This entry is from our Expert Guest series where wedding and honeymoon professionals share their best tips on creating memories that last a lifetime.
If I had to guess, choosing your wedding officiant isn’t the most exciting or romantic part of planning your wedding.
It’s not the same as finding a dress or picking the flowers for your bouquet – where all you need to do is go on Pinterest or Instagram and wade through 17,000 images.
Choosing a wedding officiant shouldn’t take more than an hour or two. It does require a little bit of effort…but not too much.
Steps In Choosing As Wedding Officiant
There are only 3 Steps (read on for a no-stress, worry-free path to officiant greatness):
- Google Search
- Read Reviews
- Call or Email them
Doing a Google Search…but do it this way
The best place to start searching for a wedding officiant is by doing a simple Google Search. But don’t enter just anything into that search bar.
Stick with the following search terms:
“Wedding Officiant + [Your wedding geographical location]”
“Wedding Minister + [Your wedding geographical location]”
By using these specific search terms you’ll weed out most of the non-officiant wedding vendors…of which there are tons!
When you get your search results, stay away from listing services or review sites at this stage (and please avoid Craigslist). The problem with a listing service is that these services list anyone that pays a subscription fee. No skill required…and you are not looking for just any warm body that can read a wedding ceremony script.
Let’s be a little discriminating. You want someone that is going to enhance and add to the beauty of your wedding. So just focus on search results that direct you to an actual officiant’s website. The officiants that are ranked high on Google (on the first or second page) are there because they have been around for a while and also because Google thinks pretty highly of them. Which is usually a good sign.
Ok, now start clicking on all the officiants listed on the first page or two of Google. And at this stage you’ll want to look for:
Someone that looks good
Your wedding officiant is going to be in your photos…forever. Choose someone that fits with the look you’re going for. For example, some officiants wear a minister robe, while others might wear a Hawaiian shirt. Try to find an officiant that won’t stick out like a sore thumb in your photos. You want a professional. They need to look the part of a wedding officiant or minister.
Look at the pictures on his or her website. Be vain. Be critical. You will have to stare at this person for 15 – 20 minutes during one of the most important days of your life!
Find someone that suits your personalities
Do you want a wedding officiant that reads from a script and presents like a traditional minister? Or do you want someone more relaxed and personable? The best way to find out the style/personality of a minister is to find video of one of their weddings. Hopefully their website will have one. If not, read the “About Us” page to get a handle on their presentation style.
Now narrow down the search results to 2-3 of your favorite candidates.
Assessing The Reviews
Grab the names of the few officiants that’ve made the cut and head to a review site. Wedding Wire is the big dog in most locations.
Now here’s the trick: only read the 3 or 4 most recent reviews. And make sure those reviews aren’t older than 6 months. If they don’t have 3 or 4 reviews in the past 6 months, that means either they aren’t that active or they don’t have raving couples dying to write a review. And if they don’t have any recent reviews, it probably means any reviews they do have are fake.
When reading the reviews, pay attention to what stood out about the officiant to the couple.
- He was friendly.
- He was easy to work with.
- She was helpful and put the couple at ease.
- She had a strong presentation style.
Now, look at the negative reviews. Or the less than 5-star reviews. Anyone that’s been around for a while should have at least 1 or 2 less than stellar reviews. It happens to everyone.
But when reading it, understand that some complaints are forgivable…others not as much!
Comments that are a huge red flag:
- The officiant showed up late.
- He didn’t understand the basic etiquette and anatomy of a wedding.
- No one could hear at the ceremony.
After reading the reviews, hopefully you’ll still have 1-2 officiants that stood up to your rigorous standards.
Now for the moment of truth.
Shoot your candidates an email, or better yet, jump on a call with him or her. 5 minutes is all you need. Again, you’re just trying to gauge their personality – are they warm, friendly, polite, good voice, etc. It’s how you’ll get the best sense of their skill/personality as an officiant.
Let’s face it, one of the central roles of the officiant is to be an expert on wedding ceremonies. You should be able to put your ceremony in the officiant’s hands and feel confident.
When discussing your ceremony, if you get a lot of “I don’t knows” and “that’s not my jobs” from the officiant, then look elsewhere. An officiant’s role is to be the swiss army knife of the wedding ceremony. So try to find an officiant that, aside from being an officiant, isn’t afraid to jump in and help with last minute details such as:
- Tying a bow tie
- Helping with the proper order of the procession
- Pinning a boutonniere
The fact is, I’ve officiated weddings with some of the most highly regarded wedding planners and yet have had to step in because the wedding planner was busy elsewhere or didn’t know how to set up a unity ceremony or cut the cake.
It’s worth spending a little time on choosing the person to guide you down the road to wedded bliss. But I wouldn’t spend too much time on it…you have flowers and a dress to worry about. 😊
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Bio: Mike from Wanderlust Bay is a former trial attorney who is now a full-time wedding officiant who performs over 200 weddings a year. After moving to the Caribbean to practice law, he realized he loved performing weddings after officiating at the wedding of his brother. Know known as Island Mike, he devotes himself to meeting the needs of couples in need of a wedding officiant. Wanderlust Bay also helps people get ordained to perform weddings.