You Can Always Get What you Want (for your wedding ceremony at least….)
You CAN always get what you want! (At least for your ceremony…)
Many of my couples say, “We don’t want a religious ceremony for various reasons. How can we make sure our officiant honors our wishes?”
Great question. Your ceremony, after all, is YOUR ceremony; it is your gift to the friends and family who have come to celebrate and support you. Creating a ceremony that is not traditional can seem very overwhelming, but it can be both fun and enlightening. And the end result will be the memorable centerpiece for your wedding day.
If you have decided that a religious ceremony isn’t a good fit, you’ll need to pick an officiant who will be open to your ideas. Choosing wisely will make it much more likely that your collaboration will create a meaningful expression of your personality.
But before you can ask a potential officiant questions, you need to ask them to each other! Do you want a civil ceremony, or one that feels inspirational and spiritual without being obviously religious? Do you want to include family, guest readers, or Sparky, your giant Schnauzer? Should you include musical interludes or rituals like unity candles, sand ceremonies, chocolate sharings or handfastings? Would you like to include readings, and if so, will they be biblical (which can be included in many ceremonies that are not strictly religious), poetic or literary? The more you can describe your vision to a prospective officiant, the more likely you are to find someone who shares that vision and can make it a reality for you.
Choosing an officiant begins with your first phone call; if that’s no fun, it is NOT going to get any better. Are they enthusiastic about your plans? Do they encourage you to include the ceremony elements you’d like and suggest others that might be meaningful? Do they insist that you use specific readings, music or vows? If this comes out during your initial conversation, it may be very difficult to get them to really create a ceremony that is truly personal.
If you’re still excited when you hang up, you should try to meet with the officiant in person, or at least schedule a video call with them and both of you. You can really talk about the ceremony and walk through the different parts, from the opening reading to the recessional. You can not only get a sense of their approach to writing your ceremony, but how they would perform it! Their physical presence is very important; the way they speak, their confidence, the way they use gestures to punctuate their ideas; all of these come into play when they actually perform your wedding.
Then, you should be able read samples of their past ceremonies, either sent to you or posted on their website. And absolutely, absolutely, check out their reviews on one of the many wedding sites that post vendor reviews, written by brides. This will give you an overview of how pleased (or not) their couples have been. Wedding Wire and Project Wedding are two that are great for this. (But do keep in mind; one less than stellar review may not be an honest reflection of their work.)
Finally, you should make sure you get a copy of your ceremony to approve. (I tell my couples to make it a “date”; open a bottle of wine, print it out and read it together. And don’t forget to have a box of tissues handy!) You’ll want to make sure that you are comfortable with all the language, that all the facts are right, and that the flow is graceful. (As a bonus, reading it several times before hand lessens the “happy stress” of hearing it for the first time at your wedding. )
And then? Relax. Your walk down the aisle will be a joy, knowing that your ceremony will be a perfect reflection of you!