The best time to book your wedding officiant depends on whether (or not) you are planning your wedding ceremony in a church or other place of worship. Often, the priest, pastor, or rabbi at the church or synagogue is included in whatever fee or donation you are asked to pay to host your wedding ceremony there. In this case, you aren’t hiring a professional wedding officiant at all, so you don’t need to worry about the timing. However, if you’re planning a ceremony somewhere other than a place of worship, it’s extremely important to understand when to book your officiant and your other wedding professionals.
Conventional wisdom may be generally accepted, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s correct – especially when it comes to wedding planning advice. Most couples, upon getting engaged, look for a wedding planning timeline or checklist, either online or in a wedding magazine. It would be reasonable, then, to assume that these websites and magazines would all offer similar advice on when to book specific vendors, but do they?
We took the time to examine the advice offered on several of the most popular checklists available online to see what they had to say. Most lists started at about a year before the wedding, but there appear to be drastic differences in the advice given to couples – especially around the best time to hire specific types of wedding vendors. Here’s what we found:
Pros: Of all the timelines considered, this one seemed to be the most comprehensive and well-thought-out. Specifically, it advised booking the officiant at least nine months prior to the wedding, as soon as the venue was secured and the date is set.
Cons: It advised waiting until 8 months before the wedding to hire the photographer, videographer, and entertainment. Depending on the wedding date, that may be too late to ensure you are choosing from the best vendors in your area.
Pros: Also a very comprehensive list, it advised hiring the officiant along with the photographer and videographer 10-12 months before the wedding date.
Cons: Similar to the Real Simple checklist above, it advised waiting until 6-9 months before the wedding to hire the band of DJ, at which point many of the top entertainers may already be booked.
Pros: The list is fairly comprehensive, and gives solid advice for booking the ceremony and reception venues at least 12 months before the wedding date.
Cons: It advises waiting until 8-10 months before the wedding to hire any vendors, and makes no mention of hiring an officiant at all. The only mention of the officiant comes at the night before the wedding when they suggest having the officiant at the rehearsal (which most professional officiants don’t do) and then having the best man pay the officiant after the ceremony (which most professional officiants would never agree to).
Pros: It’s online, which makes it accessible to people all around the world.
Cons: It gives terrible advice almost all the way around. The most egregious example is in advising couples to wait until 3 to 6 months before their date to hire a photographer, officiant, or entertainment.
Pros: Like the rest of Offbeat Bride, it’s a great read and very funny and offers solid advice for most items – including hiring an officiant early in the planning process.
Cons: Strangely, it suggests hiring an officiant twice, the second time at 6 months before the wedding which could be pretty late for couples who want to hire someone really talented on a popular date.
People vs. Products
After considering what these sites had to say, it’s clear that there isn’t much agreement on the order to hire wedding vendors, or when to do it. In light of this, the best advice we could give to couples is simple – there’s a difference between booking a person for your wedding vs. booking a product for your wedding.
What that means is that, once you’ve secured your venue and wedding date, you should place a high priority on hiring any service which requires a specific person or group of people – planner, photographer, videographer, officiant, DJ, band, etc. – and book them as quickly as possible. The reason for this is simple – for services that require a specific person, you are competing with every other couple getting married on your same date for the services of the top wedding professionals in your area. If you wait too long, the best vendors will be booked before you even have a chance to start looking.
In most areas, the top talent books about a year in advance for all services. Ask the top photographer in your area and they’ll be happy to tell you that they start getting calls for dates over a year beforehand. The same goes for any of the services where you are hiring, and relying on, the talent of a specific person to work your wedding. This is different than, say, a cake bakery which might be able to make cakes for several weddings on any given date. They can produce multiple products on your date because they aren’t relying on placing a specific person at your wedding.
In conclusion, book your officiant as soon as you’ve booked your venue, along with your photographer, videographer, DJ, and other person-specific services. It’s much better to have your pick of the vendors you want to work with, and not just be stuck with whoever happens to still be available on your date.