Even more so than beautiful flowers and an amazing cake, the choice of wedding officiant can make or break your ceremony. The officiant isn’t just the person with the legal power to sign your marriage certificate; he or she is the host of your wedding ceremony, the glue that binds the whole show together. Here are a few options to consider for your wedding officiant.
The old standby of having a pastor, priest, or rabbi perform the ceremony is still an easy way to make sure things go smoothly. Most clergy members are trained in performing wedding ceremonies, and will have many options for scripts to set just the tone you’re looking for. If you or your spouse has a favorite clergy member from childhood, or a church you regularly attend, you might not need to search further. Also, if you’re getting married in a particular church, the venue might require that you use their officiant.
If you do go with a clergy member with whom you don’t have a history, be prepared to pay an officiant’s fee. The fee can range from $50 to $400 depending on experience and denomination, so make sure you find out upfront how much a particular officiant charges.
Justice of the Peace/retired Judge
If religious faith isn’t a big part of your life as a couple, a Justice of the Peace or a retired judge might be the way to go. While a civil ceremony like this is usually a stripped-down, private affair in the courthouse, some justices are available for a ceremony at another locale, like a local park. Don’t expect romantic poetry readings or jokes, though; this option is strictly no-frills, just-making-it-legal. You can expect to pay between $50 and $100 for the services of a current or former civil servant.
The most popular trend for secular weddings is to simply have a friend or family member perform the ceremony. It’s a good way to ensure that your officiant knows you and knows exactly what you want out of the day. It’s also a special honor to convey on that charismatic, outgoing friend who isn’t in the bridal party, but still should be a part of the day.
The important thing about having a friend or family member perform the ceremony is to make sure that your officiant has the legal standing to pronounce you man and wife. Most states require that an officiant be a justice of the peace or an ordained minister, but most states accept an online ordination like those offered by the Universal Life Church. The ULC’s website also contains a list of marriage laws by state, so your officiant can make sure of his or her legal status before the day.
Whether it’s a judge, a priest, or your best friend from high school, the choice of officiant can change the tone and timbre of a wedding ceremony. Make sure to explore all the options available to pick the one that’s just right for your special day.