Heads up, couples getting married…I’ve had two couples in the past month find misspellings on their wedding license. I cannot sign a license if your name is spelled wrong. If I do, and the marriage certificate is processed with your name spelled incorrectly, it can’t be used as a legal document. Plus, it will cost you big bucks to have the court correct it afterward.
PRO TIP: check your license when you get it! The court will fix it for free before it’s been signed.
Yesterday, I spent the day at WeddingWire World DC, an expo for wedding professionals of all types, to learn about trends, how to be more professional, more effective at marketing, and an opportunity for networking with other professionals. It was a really great event. I learned a lot, and enjoyed meeting many others.
At the end of the day, there was music, food, and the chance to mingle and talk with people. There were about 1,000 attendees total, so it was a big event.
Anyway, here’s the highlight of the day for me: right towards the end of the day, the DJ called everyone to the dance floor to take a massive selfie. I was way in the back, and knew I wouldn’t be seen, but not a biggie. I decided to say hello to the person standing next to me, who I didn’t know, but saw that he was a photographer. I tapped him on the shoulder.
He looked at me with delight and recognition. “Hey!” he said, “You officiated Brock and Sandy’s wedding!” This wedding was around two years ago.
“Oh, yes, I did!” I said in surprise.
“You were so great!” he enthused!
I was amazed he remembered! He told me about several details he remembered from the ceremony, and even recalled that I had given Reiki healing to one of the bridesmaids before the ceremony.
Then, he took out his business card. An entire side of his card was a gorgeous picture of Sandy and Brock. I opened my website on my phone. In the center of the top header, is a picture of Brock, Sandy, and me… that he took.
As the Justice of the Peace gets pretty booked up well in advance, I often get calls to officiate a quick signing of the wedding license for couples to “make it legal.” While that may sound kind of dry and impersonal, I like to add a romantic touch. After all, this IS a wedding, and the date of this legal process will become the couple’s anniversary date far into the future.
These quick weddings don’t usually involve wedding dresses, guests, and flowers. They don’t usually include family members.
We might meet in Panera Bread and talk together quietly at a table. We might meet in a nearby park if the weather is nice. We might meet at the couple’s house or apartment. I even met a couple for beers at Dogfish Head Ale House. (I ended up officiating a bigger ceremony for them about six months later too.)
But, I like to make it special. This is, after all, the moment that the couple transitions from single to married. It’s an important moment and I consider it an honor to make this possible for them. So here’s what I do:
I bring a little ceremony script. It’s really simple. It includes: a brief reading about the meaning of marriage, vows (this is a legal necessity), a ring exchange (if the couple is including rings), and pronouncing them married.
I had a fascinating experience this past Saturday as I was officiating a wedding, and I want to tell you about it.
It was pouring rain. The wedding was outdoors, on a platform with a canopy overhead and side fabric panels. The wedding party and I had to exit a building, and proceed down a brick path (in the rain) to the platform under the canopy for the ceremony.
We were scheduled to start in five minutes. I decided to do a little exercise in intention to try to give us a dry entrance. So, I stepped out under the overhang and I sent a message to the Universe for it to stop raining briefly beginning in 5 minutes, and then it could resume again. I was not joking, or asking, pleading, wishing, or hoping. I was intending and expecting for this to be exactly so. (Note: this really works for me.)
And then, in exactly two minutes, the Day of Coordinator sent me, and the wedding party out to begin the ceremony. Three minutes too early. We ran out in the rain and got into place. The rain stopped. I was annoyed and happy at the same time. It had done what I asked, but didn’t help achieve what I had really wanted.
The rain started again, heavily. As the ceremony continued, about 10 minutes in, I had a short passage to read acknowledging the grandparents of the bride and groom who were joining us in Spirit, shining their love over this ceremony. As soon as I said that, “BOOM!” the thunder clapped loudly. Every one of the guests yelled out “Woah!!”
We could say it’s a coincidence. We could say that was weird. But I see the big picture.
First of all, I got what I asked for. It stopped raining exactly when I had intended. Unfortunately, that was not the time we entered for the processional.
Then, the Universe, or the ancestors of the wedding couple, sent a little bit of applause to say thank you for the mention.
If we had entered later, without the rain, that thunder would have hit a different, and less impactful, part of the ceremony. This moment became a powerful memory. Now it’s part of a wedding day story that this couple will share for years to come.
One memorable ceremony in my first year as an officiant, Bob and Sally (not their real names) were standing before me and their many guests in a fancy hotel room. It was decked out with ribbons and flowers, and people all dressed up gazing at the beautifully-dressed couple.
As I was reading through the ceremony, the couple faced each other, holding both hands, and gazing into each other’s eyes. Bob was misty eyed. Then he was tearful. How moving. How beautiful.
Then…his nose started running. Uh oh. No tissue. I didn’t have one either. Finally, he reluctantly disengaged his hand from his bride’s, and wiped his nose.
With a little apology, he took Sally’s hand again.
As the guests began to giggle, I quickly announced, “And with that, you’ve just passed your first test as a married couple!”
Lesson learned: I always have clean tissues in my pocket at the ready.
