You are getting married. You have the gown, the flowers, the cake, the location, but do you have someone to perform the ceremony? He/she is one of the most important participants in the ceremony. Who you choose will depend in part on where the ceremony is held. If the ceremony will occur in a church, the pastor is the obvious person to ask. Many are happy to perform weddings. Others hate them. With prior approval, some churches allow you to use your own minister, perhaps a family member or someone from another state.
If you are Catholic, your priest will only perform wedding vows at a ceremony held in a consecrated church or chapel. He may, however, agree to participate in an interfaith service by offering a prayer. The same is true for clergy of certain other denominations.
If you are LDS, a bishop or elder may be willing to perform a ceremony for couples who choose not to marry in a temple. Many LDS officiants omit the giving of the bride by her father and the exchange of rings. If either of those elements is important to you, particularly the ring exchange, ask the officiant to talk with your wedding coordinator about when to include it in the ceremony and what to say. Most are willing to accommodate your wishes.
A rabbi performs ceremonies only for Jewish brides. If the groom is Jewish and the bride is not, a rabbi will not perform the ceremony.
Most churches charge a fee, sometimes an exorbitant one, to have a ceremony in their facility and many do not allow receptions. Other churches are too small, have no air conditioning or other issues, making them an impractical choice. Consequently, it is common to hold both ceremony and reception at the same, non-church location and ask the officiant to travel. Some ministers charge a fee, often determined by their church board. Others accept a free-will donation. Some denominations require the money to be given to the church, not the pastor. If so, be sure to personally reimburse the officiant for gas and his/her time in meeting with you before the wedding, as well as attending the rehearsal and the wedding. A gift certificate or a personal cash gift is usually appreciated.
Not religious? Not a problem. You might choose a judge, a civil celebrant, or have a friend or relative licensed online. To find a judge, call your local county courthouse and talk to someone in the marriage license office. They usually have a list of judges who are willing to perform weddings. Some prefer only to perform ceremonies held in their chambers. Others are willing to perform ceremonies on weekends and evenings at your location. All charge a fee and many do not attend rehearsals. Only a judge of an Idaho court or a federal judge can perform a ceremony in Idaho.
A civil celebrant may be a person who has been licensed over the internet and who performs weddings as an occupation. Many perform multiple weddings each weekend, making your wedding just like the one before it and the one after it. I have seen some officiants pull a piece of paper out of a pocket with your names on it to be certain they are at the right wedding! And occasionally, they will call you by the wrong name – very embarrassing on your wedding day.
If you choose a civil celebrant, meet with the person at least once before the wedding to determine his/her style and personality. Ask if you can write your own vows or choose your own readings. Ask if he/she will attend the rehearsal. Many, because they perform so many ceremonies, do not allow any deviation from their carefully prepared script, thus losing the originality you may desire, nor do they attend rehearsals.
In Idaho it is legal to have a friend or family member licensed over the internet. The most common website is that of the Universal Life Church. It takes about two minutes to obtain a license and it is free.
Mayors, governors and former governors and some other select individuals can also legally perform ceremonies. Boise Mayor Dave Beiter has performed ceremonies for several of my brides and grooms, as has former Governor Dirk Kempthorne.
If your officiant doesn’t attend rehearsals, that isn’t a problem as long as you have a wedding coordinator. She will assist you in creating a wedding day time line that includes details of the ceremony except the actual vows. She will assist you through the rehearsal and then meet with the officiant before the ceremony to go over the details.
It is a courtesy to invite the officiant to the rehearsal dinner, but few attend unless she/he is a friend of the family. Just don’t extend the invitation at the last minute at the rehearsal when it is obvious the invitation is only a formality (the same goes for inviting your wedding coordinator at the last minute – don’t do it). The person who performs your wedding ceremony is an important part of your special day. She/he should be selected with care. A well chosen officiant will add beautiful memories to your day. A hastily chosen one may leave you with regrets.