You’re getting married. You’ve always dreamed of having the perfect wedding, but you don’t attend a congregation, and you have no idea how to start looking for the right person to preside over your ceremony. If you don’t have a pastor or a church, don’t be concerned. Even deeply spiritual people may not be able to join a church when they’re in the midst of life’s transitions (moving for education, building a career, meeting a partner), and most pastors understand that. You’re not alone as you search for a clergy person, but there are some things that you want to keep in mind.
Don’t put it off. Looking for the right person to preside over your wedding should be on the top of your to do list. Pastors’ schedules are busy, church calendars are full, and it’s important. You’ll want to put the same care into choosing the right Officiant that you would in selecting the florist, photographer, caterer, or any other professional who’s involved in the wedding.
Think about the sort of service you want. If you grew up in a particular church and you feel most comfortable in that denomination or type of service, then reach out to pastors who are also in that tradition. If you had bad experiences, try to think about what you didn’t appreciate and base your search on that. For instance, you hated the formality, or you felt uncomfortable with the casual nature of it. You were bothered by how strict your church was, or that it didn’t seem to take the Bible seriously.
The reality is that there are all kinds of churches, and if there’s something that made you uncomfortable about your religious upbringing, then there’s probably a pastor who had a similar experience. You may be limited in your selection by geography, but there are all sorts of professional wedding officiants out there. Many pastors aren’t going to be open to officiating weddings for non members. There are amazing wedding officiants who will work with you to create the perfect ceremony.
Consider your particular circumstance. Some pastors will not officiate certain weddings. For instance, some pastors won’t preside over a service if the couple lives together. Others will not (or cannot) marry a same-sex couple. Others will not preside over the ceremony if the couple is not a member of their congregation. Still others do not feel comfortable presiding over a couple of two different religions. Sometimes clergy hold different standards out of a strong belief. Other times, they just don’t feel like working on every single beautiful Saturday afternoon.
If you are in one of the above situations, there are many professional Wedding Officiants who will officiate your wedding, but you may have to do a bit of research. You can check websites, ask your venue for recommendations
Go to a service. If you’d like to do further research before contacting the minister, attend a service where the pastor is presiding. Are you comfortable with the way that he or she talks about God? Do you appreciate the prayers and sermon?
Expect to pay a fee. If you’re not a member of the congregation, then all the hours that the minister puts into your wedding are on top of the regular time that the pastor ordinarily works. It might seem like pastors are a lot different, but we’re just like anyone else. So imagine if you were called in to work on a Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday afternoon. Then when you turned in your hours, your client became indignant that you would charge for your time. That wouldn’t feel right, would it? It’s the same for a pastor. Plus, for the church there are cleaning expenses, electricity, and security. Many people are working to make sure that your wedding goes smoothly. So, just as you expect to pay for all of the other professionals, you can have your checkbook ready for the church facility.
Understand that there may be counseling required. Pastors spend a little bit of time officiating at weddings, but they spend most of their time working with couples after the vows have been uttered. They typically work with men and women when spouses or partners face betrayal, mental-illness, addiction, or death. While most wedding officiants want to make sure that day is the most beautiful day in your life, many Officiants are committed beyond just the ceremony.
One of the most wonderful notes that I received from a couple said, “We contacted you to be our officiant. We’re thankful that we now have a pastor.” With other couples I’ve been asked to visit with them in the hospital, baptize their children and at the death of their loved ones, to officiate the funerals. As you think about all of the aspects of your wedding, your relationship with the Pastor / Wedding Minister might be an important one, not only for that day, but in the years to come.