It can feel overwhelming at first, especially when everything is new! Here are some wedding planning tips to help you get started, keep your sanity, and keep things in perspective.
Hire your officiant
I’m emphasizing doing this first because, after all, this is the one person who can make your wedding legal. Everything else falls into the decorations and party categories. It’s just a party without the legality in place!
How do you know what you want in an officiant?
It depends! If you’re getting married in a place of religious practice, such as a church or temple, you will likely have your own clergy officiate your wedding.
If you’re getting married somewhere else, whether it’s outside in a park, in a big ballroom, a small civic center, your house, or at an historic site, you might need to find a wedding officiant to come to the venue you choose.
You might want a certain “feel” to your wedding. For instance, you might think of “elegant,” or “poetic,” “romantic,” or “fun” when you describe how you want your wedding to represent you as a couple. Everything is possible!
Legally, you need to affirm that you wish to be married, and a licensed officiant must sign and return your Wedding License. That’s it. That means that your ceremony is completely customizable to what you want as a couple! Fun!
Whether you want a formal, traditional sort of wedding, or something with poetry, song, and some truly memorable elements, your wedding officiant is the person who can make your ceremony uniquely yours.
Some officiants have templates for you to choose from. Others will completely customize your ceremony based on your wishes, and your story. Some will offer extra services such as premarital counseling, an office to get married in, or conducting your wedding rehearsal.
Be sure to discuss with each other how you envision your ceremomy, and then seek out an officiant that will meet your needs and your budget.
Although your ceremony will likely be only about 20 minutes of the entire wedding day, it’s important enough to choose the right wedding celebrant to conduct it for you.
Questions about how I can help you? Just contact me! I’m happy to hear from you!
At this point, I’ve officiated more than 60 weddings, with many more to come this year. I’m also starting to get booked for 2018, so that’s exciting!
Here are some tips for those who are interested in knowing how to be a wedding officiant:
Make sure you’re licensed.
Different states have different laws about who can officiate, and what sort of registration is needed. It’s easy to find what you need online, so do your homework! You might need to register with a form and a fee. You might need to bring certain documentation with you. So, before you sign a couple’s wedding license, be sure you have done your prep work!
Meet with the couple.
Find out their story. Let them tell you about their ideas for their wedding. They might want a certain prayer, or ritual, or they might want the bride’s sister to sing a song. Listen to them first.
The Legal Minimum
Legally speaking, usually the things that make a wedding legal are the couple agreeing they want to marry each other, and signing the license. That means that you can be as creative as the couple wishes with the ceremony.
Make it Genuine!
The ceremony doesn’t have to be stiff, formal, or solemn! This is a joyful day. It’s about love. Have some moments of laughter. This isn’t a performance – it’s a sharing of a special moment that bonds this couple in marriage.
Be a Resource!
Stay informed about new and fresh readings and ceremony additions. For example, a Ring Warming Ceremony is lovely to do with a guest list of about 60. A Wine Box Ceremony is a new and touching inclusion in a ceremony. Read up on the wedding websites so you can offer your ocuple unique touches for their ceremony.
Get a Picture!
Get a picture with the couple on your cell phone before you leave. With the couple’s permission, pictures make your website and social media stand out and show the varieties of weddings you perform. If you can get a video too – that’s a huge bonus! You never know how long until, or even IF, the photographer will have a picture for you.
2016 is my first year as a wedding officiant! I’ve been booked for 20 weddings, so I hit the ground running. Here are some things I’ve learned this year.
I have a folder for each couple, and a spreadsheet on my computer. The folders are in a big expandable folder case, in order of date. When the wedding has happened, I shift that couple’s folder to the back and move everything else up to the front. I also label every email with “weddings” so they’re easy to find. I have a timeline for each couple, based on their needs. This system has been very helpful!
Have a process.
I created an initial packet that helps me interview each couple, to find out their story, their vision for their wedding, and go over the standard elements of a wedding, allowing them to understand and customize their wishes. I also have a large number of resources for creative greetings, vows, and wedding elements such as a Ring Warming Ceremony, that I show them and let them consider after our meeting. It’s a great way to start. I follow every meeting with an email recapping our meeting and next steps.
Create a Script.
My final script has everything that will be said, and all “stage directions” – who will stand where, what props will be moved or used (including who will hold the bouquet and rings, where extras will be, if there will be a microphone, and when music will begin or change), from the very beginning through giving the guests directions on where to go after the ceremony.
Have a music stand.
My music stand is a nice one, and it holds my notebook neatly in front of me, making my hands free to hold a microphone if needed, or to gesture. I learned this after I did an outdoor wedding, in high wind, and was given a karaoke microphone, needed to give the brides their vows, and be heard over loud airplanes! It was a lot to juggle, and so, I now know that using the stand would have helped me not need to hold the notebook with my script in it and try to navigate it all!
Things change, sometimes on the fly. A wedding will start late, or the music won’t work, the groom might cry, or sweat profusely, or say something unintentionally funny. Be ready to roll with the changes, and adapt in the moment. Don’t take it all seriously, but be lighthearted and have fun. This is love – not a funeral, after all!