Q&A with an Officiant
At the end of every successful wedding ceremony the bride and groom say “I do,” the officiant declares them husband and wife, and the couple kiss. Then the guests cheer and the party begins; but there would be nothing to celebrate without the officiant.
Winery Weddings interviewed Leora Motley of With This Ring I Thee Wedd to learn more about the essential role of an officiant.
Q. What does an officiant do?
A. An officiant conducts a wedding ceremony in adherence to state marriage laws so that the couple is afforded every marital right due to them. Depending on the state, an officiant must return the signed and completed marriage license to the appropriate court within a defined period of time. As an officiant, I listen to each couple and work with them before the wedding to craft a ceremony that is meaningful to them.
Q. Does an officiant provide sample ceremony wording and readings?
A. I provide each couple with two ceremony scripts based on information gleamed from the couple during our initial get-acquainted meeting. I always ask what each individual admires most about his or her partner, and the responses provide me with great insight. The couple reviews each script and ultimately selects the words they want spoken at their ceremony. The ceremony is about them, and my goal is to help them communicate to each other and their guests just what their union means to them.
Q. Can each ceremony be customized with written vows or requested songs?
A. Each ceremony I perform has a customized script that is specific to that couple. I often mix language from traditional vows with non-traditional vows, and sometimes I incorporate lyrics from a favorite song. Recently, I learned that a bride and groom planned their first dance to Frank Sinatra’s All the Way. To their surprise, I added the lyric, “I’m going to love you all the way,” to the words,“I promise you this from my heart, for all the days of my life.” The look of delight on their faces was priceless. If a couple wants to write their vows I suggest parameters as a guide, such as word count and a specific focus on their pledge.
If the couple has a child (or children) from a previous marriage, I encourage them to include him or her into the ceremony, which will assist in the transition. At a previous ceremony, instead of
presenting the bride in a traditional manner, I presented the couple together and asked the children for their blessings.
Finally, I ask if there’s an aspect of their parents’ wedding they would like to incorporate into their ceremony.
Q. What are the most important factors when choosing an officiant?
A. Compatibility! The couple must feel comfortable with the person sharing their space on their wedding day. The couple should feel as if the officiant “gets them.” Also, the officiant should be open to the couple’s desires for the ceremony. I offer suggestions and fully understand it’s the couple’s final decision.
Q. What questions should a bride and groom ask an officiant?
A. What is your style; does the ceremony have to be religious; have you officiated inter-faiths weddings in the past; can you give us the ceremony we desire; what does being flexible mean to you; what are your credentials; do you book multiple weddings the same day; what if the wedding before ours runs late or you get caught up in traffic; what if you have a personal emergency; are you willing to wear a mic for both projection and video; will you be joining us at the reception; what are your fees; how often will we meet before the wedding day; are you available for the rehearsal-is there a fee for this service; if we cancel for whatever reason, is the deposit/fees paid refundable?
Q. What kind of weddings do you officiate?
A. The weddings I officiate range from secular to non-secular, interfaith, interracial, cross-cultural and themed. I have officiated in a variety of venues, including private homes, public parks, hotels, restaurants, wineries, museums, hospital chapels and historic properties.
Q. Why did you choose to become an officiant?
A. In 1992, I saw a public service announcement requesting citizens to step forward and serve as civil marriage celebrants. The process was somewhat rigorous, yet I thought this was too cool to pass up. I submitted all of the required documents and was sworn in to serve as a marriage celebrant. My first ceremony was held in my living room. Now, 22 years later, I continue to thoroughly enjoy my work with couples as diverse as the world. This is my dream job; I wouldn’t want to do anything else.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of With this Ring I Thee Wedd