You’re on a tight budget but you want the best wedding you can afford. It’s true for couples on shoestring budgets and for couples planning a wedding in the six-figure range. Price is always important, period.
That said, let’s consider the difference between Price (what something costs, in dollars and cents) and Value (what it is worth) when it comes to selecting your professional wedding officiant.
I have performed hundreds of ceremonies and spoken to hundreds of couples, vendors and other officiants about weddings over the past 10 years. The quality of wedding officiants really does vary widely so choosing your officiant based on price alone isn’t always the best value and, sometimes, it can be very costly indeed.
Your wedding officiant is the focal point of your ceremony. A high-quality officiant can create many happy memories for you, your family and your guests. Good officiants are typically in high demand and may cost more than you initially expected to pay, but very few items on the wedding budget are as memorable as your officiant. If anything in your wedding budget is worth splurging on, it’s a professional, experienced officiant who is a good match, not just with your budget, but with your vision for your special day.
~ Rehearsals ~
An experienced, professional officiant brings a wealth of knowledge and information to your wedding rehearsal. They can ask and answer a number of questions that can help you avoid problems with your wedding party, your venue and your ceremony. Many of the less expensive officiants are just starting out and, while they mean well, they simply don’t have the background to anticipate all the in and outs of the typical wedding. Some officiants will offer a lower price because they don’t offer rehearsals at all, they either expect you to run one yourself or to skip it altogether.
A well-run, comprehensive rehearsal pays for itself in many ways. It reduces stress for you and your entire wedding party (including your family), it allows for last-minute revisions of the ceremony, it familiarizes you, your wedding party and your ceremony vendors (officiant, musicians, DJ, planner/organizer, etc.) with your venue and with each other, it helps to clarify your vision of your perfect wedding and allows an opportunity to brainstorm ideas should you realize that your vision isn’t quite as workable in practice as it was in theory. Though it may seem like a luxury, a well-run rehearsal is well worth the money, if only to provide peace of mind and a good night’s sleep on the night before the ceremony.
~ Scheduling ~
Experienced professionals know how long weddings tend to take and book accordingly. This means they may have to turn down someone else’s wedding in order to provide you with their full attention and quality service. Unfortunately, some officiants whose prices are very low expect to make up for it in volume. It is not unheard of for these “bulk” officiants to show up at wedding venues after the ceremony was scheduled to begin and dash out the door as soon as it’s over because they’re already late for their next wedding. A few bargain-priced officiants have been known not to show up at all!
Knowing that your wedding officiant will arrive well before the ceremony starts, will be attentive to you, your family and your guests, won’t be confusing you with the 4-5 other couples they’ll marry that day and won’t be insisting that you sign the paperwork at the end of the aisle so they can race off to the next wedding is another reason to consider more than just price when selecting a wedding officiant.
~ Writing ~
A well-written wedding ceremony is a joy to witness and participate in, but not everyone has the ability, or even the desire, to write a beautiful ceremony. Many officiants price themselves low because they don’t write ceremonies at all. They’ll either expect you to write it yourself or they will cobble together parts of previously written ceremonies (either theirs or ones they’ve “borrowed” from the Internet). You may be asked to select your choices from a “menu” (i.e. Select one of these 3 readings, one of these 3 sermons and one of these 4 vows and, voila, a wedding!). Of course, some couples really don’t care what words are being said as long as it’s legal, but a cut-and-paste ceremony won’t inspire the same genuine emotion in you or your guests as a well-written, personal ceremony.
A thoughtful officiant takes the time to interview you about your relationship, your beliefs, your plans and what you want to say to each other and to your guests through the words of your ceremony. When they can take all of that information and use it to compose an emotionally stirring, stylish ceremony, their value is truly beyond measure. Not everyone is a skilled writer, even some higher-priced officiants really aren’t all that great at writing ceremonies, but as a general rule – the lower the price, the less time and effort goes into writing you the personal, joy-filled ceremony that you and your guests deserve.
~ The Message ~
Wedding officiants provide their services to couples for a number of reasons – most of them want to be helpful and share their talent for public speaking or they just really enjoy weddings – but some reasons are not as straight-forward. Offering low priced wedding officiant services is one way that some very devout, very evangelistic ministers find they can spread “the good news” as they see it. From time to time I hear of weddings that started out being everything the couple wanted but quickly became a loud and uncomfortable sermon, complete with fire and brimstone lectures on the evils of divorce or the sins of adultery. While some couples would welcome this, the stories I hear tend to come from guests who were horrified, particularly when they knew that the Bride or Groom’s parents were divorced and had to listen to it from their front row seats.
Every wedding officiant is different, every couple is different and some combinations work beautifully together while others are not at all compatible. Take the time to confirm that your chosen wedding officiant is interested in providing services for reasons that seem appropriate and reasonable to you. There are plenty of good officiants available to work with you, so if you’re not comfortable with one, move on!
A quality officiant has worked on weddings for years and understands them better than you do (unless you’re in the wedding business yourself!) They will work with you from the very start of your planning all the way through to the filing of your paperwork.
A valuable officiant will ~
• Provide you with a standard contract that explains the terms of your booking
• Schedule and keep appointments with you as needed
• Book your ceremony into their schedule with plenty of time to spare
• Ask you insightful questions
• Listen to your answers
• Point out details you may have missed
• Help you plan out and design the perfect ceremony for you
• Consider your guests’ comfort and needs
• Write you a meaningful ceremony that reflects your beliefs
• Will swallow their pride and allow you to rewrite their brilliant ceremony if you desire
• Maintain good records regarding your account
• Keep in communication with you as your wedding date approaches
• Arrive at your rehearsal prepared to direct you and your wedding party
• Maintain a positive attitude and good humor
• Ask and answer relevant questions as needed to allow the rehearsal to proceed in a timely manner
• Help you to realize your dream wedding, or as close to it as realistically possible
• Understand the legalities involved and be able to handle them appropriately
• Stay at the rehearsal until all questions are answered and all members of the wedding party feel knowledgeable and comfortable about their roles during the ceremony
• Dress and groom appropriately on your wedding day
• Arrive on time and complete the pre-ceremony tasks in a timely manner
• Be available to greet your guests, if desired
• Understand the basic rules of amplification and working with microphones
• Speak boldly and clearly – with a smile!
• Direct guest traffic to, through or around the receiving line, as needed
• Be aware of and/or available for any photographs you desire
• Process your paperwork correctly and efficiently
• Remain available to you post-ceremony for as long as you require, or until the booking appointment is over
• Be open to contact from you and/or your family and friends after your wedding day
Should you find an officiant who can do all of these things for you, your family, your friends, and your guests, then you have found a true treasure who is worth every penny of your limited officiant budget.
After all, without your officiant, your special day is merely an elaborate, expensive party and not a wedding at all!