written by amy f. aurore | photos by amy thompson
You deserve to have a deeply meaningful and personal wedding ceremony.
Your ceremony is the first major part of your wedding day and it is responsible for setting the tone for not only the rest of the event, but also your marriage. You are promising your heart and soul to your beloved — you deserve to do so with words that mean something to you.
Below you will find five reasons why you want to have a personalized wedding ceremony. Once you read these, you will inevitably decide that you want a personalized wedding ceremony. So after that, I will demystify the role of the professional Wedding Officiant and share some tips for hiring the perfect one for you.
01 / You want your ceremony to set the right tone for the day.
Every wedding has its own distinct vibe. You may want a ceremony that’s deeply reverent and serious, or you may want something fun and lighthearted. With a custom ceremony, you get to create the atmosphere you want and set the tone both for the ceremony and the rest of the event.
02 / You want to agree to intentions that mean something to you.
Many couples say “I do,” to a standardized set of declarations — “Do you, Pat, take Sam, as your lawfully wedded partner…” and so on. But instead of just agreeing to agree, you can create personalized statements that make your Declarations of Intent reflective of your actual intentions for married life.
03 / You want to infuse your ceremony with your personality.
There are endless ways to infuse your ceremony with personality, including heartfelt readings, a unique Unity Ceremony or the telling of your Love Story. The Tree Planting ceremony is my personal favorite unity ceremony, where we combine the soil from your two homes of origin into one container with a sapling, to be planted in your future shared yard to grow with your marriage. Swoon!
04 / You want to declare promises that mean something to you.
The vows are the one point in the ceremony where you get the mic to speak directly to each other in a way that doesn’t happen during the rest of a repeat-after-me ceremony. I encourage my couples to write their own vows or to let me write customized vows you can repeat after me so you speak promises that resonate with your heart’s desires.
05 / You want to create something that stops time.
Ask anyone who’s been there — your wedding ceremony will go by lightning fast. If you are listening to words that don’t mean much to you, spoken by a person you don’t have a connection with, this precious opportunity to cross this threshold of your marriage together will over before you even know what’s happening. When you plan a custom ceremony, you can create opportunities to stop, take a breath, look at each other, and to be fully present at your wedding.
finding your officiant
After you’ve decided a personalized wedding ceremony is right for you, you will need to hire a wedding officiant to make these dreams come true. If you are like many engaged couples, you may have no idea what a wedding officiant does, how they do it, and what to expect from them.
What does a wedding officiant do?
Once upon a time, the officiant role was only performed by clergy or sometimes a judge. However, many couples today may not be connected with a church, are planning weddings at a wedding venue, or eloping and must hire a professional wedding officiant.
The evolution from clergy to a professional service allows for customized ceremony offerings in a way that wasn’t possible before. While there are certain parts you’ll find in most ceremonies as standard, the words used can be flexible and authentic to you.
Not all officiants are created equal, so you will want to ask questions and do your research to make sure you work with an officiant who crafts custom and personal ceremonies.
The legal responsibilities of the wedding officiant are basic but very important:
- They must confirm consent to marry and declare you as married.
- They must sign the marriage license.
- They must mail the marriage license to the officials.
What your wedding officiant does beyond this will vary depending on their service packages. They may:
- Consult and collaborate with the couple on the ceremony.
- Craft a partially- or fully-customized wedding ceremony.
- Provide premarital coaching.
- Conduct the rehearsal.
- Officiate the ceremony.
- Sign and mail the license.
- Confirm with the records department to ensure receipt.
- Act as an expert in their field and support and guide you.
How do we find the best officiant for us?
I encourage couples to be thoughtful about who they hire for their officiant because this person is holding space for you and your beloved as you step into married life. You want to be sure it’s a great personality fit and you want to trust that they will handle the legal responsibilities with care.
- Begin your search on your favorite wedding planning website to see who is available.
- Ask your friends about their officiant experiences. Nothing beats word-of-mouth.
- Once you have a few names, check out their website and social media.
- See if this person speaks your language or reflects values that are important to you. Are they serious? Funny? Offbeat? Traditional?
- Scope out their offerings. Do they offer custom ceremonies?
- Read reviews! Are they good at what they do?
- Narrow your list to your top three choices, and set up a consultation with each.
What questions should we ask an officiant when meeting them for the first time? I advise couples to think about the following before meeting about their custom ceremony.
- Who are you as a couple and what’s important to you about getting married?
- What sort of ceremony do you want? Traditional, offbeat, simple, heartfelt, personal or straight to the point. Be prepared to talk about what vibe you want to create.
- How involved do you want to be in the creation process? Do you want to collaborate or do you just want to hire someone for a task?
Depending on the officiant, there may be a structure to your consultation or it may be free-flow. Pay attention as you move through the conversation.
Don’t be afraid to ask these questions so you can be sure you are hiring the right person for this important duty:
- Who are you as a professional and what sets you apart from other officiants?
- What services do you offer?
- Do you have a standard ceremony you use for everyone, pick and choose style ceremonies, or do you write custom ceremonies?
- Do you offer premarital coaching or counseling?
- Do you offer any other special services I may not know about?
- Where is your service area? How far will you travel?
- How does the process of collaborating with you work?
After your consults, make a dinner date to discuss with your fiancé who the best fit was. Trust your gut! Your intuition knows best. Once you decide, contact all of the officiants you interviewed to let them know the outcome and hire the best one for your wedding day!
Remember that you deserve to have a deeply meaningful and personal wedding ceremony.
Your wedding is when you and your best friend declare your sincere and heartfelt intentions for your amazing marriage and make the promises to one another that will support you in manifesting those intentions during your marriage together.
The person speaking those words and performing those rites will be an integral part of that experience, and a combination of the words and the person makes for a most meaningful and personal wedding ceremony.
ABOUT AMY F. AURORE
Amy F. Aurore is a Wedding Officiant & Premarital Guidance Coach. Her vision is to help couples build their marriage on a strong foundation by creating personal and intentional wedding ceremonies and facilitating a non-religious premarital coaching program. She invites couples to express themselves authentically and to clarify their intentions and promises to one another for their marriage, so that their wedding ceremony is as personal as it is meaningful.
Photo by Daniellabean Photography