Effective communication with your officiant is one of the most essential components of planning your wedding. It’s important to have an idea of the look and feel of your wedding before meeting: do you want everything to be quick and easy or are you looking for something more elaborate and formal? Do your tastes lean toward readings from Pablo Neruda poems or Hemingway short stories? Remember, this is no one else’s day but yours, and you should make it everything you want it to be.
Take time to write out your ideas and connect the dots between you and your partner. Think back on ceremonies you’ve liked and what made them special. Also try to remember those you didn’t enjoy or that seemed generic. Be prepared to discuss cost, timeline, expectations for pre-ceremony meetings, any requirements you have regarding the big day, and if you need the officiant to file the marriage license for you, etc. If you’re deciding between multiple candidates, ask about past weddings they’ve officiated or if they can provide references or even videos of other ceremonies they have performed.
If you’re having a friend or relative officiate, consider having them add a personal anecdote to the ceremony: the first time they met you or a time when they stepped in as a role model or support. If this person hasn’t officiated a wedding before, work closely with them regarding getting formally ordained by an institution recognized in the state where you’ll marry and offer to pay the fee. There are a number of opportunities for online ordination; Universal Life Church is one of the more popular. After the officiant is ordained, it’s important to obtain proper documentation, as laws regarding credentials vary from state to state. Newbies should be reminded that ceremonies should contain at least two elements: the “Declaration of Intent” (I do!) and Pronouncement (“I now pronounce you…”).
If you’re working with an officiant neither of you previously knew, it’s important for you to share who you are individually and as a couple. Let them know how you met, or other benchmark stories that define your relationship, your goals and ambitions, then talk about who is going to be at your wedding and what else will be part of the ceremony. More often than not, officiants will have ideas regarding readings or options for how the ceremony can unfold. Listen to their ideas but make sure your voice is heard. Share information about the venue and what the look and feel of your overall event is going to be. If you’re working with a wedding planner, be sure to schedule a time when you can all meet to go over the details of the day.
Last, be sure there is a clear strategy for filling in your marriage license, and take care of this before you make your grand entrance at the reception. Have someone you trust hold onto the license and be sure to file your paperwork according to your state’s laws (often within 30 to 90 days of your wedding ceremony).
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And don’t forget our Wedding Planning section on our LGBT Resources page.
Last modified: September 18, 2018