://www.weddingwire.com.
Your wedding ceremony is what your wedding day is all about. Give it the respect and attention it deserves as an expression of what crossing this threshold together really means to you. The person who officiates at your ceremony will have a lot of influence on what will hopefully become a beautiful memory for you. So, be thoughtful and careful in selecting the officiant who is right for you. Be as honest as possible about who you are and who you aren’t. If someone rejects you because they don’t share your beliefs, be glad you didn’t hire them! Just keep looking for the right match. Find someone who is happy for you, is on your wavelength, and gives you confidence that they will help you create a wedding ceremony that exceeds your biggest dreams. You deserve that!