Is Your Wedding Celebrant The “Right Fit” For You? (Or How To Avoid An “Inefficient Officiant”)

Remember your wedding celebrant is the person who will officiate on one of the most important days of your life, so how do you know she/he is the right one? (This is such an important issue!)

As a wedding celebrant, here are my suggestion:

Even if you feel confident and satisfied with your choice of celebrant, there is the extremely important matter of legalities. Ask yourself, “How do I know if this celebrant is legally registered to officiate weddings?” Indeed, how do you know? On a few occasions my services have been requested to legally solemnize marriages for “married” couples who discovered, after their original ceremony, that they were not in fact legally married, thanks to an uninformed, unregistered minister celebrant and an unscrupulous clergy person with doctored credentials. Therefore, once you have one or more recommendations, I suggest that you ask the celebrant the following questions:

  • How long have you been a celebrant?
  • Are you legally registered?
  • In what state are you registered? If the celebrant is registered in a state other than the one in which you are to be married, ask whether that registration is reciprocal throughout the US. (A New York minister registration is reciprocal in most states.)
  • What is your registration number? You can check a celebrant’s registration status in the city where the registration was issued. (In New York City, clergy registration is issued at City Hall on Centre Street.)
  • How much time do you spend working with a couple at the consultation? Ceremony construction takes time. Generally, one and one-half to two hours will be adequate at the initial consultation, where the outline of the ceremony is constructed.
  • What time do you arrive at the wedding location site? Will you get there early? The celebrant needs to arrive in ample time for a number of reasons: to allay any concern on the part of the couple, to meet the family and the wedding party, to familiarize herself with the location staff and the location site if it is new to her, to set up and check the altar or ceremony site, to be alerted to any last-minute changes, and to avoid tardiness due to unpredictable traffic conditions.
  • What happens if you are ill the day of the wedding and cannot officiate? Do you have someone to cover for you? This is a valid question. I have never found myself in a situation like this. However, I am fortunate to have my husband available most of the time to cover for me if necessary–Please make sure this celebrant has someone reliable to cover for them.
  • Can we stay in touch with you during the interval between the consultation and the ceremony in case we have questions or changes in the ceremony? Make sure the celebrant is agreeable to staying in touch with you until your ‘big day’.
  • How much do you charge and when is payment expected? An independent celebrant’s fee will vary. A minister of a mainstream church generally reduces the fee for tithing congregants and charges non-congregants a substantially higher fee. Please be sure that all issues regarding the celebrant’s fee is clearly discussed and understood.
  • Could we speak to some of your past clients? If you are unsure about the celebrant, ask if you may speak to a couple whose ceremony she or he has officiated.
  • Would you be prepared to be responsible for the order of procession? In most cases, the order of procession is the responsibility of the banquet manager or bridal assistant at that location. However, in less formal ceremonies or in locations where such assistance is not available, the celebrant can be invaluable and absolutely needs to take on this role.
  • Finally, and most importantly, ask yourself, “How do I feel about this celebrant?” Stop thinking for a moment and rely on your intuition. Listen to that small, still voice within.

Cautions And Tips Regarding An ‘Inefficient Officiant’

Do not consider any celebrant who will not furnish you with the appropriate answers to the questions listed above. Do not make a commitment to a celebrant who responds in the following manner:

  • She avoids or is vague in answering the questions you ask.
  • She will not or cannot give you her registration information.
  • She is not willing to spend the necessary time to get to know you, to listen to you, and to construct the ceremony with you.
  • She attempts to talk you into a preformatted ceremony outline, simply inserting your names in the questions and vows section.
  • She intends to show up at the wedding location just minutes before the actual ceremony.
  • She refuses to be clear and forthright about her fee.
  • She is coercive concerning the ceremony style, the religious content of the ceremony, the fee, or any other issue that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Do not be afraid of or intimidated by the celebrant. Her job is to minister to you. If you are unhappy or have doubts regarding this celebrant, be honest and speak up about how you feel. Your input and critique could prove helpful. If the celebrant takes offense, it may be time for an ego check. Priceless opportunities are often lost to a stubborn ego.