What is a wedding officiant, and how do I get one?
A wedding officiant is a person who legalizes the marriage between partners.
There are a few different types of wedding officiants you can choose depending on your preference:
- A Religious Wedding Officiant
- A Civil Wedding Officiant
- An Ordained Officiant
Finding a wedding officiant is easier than you think, I went to The Knot to look at tons of different officiant options. You can choose one that will suit your style and wedding date.
With the stress of finding the perfect venue and dress, it’s easy to overlook one of the most important guests at your wedding, the officiant.
Finding a wedding officiant is a very personal journey, some people prefer a local community member with lots of experience, while others are less picky.
Whether you choose your officiant at random online, or do hours of research to find the perfect one, there are a few tips you’ll need to know first.
What is a Wedding Officiant?
A religious wedding officiant will generally either be a priest, rabbi, vicar or imam depending on the religious background. Be aware that some religious wedding officiants will not perform the ceremony outside of a church, or religious building.
A religious wedding officiant will include things like religious scriptures and passages to the ceremony. This is a great option for couples who like to include their faith on their big day.
Another option, which has become increasingly popular in recent years, is a civil wedding officiant. A civil wedding officiant is a person employed by the government who has the legal ability to officiate a marriage. Generally these people are judges, notary employees, a mayor, a city clerk, or a magistrate.
Civil wedding officiants tend to be very straightforward and flexible about their role. They usually come with a pre-written script that is used for all ceremonies, and gets directly to the point. If you’re looking for an officiant who is well versed about the legal aspects, then a civil officiant will be perfect for you.
The last option is less popular than the previous two, and that is an ordained officiant. An ordained officiant is usually a family member or friend who has applied to become legally able to perform a marriage ceremony.
This option is less popular because not all states treat this practice equally, it’s important to research first which states legally recognize ordained officiants.
Aside from that, becoming an ordained officiant is relatively simple. You’ll need to submit an application online, as well as paying a small fee. Once the person has been approved they have the green light to perform as many ceremonies as they want.
This is an excellent option if you’re looking to personalize your wedding in a way that the first two options just can’t do. Having a close friend or family member there to marry you is an intimate and bonding experience, and will make the ceremony even more special. Apply to become an ordained officiant at this legal website.
What Does a Wedding Officiant Say at a Wedding?
Legally speaking, there are only three things that need to be said by the officiant during the wedding.
- A Declaration of Intent – This is the part where each person agrees to marry the other.
- A Pronouncement – This is the part when the officiant pronounces you officially married.
- A Marriage License – The marriage license is generally signed after the ceremony, and requires witnesses to be watching.
Aside from these three things, your officiant is free to customize the speech as much as you want.
Let’s go over some common excerpts from officiant speeches and see which one suits you best.
Traditional – “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join together ______ and ______ in holy matrimony. Marriage is the union between husband and wife in heart, soul and body.”
Civil – “Do each of you enter freely into this marriage? If so, say I do. Are each of you prepared to accept the rights and responsibilities of married life? If so, say I do.”
Customized – Usually the officiant will create a personalized speech about how the couple met, their back story, some funny first dates anecdotes, etc. If you’re looking for a truly unique officiant speech you can hire a writer on platforms like Fiverr to write one for a very affordable price.
How Much Does a Wedding Officiant Cost?
What is a Good Gift for an Officiant?
It’s nice to say thank you to your officiant with something small, yet meaningful.
Some popular gift options include:
- A Monogrammed Cup – Personalizing a gift doesn’t have to be pricey, Amazon has amazing options for monogrammed tumblers, mugs and cups.
- A Candle – This option is foolproof because, who doesn’t like candles? You can make it more appropriate by choosing a scent that’s related to the season, like lilac for spring or pumpkin for fall.
- A Necklace/Bracelet – A quick search on Etsy will show that there are tons of unisex jewelry options for your officiant. Some trending ones this year are a bracelet with a “knot” in the middle, to symbolize tying the knot.
- A Bottle of Wine – Wine has been a traditional gift for centuries, there’s something about the classic custom that feels homey and welcoming.
- A Customized Pen – For the officiant who is always writing their latest speech down, a customized pen is both a thoughtful and useful gift.
Where Do I Find a Wedding Officiant?
If you live in a big city there’ll likely be officiants you can make an appointment to meet with. However, if you live in a suburban or rural area it may require more effort to find your perfect officiant.
In this case, there are a few officiant websites you can use to check the profiles of different officiants. If you’re busy, or living in a rural area, this will make things super easy.
Most officiant websites have a full profile on their officiants, including their work experience, personal speech style, religious preference, prices and availability. You can book your wedding officiant as easily as booking the hotel for your honeymoon.
Should I Ask Someone in My Family to be My Officiant?
If you’d love nothing more than to have a family member be your officiant, then it’s always a great option. Let them know ahead of time what this job will entail so they’ll be prepared.
