Master of ceremonies
The most important step in getting to “I do,” is getting someone to ask you whether you will.
To get married, you need a wedding officiant.
“Each couple has their vision of how their wedding ceremony should go,” says Alan Katz of Great Officiants in Long Beach, Calif., adding that choosing the wrong officiant can negatively impact the ceremony.
Deciding between a civil or religious ceremony will help you pick your officiant. “Regardless of what type of ceremony they will be having, it’s extremely important for couples to feel comfortable with whomever they choose to marry them,” says Stacey Sainato, owner of Peony Events in Morristown, New Jersey.
Find out about the officiant’s approach to the ceremony, whether or not there will be a speech or sermon and what elements couples may provide, such as writing vows and choosing readings. Also make sure the officiant may legally perform weddings.
“An officiant will have a legal credential — with a raised seal — issued to him or her by the country or state,” says Sainato.
A wedding planner can help you find the right person for the job. Friends and venues can provide referrals. And check the vendor listings on your favorite wedding websites. “Reviews are everything,” says Katz, noting that when an officiant has hundreds of reviews, that’s a good sign they know what they’re doing.
Social media can help in the search, too. Look for an officiant’s videos on YouTube to get a sense of how they perform. Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest also can be great jumping off places.
You may even consider having a friend or family member. Rebecca Fons of Chicago has asked her older sister Hannah to perform the ceremony for her May 2015 wedding. Fons and her fiancé grew up religious, but neither of them currently practices. Yet it was important that someone close to them perform the ceremony. “A minister doesn’t know you as well as a family member,” Fons says.
Fons’ sister has a leg up because she’s already licensed and officiated weddings. “If clients want a friend or family member to become an officiant, it is definitely a DIY project,” Sainato says.
Choosing a friend to perform the ceremony can be just as difficult as choosing a professional, so make sure they’re a good fit. They should be reliable and comfortable speaking in public. “Officiating a wedding ceremony, if never done before, can be a nerve-wracking task,” says Sainato.
Katz has heard vendors tell horror stories of recruited-friend officiants, including a wedding where the friend forgot to tell the audience to sit for the ceremony and another where they forgot to do the vows.
That’s not to say it can’t be done. Carefully planning the details and practicing the ceremony with your friend can make all the difference. “It’s your wedding day and you want your ceremony to run as smoothly as possible and be a positive experience for everyone involved,” Sainato says.