If you’re anything like most couples planning a wedding, deciding whether to hire a professional wedding officiant is only one of the many decisions you’ll need to make. Depending on the type of wedding you’re planning, you may be considering hiring an officiant or asking a friend or family member to perform your ceremony instead. For many couples, it can seem like there isn’t much of a difference between using an amateur or hiring a professional, but there are quite a few major advantages to hiring an experienced professional to perform your wedding ceremony.
In most areas of the United States, it is relatively simple for anyone to perform a legal marriage ceremony. Most often, the only barrier is that one needs to become an ordained minister, which is a simple process and can be done online through a variety of websites. With the exception of a handful of states with more stringent requirements, this means that practically anyone can perform a wedding ceremony – but should they?
“Your wedding is not the time you want to take chances. Hiring a professional officiant means that you will have a professional who knows how to speak in public and has the experience to ensure the ceremony will go smoothly, even if you are too nervous to remember a word.”
– Laura Weatherly, Engaging Affairs
There are a number of advantages to hiring a professional officiant. They bring the necessary knowledge, experience, and skill to help you create a top-quality ceremony and deliver it with poise and grace. Ask any wedding planner, photographer, or videographer whether they prefer to work with an amateur or a professional officiant and they will tell you the same thing: definitely hire a professional. Here’s why:
The number one reason to hire a professional officiant is experience. The more experience someone has at performing wedding ceremonies, the better equipped they are to deliver a high-quality performance in the midst of an unpredictable, unscripted environment. Performing a wedding ceremony isn’t as simple as just reading a piece of paper, and many amateurs get thrown off by the near-constant distraction of mumbling guests, crying children, flying bugs, moving vendors, and the like. A professional officiant has a level of comfort that comes only from experience, and can maintain a state of calm and focus despite changing or unforeseen circumstances. This leads to a better experience for you, your families, and your guests – you can relax and enjoy your ceremony, knowing you’re in the capable hands of someone who knows exactly what to do.
Since a professional officiant has the benefit of experience, they can also offer knowledge and guidance that you simply can’t get from an inexperienced amateur. A professional officiant can advise you on the proper length for your ceremony, any potential logistical challenges you might face at your venue, different options for wedding traditions to incorporate into the ceremony based on your unique circumstances, and the answers to many questions an amateur wouldn’t even know to ask. Aside from being a life-changing display of your love and commitment to one another, your wedding ceremony is also your guests’ first impression of your wedding and sets the tone for the rest of the day. If you wouldn’t trust your friend to photograph your wedding or DJ your reception, then why would you put something as important as your wedding ceremony in the hands of an amateur?
Any professional officiant will tell you that one of the biggest benefits to hiring a professional, and one of the biggest drawbacks to using an amateur, is reliability. Professional officiants get calls all the time from couples who either hired a low-grade officiant from Craigslist who flaked on them at the last minute, or from couples who had planned on using a friend that now has cold feet and doesn’t feel comfortable doing their ceremony. These unfortunate circumstances are extremely common, and can be very stressful for a couple – especially when they happen only weeks or even days before their wedding. Professional officiants understand the commitment they make to every couple that hires them, and take that commitment seriously as a matter of professional integrity.
Unless you’re planning a very small wedding, chances are that you’re hiring other professional wedding vendors for your wedding. Professional wedding planners, caterers, photographers, videographers, DJs, and ceremony musicians all work together as a team with your officiant to ensure that everything happens according to plan. When one of the vendors you select isn’t an experienced professional, the remaining members of your vendor team are automatically tasked with “babysitting” an amateur instead of being able to concentrate on their jobs. This is because all of the different vendors at a wedding have overlapping or related responsibilities, each depending on the others’ competence in order to make sure things run smoothly. Pulling off a complicated event like a wedding requires a team effort from all of your vendors, and a professional officiant is an essential part of that team.
Aside from experience, for most couples the most important reason to hire a professional officiant is control. This is one of the major advantages that professional officiants offer over church-based clergy as well – the ability to create a ceremony that’s completely customized for every couple without being bound by dogma or tradition. When couples decide to use a friend or family member to perform their ceremony, they give up a lot of control because of the inherent awkwardness of having a personal relationship with someone who is performing a professional service at their wedding.
You never have to worry about offending a professional officiant if you aren’t thrilled with their suggestions for your ceremony, or dislike something they’ve written and want to change it. It’s a much different story, however, to let down a family member who has written a terrible script for your ceremony or has their heart set on incorporating something you really disagree with. Ultimately, this is your wedding ceremony and a professional officiant is going to understand and respect that, and work with you to ensure you get exactly what you want.
“Using a professional officiant really makes the creation of your wedding ceremony go smoothly. Writing a ceremony is tough, and it’s so nice to have the guidance. An experienced officiant has the expertise to come up with a ceremony that represents the couple and the type of ceremony they would like to have. They have the formal approach of a “traditional” ceremony but are able to let the couples personalities come through making the guests feel more connected.”
– Ashley Amtmann & Katey Clark, Lemon & Lime Event Design
As mentioned earlier, some states are more stringent than others when determining who may, or may not, perform a legal marriage. It’s extremely important to familiarize yourself with the marriage laws in the area you plan to wed in order to avoid running afoul of local laws. Hiring a professional officiant is another way to ensure that your marriage won’t face any legal issues – a professional officiant will be familiar with any city, county, or state laws and will ensure they are in compliance.
For instance, in eleven states and the District of Columbia, anyone who wishes to perform even a single marriage ceremony must be approved and registered by the state first before marrying anyone. The requirements for authorization can vary wildly, with some states like Virginia only allowing ordained ministers with a local congregation to perform marriages.
A Choice You Won’t Regret
Deciding to hire a professional officiant is a choice that will make your wedding planning easier and less stressful, and ensure that you have a high-quality wedding ceremony. While it may seem like an insignificant decision when compared with so many other choices you’ll need to make, keep in mind that your wedding ceremony is the entire reason you’re planning a wedding in the first place. With so many benefits to hiring a professional instead of using an amateur, it’s not a choice you’ll be likely to regret.