Friday, October 13, 2017

Friend vs. Pro Officiant?

Some people entertain the warm fuzzy idea of a good friend or family getting quickie-poo ordained online so he or she can officiate your wedding. But there is MUCH more needed for this intensely personal and legal task.  Most people know little about what goes into designing a ceremony, a rehearsal, or what authorizes a person to officiate. Think about it – would you hire a music band that had never played before? Would you want your wedding to be their first gig? Also, you are putting your loved one in a high-pressure, complex, and legal position of VERY BIG responsibility … with only ONE shot at it!  You don’t get that special moment back.

On the surface, it seems a fun idea, however a closer look shows many reasons why this is not a good idea. On the other hand, is it possible to still have a warm, comfortable, personalized (and legal) ceremony with a non-relation? Oh yes! Read on…
Six main reasons to interview and hire a seasoned, qualified, professional to officiate:

1)       In all 50 states, the location state of the ceremony has jurisdiction over the wedding, not your home state. In NC, only a judge or a church-authorized clergy is allowed to officiate a legal wedding.
2) The state courts of North Carolina and Utah have 'judicial precedents' which allow NC judges to invalidate online or mailorder ordinations. If your officiant’s ordination is judged invalid (at any time, even years later), then your marriage is annulled and invalid too.  This causes you, your business, your property, your children and grandchildren very serious legal problems.  
3)     THE KICKER: "Ordained” does NOT equal “authorized”. Many clergy don’t know this legal necessity--some clergy are not authorized to officiate weddings!  Couples need to contact the leadership of a clergy’s church with three questions:
a.      Was she or he ordained in-person or no?
b.     Is that ordination current or expired?
c.      Is she or he authorized by THAT church to solemnize your marriage or no? 
4)     Officiating also requires hundreds of details and skills for a great ceremony. Which ones are you willing to forfeit when an amateur overlooks them? Such as: 
  • knows the minimum legal requirements to say/do to marry you
  • wedding logistics and common sticking points
  • reliable/ on time consistently
  • enjoys public speaking, relaxed
  • gracefully flexible during sudden changes or surprises 
  • calm, patient nature especially around difficult family or guests
  • good problem solving skills
  • friendly attitude under ALL trying conditions
  • controls stress habits (twitching, tapping, scratching, smoking, drinking, waving hands)
  • appropriate attire and non-distracting hairdo
  • neat and clean apprearance
  • 100% sober during ceremony
  • appropriate eye contact with audience AND couple
  • clear and correct pronunciation with correct grammar and syntax
  • pleasant voice, projection without yelling
  • appropriate voice inflection (going up & down in pitch to avoid droning)
  • speech writing skills and poetry skills
  • ceremony co-writing to YOUR taste not his
  • leads or knows standards for rehearsal
  • knows etiquette and proper exceptions for wedding
  • shows appropriate creativity, diplomacy, social skills.
5)     Why set up someone you love (and yourself) for disastrous failure? The consequences of that are pretty high with legal issues. Why not let them enjoy being a pampered guest, or wedding party attendant, or best man, or toastmaster or a poem reader during the ceremony?
6)     And if your loved one says he is already a clergy, are YOU willing to check his/her ordination credentials for the sake of the legality of your marriage? Also, are you two willing to feel vulnerable and weep in front of this person?  
7)  IF the friend is human, totally ruins the moment or flubs the job, are you willing to risk your friendship, or forgive the loss of your ONE shot at your dream wedding? 

There are better, safer options. A seasoned, trained, authorized Officiant knows the ropes, logistics, solutions and obligations. Plus they are a wealth of information! A good one know what works, what won’t, and will let YOU choose.

If you don’t want a stranger officiating, or you want more control over the vows, YOU CAN HAVE THAT TOO!
1)     Ask your other wedding vendors. They are going to recommend GOOD ones for their own good reputation's sake.
2)     Ask among your circles. Ask married folks who officiated for them, did they like it, and specifically why or why not? Ask other chums if they saw weddings with a great minister or officiant.
3)     Search reputable wedding websites with vendor listings. This can be VERY FUN!  Read the reviews of the 4 and 5-star ones. Notice the wording and photos of interesting officiant vendors… do they look, read and “feel” good?

Your ceremony is what your wedding day is all about. Give it the respect and attention it deserves as follows: 

  • Contact 3 or more of the best. Ask for a phone interview, or a meeting.
  • Trust your instincts:  how flexible is she?  Is he enthusiastic? Notice reactions to your wishes and ideas.
  • Speak openly about what you do and don’t want, listen to their questions. Don’t worry if a clergyperson doesn’t share your beliefs … you won’t hire that one. 
  • Do you like how she or he talks aloud? How he looks--he’ll be in half the photos.
  • Does she seem to like you or your ideas? 
  • When you find 1 or 2 favorites, ask for the contact info to the leaders of their churches to confirm their ordination and authorization. If they don’t comply, then smile, say thank you, and walk away.  Regardless of charm, if they aren’t authorized, your marriage won’t be legal. 
Find someone who is on your wavelength, knowledgeable, experienced, their church leaders confirm, and he or she is happy for you. You deserve all that!

~ author, Rev. Margo Ross Sears, as Pastor of her church authorizes over 200 clergymembers since 2006 and she is co-owner and co-operator of

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