Find the perfect wedding officiant for your ceremony. Wedding officiants who fit your budget, theme, and style for an unforgettable wedding ceremony.
A great wedding officiant can elevate your wedding ceremony from average to unforgettable. However, many couples neglect this detail during their wedding planning, simply hiring the first justice of the peace or minister available on their wedding date.
Here are our tips on how to find a wedding officiant who will make your ceremony amazing.
Think about the theme or formality of your wedding. If you want a traditional religious ceremony, then you’ll want a clergy member as your officiant. If you’re having a secular wedding, you can look for a justice of the peace.
Determine the venue for your wedding. If your wedding is in a different geographic location, you might want to search for an officiant in that area. If you have it in a place of worship, you may need to use one of their clergies as your officiant.
Plan out the structure of your wedding. How long do you want the ceremony to be? Do you want to have readings from your friends or family? Are you writing your own vows? You should write down everything you want for your ceremony, so you can find a wedding officiant that will work within that structure.
Ask any friends or family who has been married within the last few years how they found their wedding officiant, and ask for a referral. If you’re attending anyone else’s wedding soon, pay attention to how their officiant runs the ceremony, and ask for their information during the reception.
Look through online directories. Wedding sites will frequently have lists of local vendors to search through. Your local business association might have similar directories.
If you’re holding your wedding at a house of worship that doesn’t require you to use their own clergy, ask their administrative staff for a referral to officiants they’ve worked with in the past.
Contact your city or town’s courthouse to ask about hiring a justice of the peace to officiate your wedding.
Talk to other vendors you’ve hired. Anyone working in the local wedding industry will know and have worked with other vendors on many occasions so that they can be a good source for unbiased recommendations.
If you'd rather have someone you know officiate your wedding, then ask them to get ordained online. It's often a quick and easy process—10-15 minutes on a website, and they can order a certificate declaring them as ordained in your state or region.
Check officiants’ websites. Once you have a few names, see if they have an online presence. Often, you can see pictures, videos, or transcripts of other ceremonies the officiant has conducted. You can also get an idea of what they’re like based on their website—formal or casual, modern or old-fashioned, etc.
Read reviews online as well, on sites like Yelp, Angie's List, and Google. Look for the more detailed reviews, as they're more likely to be real, and you'll get more information about the officiant that way. Don't just look at the star rating, as those are often artificially inflated.
Conduct An Interview For Your Wedding Officiant
Once you've narrowed down your list of potential officiants, you should request an in-person meeting, unless they live far away. If an officiant seems hesitant to meet with you or pushes for you to sign any kind of paperwork or make a commitment before meeting them, you should look elsewhere.
Pay attention to your chemistry as you’re talking with your officiant. You should feel comfortable around them, and they should fit in with the style of wedding you’re planning to have.
Explain the type of ceremony you want, including how long it should be, what type of language (religious, secular, gender neutral, etc.) they should use, and if there are any special readings or rituals you want to include.
If your officiant seems uncomfortable with any aspect, they’re probably not the right fit for you. Make sure you don’t have opposing values.
Check their credentials. As we mentioned earlier, it’s extremely easy to get ordained, but you likely don’t want to hire someone who isn’t a professional.
Ask for references, and follow up on them before you decide to hire them. You shouldn't be expected to decide during the interview, so take at least a few days to talk to their references and mull over the choice. Ask about any special training or degrees the officiant may have if that's important to you.
Confirm that they can legally sign your marriage certificate. Different states and counties have varying laws about who can be an officiant and where they have to be registered.
What to Ask the Wedding Officiant
Ask to view a video of a past ceremony, or see if they can do a live reading of a ceremony they’ve written. Pay attention to how they speak, as well as what they’re saying. You want your officiant to sound confident.
Ask if there are any requirements before they can officiate your wedding. Some officiants require religious counseling, therapy, or other prerequisites before they’ll conduct a ceremony.
Ask how they typically schedule weddings, and if they have any scheduling conflicts. Some officiants only schedule one wedding per day, while others need to hop from one ceremony to another on the same day. Also, find out if they can attend a rehearsal the day or two before the wedding.
Find out what it will cost. In addition to the officiant's fee, ask about extra charges for mileage, attending the rehearsal, or anything else that might cost extra.
If you want to write your own vows, ask the officiant if they can work around that. Some follow a strict script for every ceremony, while others are more flexible than that.
Ask about their preferred method of communication. If you need to be able to conduct business over email, but the officiant only talks on the phone, that could be a little annoyance that makes wedding planning even more stressful than usual.
Ask if they offer any guidance or advice regarding filing your paperwork, changing your name, or any other legal aspect of getting married.
Questions You Might Be Asked
There are several things you should consider for your wedding including:
- Do you want any songs or specific readings included in the ceremony?
- What did you like about the last ceremony you attended? What did you dislike?
- How long do you want the ceremony to be?
- Do you want a more formal or humorous ceremony?
- Do you want the officiant to stick to a script, or can he or she improvise?
Working with Your Wedding Officiant
Once you've found "the one," you need to coordinate and work with them to plan the ceremony. Communicate any dress code requirements, themes, scheduling changes, or other key information about your wedding.
Be respectful of the officiant’s time and process. Your wedding is almost definitely not their only obligation, so don’t demand all of their time. Similarly, they will likely have their own way of doing things, which you should follow along with unless it directly contradicts something important about your wedding.
Make sure you get everything in writing. You should have a contract that lists every aspect of the ceremony your officiant is to perform. That includes the rehearsal and any extras like mileage. If the officiant offers to do something outside of the written contract, make sure you still have a written record to fall back on in case of a conflict.
A wedding officiant will be one of the smaller costs in your wedding—the average wedding officiant costs between $200 and $500, in the United States. Thus, you can get the best bang for your buck by hiring a wedding officiant who will make your ceremony creative, personal, and tailored just for you. Even traditional church ceremonies can be engaging and romantic with the right speaker.
Take your time researching, interviewing, and working with your officiant to get the best outcome.
Most experts agree that you should hire an officiant nine to twelve months before the wedding unless your religious venue is going to provide the officiant as part of their wedding package. In fact, many wedding planners say you should book your wedding officiant at the same time that you’re booking your venue, especially if you’re hiring a professional. The best officiants will book early, and you don’t want to be left with the leftovers who can’t book a gig.
If during the process of working with your wedding officiant, you find yourself unhappy with the ceremony they plan to read, it's possible to cancel the contract and hire somebody else. To ensure you won't face any outrageous fees for doing so, make sure there's a cancellation clause in your contract.
We hope our guide to how to find a wedding officiant makes your wedding planning just a little bit easier, and we wish you the best of luck on your big day!