How to Choose an Officiant

 In Ceremonies, Elopements, Officiant, Pastor, Vow Renewals, Weddings

What is an Officiant?

Are you wondering how to choose an officiant for your wedding blessings, vow renewal or elopement? Let’s start from the beginning. What is an officiant? An officiant is the person who will perform your ceremony. The officiant has an important job, because she asks the most important question at the ceremony. The one you will answer, “I do.”


Checking Rules and Regulations

First and foremost, before you choose an officiant you must know the rules and regulation about “who” can legally marry you. Unless you are choosing only a symbolic ceremony, you want to be sure that your officiant has the credentials to legally marry you. If you are in the U.S., you can check with your county or city clerk’s office.

Remember, in the era of the internet and online ordinations for “pastors,” it is essential that you check the rules in your state. For example, some states don’t allow ministers ordained “online” to officiate marriages. Other states have more nebulous laws, so choosing your officiant carefully is of the utmost importance. Also, check your officiant’s credentials and ask questions if you are unclear about their ability to perform legal marriages.

If you are choosing a destination wedding, be sure to communicate with your wedding planner to properly understand the steps it will take to legally validate your union. If you have your heart set on a destination where it is difficult to marry, you can always choose a symbolic ceremony in your preferred location and a quick legal union in your hometown.


Too Many Decisions…

In the midst of the many decisions you will make about your special day, it’s vital to remember that the ceremony is the focal point. It is the reason it is all happening! What happens at the ceremony will mark a new beginning for you. It’s the first day of your forever, so it is critical that the ceremony fundamentally reflects who you are.

Ceremonies are the very best when they are personalized and “tailored” to fit you as a couple. I work with couples to create something that reflects who they are and their love for one another. Whatever is important to your identity as a couple should be reflected in how you begin your journey. Religious… or not so… traditional, interfaith, casual, spiritual, formal, fun… The officiant should be able to capture the characteristics you share as a couple. Simultaneously, your officiant should bring a fun-loving and professional spirit, complete with good humor, to help create the perfect atmosphere for your special day.


But How Do I Choose?

There once was a time when the person who served as an officiant had to be either a member of the clergy (trained classically), or a justice of the peace/designated government official. There was no such thing as “thinking outside the box” in selecting your wedding officiant, if you wanted your marriage to be legal! Times have changed, and now there are myriad options.

As a classically trained clergy member, I admit that I have mixed feelings about this. Even so, the bottom line remains the same. When navigating the question of “how to choose an officiant,” there are certain things that you should consider. To ensure that your wedding ceremony is a perfect reflection of your love, and meets your expectations, here are some things you should think about as you select your officiant.



Your wedding, elopement or vow renewal is going to be an extraordinary day. It’s important that you are completely comfortable with the person you invite into your lives to perform your ceremony. You should have complete confidence in person you choose to facilitate your ceremony. Further, you should never feel judged or uncomfortable. Above all, the way in which an officiant speaks about marriage and the ceremony should resonate with your hearts.

The business of planning a wedding can feel overwhelming. You may feel intimated and like you don’t know how to choose an officiant. First and foremost, an excellent officiant is there to shepherd you through, and ease those anxious feelings. Perhaps she isn’t helping you select other vendors (though some officiants, like myself, do) but your officiant is a valuable resource. You should feel comfortable asking questions not just about the ceremony, but about how the day will come together. If you have selected an experienced officiant, she has plenty of knowledge regarding how your day will flow, and usually a contingency plan for the many things that can come up throughout the day!  An experienced officiant will make you feel at peace so that you can focus on the love and joy that has brought you to this moment.



There are plenty of hip, open-minded clergy/celebrants who are willing to work with you to create something that is perfectly “you,” but if you truly want to create a ceremony that reflects who you are, you must be involved in the creative process. Therefore, your style should fit your officiant’s style. Think about the weddings you have attended, and the ceremonies that you enjoyed. What kind of feel did it have?

I encourage couples to be involved in selecting all the aspects of their ceremony – from the language to the readings. You shouldn’t have to settle for a ceremony that doesn’t suit you. Even if you desire a fairly traditional, or short and sweet ceremony, you should have input on the details.

