CAUTION: You are now entering… the Danger Zone!
It this really a good idea? You better think about this some more!
This is the most special day in your life and you want to hand this important aspect of your wedding to an amateur? I know they mean well, but if you want your wedding ceremony to be memorable you need a trained wedding professional. They have performed hundreds of wedding ceremonies and know all the ins and outs of the wedding business.
You guessed it. There are several downsides and many pitfalls to consider.
“Much can go wrong in the delivery of your wedding ceremony (when performed by a family friend). Even those who are proficient speakers under different circumstances may become rattled at the everyday glitches that can crop up in a wedding ceremony. Consider how your friend will do if the groom becomes emotional, the bride flubs her vows, the flower girl is whining, the musicians play the wrong selection, inclement weather conditions suddenly arise for your outdoor wedding, your feuding divorced parents refuse to sit next to one another, the microphone dies mid-sentence, or someone faints. Handling these situations requires a special set of skills. Professional officiants have “been there, done that” with every situation above and more!” – Maureen Thomson, Wedding Officiant
Although it’s an honor to perform a wedding ceremony, presiding over a friend or family member’s wedding has its pros and cons. There are not many benefits to being married by a family friend. Someone who becomes a wedding officiant for a one-time-only wedding ceremony can cause a bride and groom a lot of stress during the planning of the wedding. The only upside could be that they may do it for free. Free may be inviting but you usually get what you pay for. If money is an issue, cut down on some of the other wedding services, such as favors, etc., then hire a professional.
Rarely does the amateur think to provide a qualified back-up wedding officiant in the event of accident or illness. I continue to be surprised when a bride and groom call me for a “last-minute” wedding ceremony because their friend backed out at the last minute. This happens all the time as people get cold feet or egos start to clash between the couple and the officiating friend.
Most part-time officiants do not know how to construct a wedding ceremony, such as presentation protocol or the legal requirements governed by the state. Each state establishes specific criteria as to who can perform marriage ceremonies. Check the state where the marriage is taking place if it is different from where you live. In some states, your aspiring officiant must also register with the county before performing a ceremony, which sometimes requires a fee.
Several years ago I received a call from a bride who had just discovered that although they had a wedding ceremony performed by an uncle from Canada 1 year and a few months earlier, the Court House in Phoenix had no record of their license ever being filed. No official filing by the one-time wedding officiant = no legal marriage. The uncle went online and got an ordination to do one wedding. She was in a panic! I solved the problem by having them purchase another marriage license ($72) plus a certified copy of the license ($26) and performed a brief legal ceremony (with 2 witnesses) and immediately filed the license with the Maricopa County Court House. Although this is rare, the problem occurs when an inexperienced one-time wedding officiant is unaware of the legalities and all other aspect of the wedding business. Solution: Always hire an experienced, full-time Wedding Officiant! AND check their references!
The amateur officiant is rarely ever able to present a plan of the important steps of the wedding ceremony to the bride and groom. Why? Because they don’t know. Officiant planning and coordination with wedding vendors is crucial to the bride, groom, and those participating in the wedding.
“Having a Friend or Relative marry you: This has backfired for many a bride. We have seen the officiant faint, get sick, not say nice things, be silly or rude and forget to fill out the proper paper work to make it official – leaving couples unmarried. There are non-denominational officiants, religious clergy, retired clergy, judges and men and women who are trained in creating personalized wedding services for couples at a modest price… best of all you will be legally married with the documents to prove it.” ~ Judith Rivers-Moore
A number of people are dependent upon the wedding officiant. In fact, wedding photographers, ceremony musicians, disc jockeys, wedding consultants, the wedding venue, etc., tell me of their dread of working with unskilled family members or friends who show up to perform the ceremony. “Hand-holding” the wedding officiant is not part of any other wedding vendor’s job description.
There are so many little details to remember when putting together a wedding, it may be in your best interest to hire a wedding planner to do it for you, or at least help you. You can hire a consultant at any stage in your wedding plans, from beginning to end. She can save you the most money, time and stress in the early planning stages. Look at a consultant as a necessity, as you would regard a caterer, venue, minister or photographer. She is just as important!
Almost one-third of couples surveyed after their wedding who did not use a wedding consultant dearly wish they had! Some wedding consultants can be hired for the day of your wedding to help coordinate all the last-minute details.
One of the questions you should ask and amateur is, are they legally qualified to perform weddings in your state? Two other questions should be, “Do you have a ceremony prepared?” and “Do you know what legally must be in a ceremony in your state?” It is their responsibility to check the individual state laws regarding this issue. Do they know the tone that you want for your ceremony? Some couples do not regularly attend a church or synagogue and will want to have final say over the spiritual content in their ceremony.
Do they know about music, scripture readings, poems, vows and wedding traditions. Have they ever created an order of events for the ceremony to follow so both the minister and couple knows the order that things will happen. Do they know how to lead a rehearsal if there is no wedding coordinator available? What about a back-yard wedding rehearsal?
You should also note that some religious denominations will not recognize a marriage performed by someone ordained outside the faith; so, although you may be legally married, your church may not acknowledge it.
Someone from Chicago wrote: “I went to one wedding where the groom’s brother married the couple, and it was more like a drawn-out reception speech (complete with a dirty joke thrown in) than a wedding ceremony. Whatever you do, just make sure the person you choose has a clear idea of the atmosphere you’re looking for, and consider creating an outline for him/her to follow.”
