It’s exciting to plan a wedding!  With so many details to think about, it is easy to forget that there is only one aspect of your wedding that is not optional – the celebrant who will perform your ceremony.  If you forget that, you lose sight of what the day is really about – your promises to stand together through life.  It is the wedding ceremony that gives voice to all that is in your hearts.  Do not leave that one essential detail to the last.  

That said, where do you start?  If time or money is short, call your local court and ask for the name of a justice of the peace or marriage commissioner in your area.  Civil authorities usually charge a flat fee for this service.  Expect to receive a short, pre-written ceremony.  

If you are both churchgoers, the answers may be obvious.  For many people, however, the choice is more confusing.  Perhaps you are of different religions, or have no home church, or think of yourselves as spiritual, but not religious.  You may be planning a destination wedding.  Maybe you just want something more personal and meaningful than a justice of the peace or marriage commissioner can offer.  It’s time to search for a celebrant and begin work on your ceremony.  

Many couples today want custom tailored ceremonies that reflect who they are, but don’t know where to begin.  As you call or email officiants in your area as you search for the right one for you, have some questions in mind.

Will the celebrant meet with you beforehand for an interview? How can officiant write a personalized ceremony for you if he or she has never met you before?

What is the planning process like? Every celebrant works a little differently.  Know up front what to expect. 

How much input will we have into the ceremony?  You may express specifics at your planning meeting.  At this point, just make certain that you and your fiancée are involved in the planning process. 

Will there be a contract?  By all means, get your agreement in writing.  

What are the total costs?  Plan to pay a little more for a personal ceremony.  Expect to pay extra for a rehearsal.  There may also be travel costs.  Realize that your celebrant’s time is valuable, and the service you are receiving involves more time than just the performance of the ceremony.

What if something happens and your officiant cannot perform the ceremony?  Who has to find a replacement?  It should be the officiant’s responsibility.  Ask if the replacement will perform the ceremony you have worked hard to plan or something else entirely.  

After you have found satisfactory answers to these questions, schedule your meeting or conference call.  Sometimes, a couple and a potential officiant just don’t click.  If that happens, keep looking.  Only after feeling comfortable with your celebrant should you sign your contract.  

Remember, finding a celebrant should be near the top of your “to do” list.  It is the one essential element of your wedding day. 

By Rebecca Ritter Kelly of Trillium Celebrants