Tracking down a wedding officiant can be a little intimidating. Perhaps you remember a time when it was hard to get one if you weren't among the "regularly churched"! But times have changed, and hiring an officiant for your wedding is now standard procedure.
Basically, brides-to-be find themselves in one of two camps: Either they have a regular church and a favorite minister, who might be a longstanding family friend, or they need to find one through word-of-mouth or web sites.
The latter situation often costs more, but allows for a lot of flexibility. Depending on your tastes and faiths, you can often find a judge, a Catholic priest to marry you outdoors, a Rabbi to officiate at an interfaith wedding, a non-denominational officiant who encourages you to write your own vows, and so on.
How to find officiants
A good national directory for finding Catholic officiants is www.rentapriest.com. If you're stuck for ideas, try asking vendors. Your florist or caterer is probably well acquainted with local options.
Another excellent way to find officiants is to visit a large wedding forum, like The Knot, and post on boards for your local geographic area. You can often get an idea of the flavor, preparedness, flexibility and even appearance of a popular local officiant.
When should you book an officiant?
Some officiants book early. If you're really particular about whom you want to do the service and can't budge on the date, try to book more than six months in advance. Some couples book a year ahead.
How much do officiants charge?
A minister at your own church may not charge anything at all, but may accept donations. In that case, a $100-200 donation is about average. Ask the minister yourself if there's any doubt.
An officiant you engage yourself will set his or her own rates. Rates generally range from $250-600, but some well-known officiants may charge more.
Do we send an invitation?
By custom, you invite your officiant to your rehearsal dinner as a guest. You also invite the officiant and his or her spouse to your reception with a formal invitation, just like other guests. Unless the officiant is an old family friend, he or she may decline to stay, but an invitation is proper. You aren't expected to invite the officiant's children.
Can you use a friend as an officiant?
It's done all the time, and can make weddings very personal. A father, mother, or the friend who introduced you can make for an amazing event. Be sure to pick someone comfortable speaking in front of large crowds, and brush up on your state's laws and licensing requirements. Here's a good site to begin your research:
Your chosen friend or family member can become ordained "instantly and online" at the Universal Life Church, which in some areas will enable them to perform legal weddings. Again, be sure of your state's laws. Many times, ministers ordained by ULC will also have to register in their state and obtain a license before they can practice. Call your local county clerk for clarification.
Universal Life Church: www.ulc.org
Do I meet with the officiant before or after booking, and what should I expect at the meeting?
Ideally, an officiant will allow a "getting to know you" meeting before you book them, though not all will. Most at least offer telephone interviews, which helps you see how they fit with your personal style.
During your first meeting, the officiant will typically tell you about his or her background, discuss the logistics, bring up any premarital counseling requirements, ask some questions about your personal history, and show you a sample ceremony script. This is a good time to discuss special unification ceremonies or personal vows, bring up interfaith issues, and learn whether your officiant plans to attend your rehearsal.