We all know that when it’s time to start planning your wedding, there’s never enough time in a day. We’re even more aware of the heightened state of emotions of everyone involved: your mom, her mom, her.

There is a solution, however. Take control of the situation, be resolute, and make some decisions early on. An easy place the start is your officiant. Here’s how:

1.  Decide on a location

In many cases, the location will dictate the officiant. Your church or temple likely comes with a pastor or a rabbi. Some venues might offer a list of preferred providers. As more couples are marrying outside of their religious and cultural traditions, I have seen a shift towards more secular locations, and thus officiants. Decide what is right for you, and you’re on your way.

2.  Talk to the ladies in your life

Your bride. Your mom. Your grandma. Spoken or not, they all have an opinion on where you get married, and who performs your ceremony. If you want their buy-in, ask for it. If you want their blessing, ask for it. If you want them to keep it to themselves, tell them how it’s going to be. The key here is communication. It’ll be good practice for when you’re married.

3.  Ask friends for referrals

I’ve been doing weddings for more than 10 years, and aside from a humble, DIY website, I do very little advertising. All of the couples that I work with are referrals from friends, or people who saw me perform another ceremony. Your friends and family know you best, and they’ll know if their officiant will suit you and your bride.

4.  Interview, interview, interview

At the end of the day, this is a business transaction, albeit a highly emotional one. Treat it like a business transaction: meet and interview multiple officiants. Don’t feel beholden to someone simply because they were a referral. You and your bride need to be comfortable with the person who will be performing your wedding ceremony. You’ll know when you meet the right person.

5.  This is a business transaction

Clarify terms and fees up front so nobody is surprised. Most officiants that I know operate on a handshake without a contract. I’ve lost at least one couple because I didn’t have a contract ready to go. Ultimately, follow your gut. If you want a contract, get one. If you’re comfortable with the person, rely on the handshake. A deposit is customary (not more than 50%) with final payment due at the ceremony.

6.  Have a friend perform your ceremony

Joey Tribbiani did it. In fact, he was my inspiration. After seeing him perform Chandler and Monica’s wedding, I decided that I could do the same for some friends that were getting married. Turned out I was pretty good at it. People started talking, and 10+ years later, I’m doing a guest blog post on wedding-bros.com. My point is this: you’ve got some untapped talent in your life. If someone is interested in doing it, and you and your lady feel comfortable with them, go for it. It will make for the most intimate, personalized wedding ceremony that an outsider just can’t beat.

7. The ceremony

Most nondenominational officiants have run the gamut of ceremonies. Religious, secular, traditional, new age. You name it, they’ll have some ideas for you. It is best to go in with some ideas of what you do, and what you do not want in your ceremony. Between the three of you, you can build a beautifully customized ceremony as unique as you and your bride.

8.  To tip, or not to tip?

This is one of the most common questions I get. If you’re getting married in a church or temple, and the officiant is affiliated, there probably isn’t a charge, so a donation is expected. For a nondenominational officiant, you’re probably already paying for the service. If you’re thrilled with the service or experience, I’d suggest an optional tip of $50 – $100.

By taking control of the ceremony early on, you’ll save yourself, and your bride, stress and worry in the long run.


[author image=”http://wedding-bros.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/rz.jpg” ]Reverend Ryan Zilker is a nondenominational minister, ordained through the Universal Life Church. Reverend Ryan has been performing weddings in and around Orange County, CA since 2002.To learn more about Reverend Ryan and his services, visit ryanzilker.com.[/author]

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