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Alan Katz, owner of Great Officiants, is one of our best resources in the SoCal wedding industry.  He and his staff perform over a thousand heartfelt ceremonies per year, and he is an essential source of knowledge for me – when clients have questions about the ins and outs of securing a marriage license, his authority and expertise as a L.A. County Notary means he has the answer. Even better, he can provide a door-to-door license service so clients don’t even have to wait in line at the County Clerks’ office.

Being an officiant not only means speaking well and providing a beautiful service for a couple, but it also means knowing the legalities and idiosyncracies of securing a marriage license, getting married the proper way, and ordering a marriage certificate. Alan has it down pat. I asked him for valuable insight that benefits couples looking for an officiant.  Here, he offers priceless advice for finding and hiring an officiant.

When couples are getting married they will, at some point in the planning process, need to select someone to perform their wedding ceremony. If the couple attends a church or has family clergy then the decision is easy; if not, then the information below will help guide you.

Our top advice is to tread carefully if choosing a friend to officiate.  There are legalities and essential knowledge that a professional officiant knows well.  Sometimes friends or relatives forget to fill out or send required paperwork, which can be a nightmare. They may not realize how best to position you during the ceremony so the photo and video professionals can obtain the best possible shots.  We advise to be sure to have them understand the seriousness of the responsibility. If you have any doubts about how they will perform, seek a professional Officiant to alleviate those worries.

I daresay this may be the best job in the world...bringing two souls together for life. Alan officiating a ceremony.

When looking for a professional, ask for personal recommendations from friends, your planner or other wedding vendors.

Go to established wedding vendor sites such as The Knot or Wedding Wire; also check out Yelp. (Dee notes:  Great Officiants is the most reviewed Officiant company in the nation). If an Officiant doesn’t have any reviews, then be wary or carefully check references.

Discuss with your spouse whether you want a religious or non-religious slant on your wedding. This is important to make sure you are on the same page. If you are of two different faiths, then consider an interfaith Officiant. If you are not religious then choose one that will focus on your love story. Male or Female?, etc.

Decide on the tone of the ceremony. Do you want it slow, or fun and romantic?  Make sure that you feel comfortable with your choice and make it flow properly. A disjointed and or non-prepared ceremony will cause an uncomfortable experience for all.

Once you have narrowed the field, then use these following interview questions to help make your final decision.

1.              Can you customize the ceremony?

Most professional Officiants will allow full customization of the ceremony. Some just read off a prepared script. It is your ceremony; you should have full control and input towards the final result.

2.              Does the Officiant have sample wording/ceremonies/readings to show you?

A professional Officiant will have many ceremony samples to choose from. You should also be allowed to incorporate additional content that you find or create.

When clients need a Catholic officiant, bilingual officiant, or a Reverend - among other requests - we turn to Great Officiants and their diverse, experienced team.

3.              Do you require Counseling?

If you are getting married in a church then you must comply with their requirements. If you use a professional Officiant they should not make you endure this. Marriage counseling should ONLY be done by a licensed professional therapist NOT a Wedding Officiant. If you really feel you need counseling then see a licensed therapist. Some Clergy are trained to do this but the majority of Professional Officiants are not.

4.              Is your Officiant known and respected in the Wedding industry?

Some Officiants consider themselves a professional after doing a handful of weddings. A good sign is if they have won top awards from The Knot and Wedding Wire and have plenty of reviews. See if they are on venue “preferred lists,” as these are tough to get on.  See if they are active in wedding-related professional organizations such as ABC, NACE, ISES and others.

5.              Do you have back up in case you are sick?

If it is a one person shop, then when they get sick or injured and are not able to perform the ceremony, they may have no back up.

6.             Will you marry us if we are of different faiths, if we have been divorced, or are a Same Gender couple?

If the Officiant has issues with your beliefs, who you are, who you are going to marry and your personal history then they should not be performing your ceremony. A professional Officiant accepts all couples’ life situations with love and compassion.

7.             Would you allow another Officiant to take part in the ceremony?

With interfaith couples sometimes you may want have two different Officiants preside over the ceremony. This is a wonderful option. It is important that they can work together to design a ceremony that includes everyone in a non-offensive manor to either belief system. Please note that your fees will be twice as much so you may want to consider choosing an Interfaith Officiant who can skillfully blend the two belief systems together

8.              Can we choose special readings or music?

It’s your wedding! It can have whatever you want in it. Ask your Officiant and DJ for guidance with this.

9.               Will you give a sermon during the ceremony?

For many couples, a wedding is no place for a sermon, it is a place to celebrate love. Design the ceremony to reflect your beliefs and love story.

10.             Do you issue the Marriage License?

Some officiant companies like Great Officiants will issue you a marriage license if the wedding is In LA County, Otherwise they should guide you on how to get yours.

11.             Will you participate in the rehearsal?

Many times it is helpful for the Officiant to be at the rehearsal. If it is just a small wedding party or a simple ceremony then a personal meeting with the Officiant should suffice. The rehearsal is mostly for the wedding party to figure out where to go. A professional wedding planner can be essential for a larger event to design the ceremony rehearsal with the Officiants help.

12.             Would you like to come to the wedding reception with your spouse?

Unless the Officiant is a friend or you have formed a lifelong bond, a professional Officiant will decline your kind invitation. We thank you for the invite though, and may just stay to mingle with guests and sample an appetizer.  Typically, a professional Officiant will have other events to attend to.

13.             Are there any restrictions as to our attire, or our bridal party’s attire?

Your Officiant should be willing to match your theme. Let them know of you want them to wear a robe, suit or other appropriate attire to fit the occasion. Let them know the colors or style and they can try to match it.

A sand ceremony, wine ceremony, lighting a unity candle - these symbolic gestures can be woven into any ceremony.

14.             Is flash photography allowed during the ceremony?

You absolutely want your photographer to capture your special day, and your Officiant should do what’s necessary to ensure they get the perfect shot! Make sure that they will step out of the final “kiss” shot.

15.             Will you wear a mic if the videographer requires one to capture the ceremony?

A professional Officiant will do whatever it takes to ensure your video is absolutely perfect, including wearing a microphone.

16.             What type of microphone do you prefer for the ceremony?

Each Officiant has a different style. Make sure that the DJ and Officiant communicate to assure that the proper amplification is provided. (Dee notes:  Sometimes we insist on hard wired mic on stand – wireless ‘lavalier’ mics are sensitive to frequency changes, depending on the location.)

These are some of the major questions you may want to start with. Add your own to fit the unique ceremony plans you are creating.