The Color of Communication

In addition to getting to know a couple, hearing their love story, learning about their backgrounds (particularly religious or spiritual connections) and their families, I always ask my couples to choose a color to describe how they want their ceremony to feel. Is this a rather “off the wall” question? Perhaps, but after getting to know a couple, this question helps me solidify how they want their ceremony to feel.

The way your ceremony feels will be what you remember. You may not be able to remember every word your officiant spoke, every reading or ritual, but you will remember how it felt. Undoubtedly, this feeling will mark your hearts, just as the ceremony marks the beginning of this new portion of your journey together.

Color is intricately connected to emotion. A couple who comes up with the color white to describe their ceremony, desires a different feel than a couple that chooses pink or red. It’s the officiant’s job to understand such subtle differences and expectations, and then to design a ceremony with the perfect feel. For me, the color question is one way to sort out how the ceremony should feel. Be open and honest answering even the oddest of questions asked by your officiant. She probably has a reason for asking!

The way your ceremony feels will be what you remember. You may not be able to remember every word your officiant spoke, every reading or ritual, but you will remember how it felt. Undoubtedly, this feeling will mark your hearts, just as the ceremony marks the beginning of this new portion of your journey together.

Communicate About the Details

The best way to ensure that your expectations are met is to see your ceremony in writing before the big day. Because ceremony writing is a creative process, your officiant should be flexible and allow a certain time period for changes or corrections before your wedding date. Surprises are fabulous, but you shouldn’t be surprised by your ceremony on your special day! Open and clear communication between you and your officiant should eliminate such surprises.

In particular, be sure to communicate about the details of your service. How long will it be? Are there special elements you wish to include in your ceremony such as music or readings? Will rituals be included? This includes ritual ceremonies such as the exchange of rings, lighting of a unity candle or presenting the “moms” with roses, among others. What will the format and flow of your service be like? I always begin by sending my couple an outline of the ceremony with the understanding that it is a flexible and working outline. I walk them through step by step, so that they understand each portion and what will take place during the ceremony. Be sure your officiant takes time to do this before your rehearsal or wedding day.

Also be sure to write down any questions you might have. Understand clearly how you can communicate with your officiant leading up to your ceremony. Is she available by phone or email? How many meetings will you have? Consistent communication is a key to establishing a good relationship with your officiant and creating the perfect feel for your ceremony.



It’s not uncommon for me to walk away from a ceremony feeling like family. In fact, I stay in touch with many of my couples – and have walked with them and prayed for them (often from afar) through life’s dark moments of sorrow and through extraordinary mountaintop victories. Not every officiant is prepared to care for you in the same way.

Classically trained clergy take various courses on pastoral care, equipping them to gracefully provide care through all of life’s transitions. Today, there are many reputable associations that officiants can join in order to receive continuing education and bolster their credentials. While education isn’t everything, it’s important for you to understand how your officiant has been trained, to better understand how she perceives her role in caring for you through your wedding planning process and beyond.

It’s a privilege to perform someone’s wedding ceremony. It also requires an immense amount of emotional and physical energy to be fully present with a couple throughout preparations and on their wedding day. Let your officiant care for you and facilitate the day, while you soak up all the laughter, joy, and love! Your officiant isn’t just providing you a service, she is creating a sacred moment for you and your beloved. In this holy moment, you should feel confident and cared for, loved and encouraged.


Ready, Set, Choose: You Know How to Choose an Officiant!

Voila! You now know how to choose an officiant. After you have considered the three C’s: Comfort, Communication, and Care, you are ready to select your officiant. If she has an Instagram profile or Facebook page, be sure to look it over. Social media is a great way to get a “feel” for an officiant before contacting her for your initial meeting. Don’t be afraid to contact different officiants as you begin your search. This is especially important because you have likely already selected your wedding date. Your preferred officiant may not be available. It never hurts to have a back up plan.

Understanding “how to choose an officiant,” is the first step. Once you have contacted your officiant and secured your date, you are ready to move forward. Working with your officiant to create your ceremony is the next step on the journey. It is a beautiful and creative process. Hopefully one that will bless you immensely, on your special day and into your forever.


Need to know more about the French regulations for weddings? Click here.

Click here to contact Rev. Wahila to perform your wedding blessing.

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