Choosing a wedding officiant based on price alone is like choosing a husband based solely on salary.
Just to clear things up. . . getting an online ordination is perfectly legal in the state of Arizona. The hard part is finding a “qualified” wedding officiant with an online ordination who has the “experience” in performing ceremonies that will keep you from experiencing all the things that go wrong with an amateur. There is no Biblical example of a minister performing a marriage ceremony. This does not mean that it is wrong, but simply that the Bible does not seem to support it as a religious practice. Therefore, it is American culture that has made the officiating of marriages a religious matter.
Be very careful to hire someone who can give you excellent references. If they cannot provide references. . . find someone else. (Local laws governing religion and clergy vary widely so check with state, country, and provincial authorities before performing ceremonies like marriages.)
There are two important areas of your wedding celebration where price should never be a factor. A mediocre Minister and a unenthusiastic DJ can wreak havoc at your wedding. A lackluster minister with a boring ceremony – like most of the others you’ve heard – can leave the guests cold and uninspired and if the DJ isn’t a true “entertainer” the party can crash and burn. Your wedding reception DJ should be considered your “Wedding Entertainment Director.” A great DJ determines whether your reception is a hit or a miss! The minister and the DJ should be the very best you can hire. I know it’s cliche, but you really do get what you pay for.
Perhaps the primary deciding factor should be who performs the most memorable and unique wedding ceremony for you and your guests and what other extras do they offer in their package that other ministers do not. You will enjoy the comfort and assurance of knowing you are contracting with a first-class minister who comes with professional experience, impeccable integrity, commendable references, a gentle and enthusiastic spirit and a subtle, but delightful sense of humor (Hmmm, sounds like a description of Larry James).
This is your very special day. It will only happen once. I would never recommend that you make your decision on price alone. There are numerous other areas that you can cut back on when the $$s are tight. The ideal Officiant is not only someone who is important to the bride and groom, but is articulate and capable of handling such an important event. Cheap is seldom ever memorable!
There are many ways to accomplish a memorable wedding ceremony that makes everyone happy. A full-time wedding minister or officiant knows all the ins and outs of the wedding business.
I had a couple call recently and forfeited their deposit so that the groom’s uncle – who had never performed a wedding ceremony and “insisted” on being the wedding officiant – could perform the ceremony. The bride confided to me that this was not what she really wanted but bowed to the pressure of the uncle rather than unset the uncle. How sad. Your wedding is YOUR wedding, not your uncles, your mothers or anyone else.
“When a friend or relative provides a poor quality product or service as a gift for your wedding, you might recover from the disappointment, but they never will. Do your family and friends a favor and decline their offer to work at your wedding by letting them know you want them to celebrate with all the other family and friends. You will save everybody potential grief and hurt feelings.” ~ John Goolsby, Videographer
Perhaps the best advice is to find a truly great officiant or minister who can help you with this process: one who be the perfect combo of thoughtful adviser, skilled writer, excellent public speaker and who will keep your stress level as low as possible. Personal touches and light humor by the minister are a great way to add even more personality to your ceremony.
Believe me, you will sleep better and have much less stress show up as you plan your wedding if you shell out the $$$’s to hire a full-time wedding minister; someone who will perform for you and your fiance a personalized, unique and memorable ceremony you will always treasure.
Note: Congratulations to Mr. & Mrs. Mahmoud Sallam. Dana Vogel & Mahmoud Sallam were married at 3 p.m., Thursday, December 30, 2010 @ Val Vista Lakes, Gilbert, AZ. Their close family friend was going to do their wedding ceremony and backed out 3 days before their wedding. I met with Dana & Mahmoud the day before the wedding and performed my “romantic” wedding ceremony for them the following day.
This is not the first time that I have received a call from a frantic bride or groom that a family friend who was supposed to do the couples wedding ceremony lost their nerve and backed out leaving the bride and groom to scramble to find a last-minute replacement. Just because a family friend volunteers to do your ceremony is no reason for you to give in because you are afraid you will hurt their feelings. Be couragous! Say, “No, and thank you for asking. We are going to hire a full-time wedding officiant!” (Ask them to do a special reading for you during the ceremony and then hire a professional). This is the most important day of your life. Do you want to put it in the hands of someone who got ordained especailly for your wedding and has never before performed a ceremony? Think about it. Be sure it’s something that YOU want and “always” have a backup plan!
Note from Bishop Ronald Turcot, Oldsmar, Florida: Larry, a bride’s “friend” who is not trained / ordained has no business performing any wedding. This is supposed to be a very special moment in a bridal couple’s life and there is no doubt at all in my mind, that a non-professional amateur cannot deliver the proper meaning of what married life is all about nor the the sacrament of the marriage. I have observed so many of these amateurs destroy a wedding ceremony beyond their knowledge & control. It turns so sad! When the wedding is over, and everyone (guests & family) realized how many mistakes were done and at the important & critical times in the ceremony, they were all very upset. There are NO do-overs, when the ceremony is over…it’s over. Best wishes!
Copyright © 2010 – Larry James. This information is adapted from Larry’s Wedding Website and Wedding Blog. Larry James is a non-denominational minister and performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere! Every wedding ceremony is customized to your complete satisfaction. Call to check availability: 480-998-9411 or 800-725-9223. You will find more than 475 pages of Wedding ideas, tips (90 tips and growing), ceremonies, and more at: http://www.celebrateintimateweddings.com. Check Larry’s availability.
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