The wedding officiant sets the tone for your ceremony, so choose wisely.
(1) What kind of speaking voice does she or he have? It’s surprising that a number of officiants can’t be heard in a group setting. Find out if the officiant is soft spoken or projects their voice when speaking to a group. Rent a microphone system or find a louder officiant. Imagine this, “I am sure it was a nice ceremony, but none of us could hear what was being said!”
(2) Does the officiant have training and experience? Most brides and grooms become nervous at some point. If you have an officiant who is visibly nervous, it adds fuel to the fire. Most of us have seen someone stand up to speak and their hands and notes are shaking like a leaf. It makes everyone nervous for them and it’s hard to enjoy the moment. Does the officiant encourage confidence and calm?
(3) What does the officiant believe is the purpose of a wedding ceremony? What makes it extraordinary from other events in our lives?
My perspective is this: if it’s a religious ceremony, it is a worship service. Granted, it can be more or less formal or informal, but it has a sense of sacredness and joy. God blesses those who love each other and promise to be faithful. Christians believe that Christ is present in their marriage, offering forgiveness when mistakes are made and the grace to begin again. Love is a commitment, not a feeling.
If it’s a civil ceremony, it is a ritual through which two people can proclaim their love for and faithfulness to each other. This ceremony usually has no religious references or mention of God and is often performed by a government official, minister or justice of the peace. Depending on where the civil ceremony is held, you can often include favorite poetry readings and musical selections.
Occasionally I am asked, if a civil ceremony has no reference to God, why are you as a pastor willing to do a nonreligious ceremony? The state legally gives pastors and ministers this responsibility. I accept that not everyone believes as I do. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge the commitment between two individuals who wish to proclaim their love thru a nonreligious ceremony.
Summary: Your wedding officiant sets the tone of your wedding ceremony. You will want it to have a sense of dignity and joy. Many pastors who have been educated and trained in ministry, have been thru a lengthy approval process that is required before he or she is ordained. Proceed cautiously with those who are self proclaimed ministers or who have received their ordination online. They have not been through an approval process like mentioned above and not all states recognize the online ordination. Choose your officiant wisely.
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