Am I The Right Officiant? Essential Questions To Ask.

I don't pretend to be the right ceremonial officiant for every person.  It's my belief that each ceremony offers rewarding opportunities for human connection.  And so it is really important to me that you find an officiant you are comfortable with, who you trust implicitly, and who helps you embrace the pivotal experiences of your life.

But finding the right officiant can be a daunting task -- especially if you are not affiliated with a particular house of worship or if you are marrying outside of your faith.

The key is to ask questions.

To help you, I've put together a list of questions to ask of prospective officiants whether they are a Celebrant, Minister, or other Ceremonialist. The questions apply whether you are holding a baby blessing, a wedding, or other occasion. Remember, you are not just looking for someone to speak words from a prewritten text; you want someone who is a writer, a performer, a guide, and is reassuring to boot.

Your ceremony should be reflective of who you are.  To do this, your officiant must be committed to understanding your beliefs, your values, and the impact of this particular life event on your own lives.  Since it is easy to get caught up in the details of any occasion, remember to treat your ceremony with reverence and find an officiant who does too.

Essential Questions To Ask.

  • How do you create the ceremony?  Officiants who are skilled in the craft of writing a meaningful and emotive copy are hard to come by.  They also need to have superior interviewing skills with which to uncover your hidden stories.  Your next step is to learn more about their ability to deliver their great material.
  • What do people say about you (Officiant) as a public speaker?  Great writing is lost when the officiant has stiff, monotone, or overly formal delivery.  Like good storytellers and vocalists, memorable Celebrants bring written words to life.  Find out what former guests and clients have to say about the officiant's performance.  Were they warm yet dignified, engaging, able to breathe life into traditional elements, and did they have presence?  Did they hold the audience's attention?
  • Will I have final approval over the script?  Don't let a fill-in-the-name ceremony be imposed on you.  The officiant should collaborate with you every step of the way so that ceremony is completely customized and made for the two of you.
  • What training do you have in creating and officiating at ceremonies?  Many officiants have no specific training in ceremony.  Look for those who have a sound background in the history of rituals and ceremony.  Knowledge of ceremonial traditions around the world.  The ability to manage and choreograph the ceremony itself.  And experience in public ceremonial speaking.
  • When will you arrive?  Your officiant should be available at least 30 minutes before the ceremony in order to run through any last minute changes, and to coordinate details with readers, musicians, photographers, and videographers.  While they typically do not stay for the entire event, your officiant should not run off right after your ceremony.
  • Does your fee include a full rehearsal for wedding ceremonies?  Many officiants don't rehearse, but a full rehearsal is essential for a beautifully choreographed ceremony and for calming last minute nerves.  A degree of familiarity also helps you to actually remember your ceremony...what a concept!
  • Will you work with our other ceremonial professionals?  The officiant should collaborate as needed with musicians to provide music cues for the ceremony, with photographers and videographers to assist them in getting the best shots, and with the staff of your venue to ensure that the ceremony will not conflict in any way with their requirements.
  • Will you provide us with a copy of your ceremony?  The best officiants will create for you a keepsake copy of your final ceremony.
  • Where do you stand during the ceremony?  Celebrants generally stand behind or to the side when performing the ceremony.  It places the Celebrant in a peer versus authoritative relationship with the honorees.  It also places the focus of the ceremony where it should be; on the honorees, not the Celebrant.

Here are a few other things to reflect upon before, during and after your meeting with a prospective officiant.

  • Will the officiant be able to convey the essence of who your are?  The bond shared by you and your beloved?  Your commitment to your family?
  • Will you feel comfortable stating your preferences to the officiant, even those that seems insignificant or silly?  
  • Do you like the voice of the officiant?
  • Do you trust the officiant to inspire you and your guests?
  • Does the officiant perform interfaith or secular weddings?  A special note here: Many officiants who say they are "interfaith" were first trained in a particular faith tradition, and they adapt services based on this background of their client unless otherwise directed.