Much of the below can be found in The Knot's 23 Questions Your Officiant Will Probably Ask You (So Get Those Answers Ready) where many answers and quotes were originally featured.
Officiating a wedding is a tremendous honor and challenge. It requires an investment of your time and self, and you will want to do a great job. You do not want to say ‘yes’ to officiating the wedding unless you feel ready for the commitment, and you also want to make sure the ceremony and vision aligns not only with the couple’s expectations, but also with what you are able to give. By asking the below questions, you can ensure that this will be an experience that is incredible for everyone involved.
When, where, and for how long should the officiant be there?
While it may seem obvious, you never want to assume anything. What is the date and time of the ceremony? What time would they (or their planner) like you to be at the venue, and for how long? Would they like you to attend (or lead) the rehearsal, and if so, when? It’s important to be on the same page around their expectations and whether or not that works with your offerings and capacity. We have talked to many wedding planners that have shared the number one reason they don’t refer an officiant is because that person was high maintenance (e.g., not agreeing to go to the rehearsal, or not wanting to have a call time earlier than the ceremony. Don’t be that person.)
How much prep time will be needed to put together the ceremony?
Will the couple be available for 1-3 sessions (around 90 minutes total) before the big day to align on the content of the ceremony? There are a lot of elements that go into crafting a ceremony, and so you will want to make sure that you have had a chance to touch base 3 months out, and then again a few weeks before the ceremony, so that you are not meeting your couple for the first time on the big day.
What is their budget for the ceremony?
Many couples will ask you your rate, and it’s completely fair to see what their budget is first so you can customize a package that works for all of you. Alternatively, if you are friends with or related to the couple, many officiants will forgo buying a gift on the couple’s registry as they are not charging their friends for the time and effort it takes to prep, write, and perform their ceremony. That said, you will want to be clear about who is paying for travel and lodging. It is generous for the couple to cover those costs for you in lieu of an officiant fee, but it should not be assumed to be the case.
What should you wear to officiate?
Don’t believe them if they say “wear whatever you want!” You’ll be in some of the most important photos of their lives; they are going to care, they just haven’t realized it yet. Offer to share ideas for their approval. And of course, if you are not comfortable wearing what they want you to wear (e.g. a costume, or a clergy robe), then perhaps this couple is not the best match for your services. Present them with options of what you can wear as the officiant and see what they resonate with.
What’s the couple’s plan for the marriage license?
Check the requirements for the county where they are getting married (not where they are living at that moment). Confirm you can legally marry them, if that is their desire.
Once you have aligned on all of the logistics, you will want to start with understanding their overall vision for the ceremony. How long do they want their ceremony to be? What tone would they like it to be (e.g. formal, playful, or a combination of both)? What feeling do you want your guests to have after the ceremony?
Other commonly overlooked questions that need to be explicitly asked are: “Are there any hot topics or sensitive subjects that I should avoid? Are there any family dynamics that I should be mindful of?”
The Provenance Ceremony Builder incorporates the below questions (and more) to help officiants craft a ceremony that reflects the couple’s unique relationship.
The Welcome and Procession
- Are there any special announcements to be shared before the ceremony officially begins? For example, some couples want to have an unplugged ceremony, while others opt for having a 10-second “take as many photos as you want, then put your phones away” moment.
- Are there any family, friends, or pets who have passed that the couple wants to acknowledge? If so, would they like to honor them with a moment of silence or in another way?
- To inform the Officiant’s Address, the couple answers questions about their love story, like how did they first meet, how do they show each other love (and what’s a specific story to help illustrate that), what’s each of their favorite memories together...
Readings and Rituals: Are there any traditions they want to incorporate from either or both of their backgrounds? Do you want to include the rituals or readings as-is, or is there a modern take they would prefer to use (or create)? Do they have any passions or interests they would want to explore for this section (e.g. a romcom quote for a movie aficionado, or a “unity shot” for the couple that met on the dancefloor)? Provenance has a library of 600+ secular, cultural, and religious rituals that a couple can choose from, or they can contribute their own.
- Will the couple be writing their own vows and reading them aloud during the ceremony? Who is going first?
Ring Exchange and Declaration of Intent
- Who will have the rings?
- How would they like to do the “I Do” section? There are traditional examples, as well as more modern ones. Provide them with examples so they know if they want to do more of a “Repeat after me” style or just say “I Do.”
- How would they like to be announced at the end of the ceremony? Don’t assume there will be a name change, or that they are a Mr. and Mrs.