How a Family Member Can Become an Officiant
Becoming ordained can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, be sure that your family member is punctual about submitting their officiant application.
There will also be a fee in addition to the application, each state charges a different amount ranging from $35-$300.
As previously mentioned, there are a few different options for the officiant’s speech. If your family member is creative and outgoing, then it’s a great option to let them write their own. However, if preparing a full wedding speech is daunting for them, then find a pre-written option online and let them use that.
Questions to Ask Your Wedding Officiant
If you’ve scrolled through the officiant websites, and you’re still feeling as lost as ever, remember a few important questions. Feel free to send a message to any officiants that stand out to you and ask them some clarifying questions, so you can find the perfect match for you.
1. What’s Your Officiating Style?
Most officiants will be very clear ahead of time about their style and speech. It’s important to clarify ahead of time if they include religious scripts, traditional monologue or free speech.
2. Are You Able to Personalize Our Ceremony?
Some officiants may charge extra for the time and effort it takes to collect information about your romantic backstory and compile it into a personal speech.
Try to imagine yourself on the big day standing up there with your partner, would you prefer a traditional speech or a unique one? Do you want someone who incorporates humor, or keeps things serious? Ask yourself, and your officiant, these questions before finally choosing.
3. Can We Write Our Own Vows?
For centuries it has been a custom to use traditional vows that go something along the lines of “…in sickness and in health, for better or for worse..”
However, you are not legally obligated to use these, and in fact most couples these days are opting to instead write their own vows.
Not only are hand written vows more meaningful and authentic, they give the audience a truly unique, tear-jerker experience.
4. How Long Do Your Ceremonies Typically Last?
Statistically, most ceremonies last between 15-20 minutes maximum. It may seem like a short time, but believe me it’ll be more than enough to say all that needs to be said.
Make sure your officiant doesn’t do a ceremony that is shorter than 15 minutes, this time is necessary for the photographer to get all the different angled shots.
Likewise, a ceremony longer than 20 minutes may be tiring for everyone involved, and you’ll want to keep that energy for the reception.
5. Will You Handle Our Marriage License?
If you choose a civil officiant, then the answer is yes, they will handle all the legal documents for you.
However, if you choose an ordained officiant they will likely not have the authority to handle these matters. Ask your officiant in advance so you have time to make the proper arrangements.
6. What’s Your Experience with Other Weddings?
In a way, finding your perfect officiant is like a job interview. It’s important to find out all their past experiences and if they have online testimonials it’s even better.
7. What Will the Ceremony Be Like?
It’s not necessary to get a play-by-play script of the entire ceremony, but it will give you peace of mind to have a general idea of what the day will look like.
8. Are You Flexible in How the Ceremony Goes?
Again, this question will vary greatly between all officiants. If they answer the question no, then it’s time to move on and find a better match.
Most officiants are happy to be flexible, however there are a select few that don’t like going off the beaten path.
9. How Often Will We Meet Before the Ceremony?
It’s best to meet with your officiant at least three times before the big day.
The first time should be the initial interview/meeting, here you can discuss preliminary factors like the prices, dates, etc.
The second meeting will involve giving information about the couple’s backstory, creating a personalized speech, and giving a timeline of the ceremony.
The third meeting should be on the day of the dress rehearsal. On this day the speech and timeline should be completely prepared and ready for a final practice.
10. How Much Do You Charge?
Typically a wedding officiant will charge around $300-$450 for their service.
Be sure to communicate in advance what is included in that price, and if there are any additional fees. Some possible additional fees may include transportation cost, personalized speech cost, and rehearsal day compensation.
The most important factor when searching for your wedding officiant, is to find one that suits your personal style.
If your wedding is eclectic and unique, it may not be a compatible match to choose a traditional officiant. Likewise, if you are seeking a traditional wedding, a modern officiant won’t have the skills you’re looking for.
Remember that you are hiring them, and therefore it’s necessary to ask plenty of questions in advance. Don’t rush into choosing one because you feel short on time.
If your wedding date is getting closer and you still feel confused, the best option is to choose a civil officiant. They usually have a professional, yet laid-back energy about them, and they will take care of all those confusing documents you have to sign.
If you’d like to have your family member become an officiant then just know that while the process is relatively easy, it is also unpredictable.
Documents can easily get delayed for weeks while processing, so it’s important to give yourselves plenty of time to apply and prepare.
What is the person who officiates a wedding called?
The person who officiates a wedding is a marriage officiant, or sometimes referred to as a wedding officiant.
Who can legally marry a couple?
People who can legally marry a couple include:
– A priest
– A rabbi
– A minister
– A judge
– Public notary workers
– Justice of the peace
– A legally ordained person
Should you ask a friend to officiate your wedding?
If your friend has gone through the process of becoming legally ordained, and your state recognizes this as valid, then you may ask your friend to officiate your wedding.