to ask when booking
a wedding officiant
Because this is one of the most important events of a lifetime, couples are encouraged to start planning early for their big day. All the effort and care put into planning and every dime spent is an investment in a life-long story of love. Determine upfront what this day means to you and then go about planning to capture the essence of what you have imagined. Then set a budget accordingly. Conduct some thorough and adequate research and ask the right questions of all potential wedding providers, such as, are there any additional costs, taxes, travel fees, setup fees, etc.? Even if you are good at planning, it is still likely that you will miss some crucial and potentially cost-saving steps in the process. So remember to ask, ask, and ask!
Here are 10 questions you should ask your wedding officiant:
When planning to marry, few actually know what it entails to pull off a successful wedding occasion. Most couples cannot afford the $50,000 weddings that the more affluent couples can. Most limited-budget weddings cost in the range of $2,000-$6,000. And a real frugal couple on a shoe-string budget can sometimes get away with spending under $700.00 for a small private residential wedding or elopement. But this is rare. Your weddings goals should not necessarily be limited by your income.
When choosing an officiant, select one that offers more than just the ceremony script. Ask if they are a full-wedding-service provider. Although many of the services you will need for planning your wedding belong to a wedding planner and are not in the officiant’s scope of responsibility, most officiants have gained market and process knowledge, which can help you tremendously. Think about what you will need done or help with. And do not be afraid to ask the officiant if s/he provides these additional services in their wedding packages. You will undoubtedly need additional services, and the officiant with many weddings under his or her belt can help you.
Here are some additional questions you should ask:
If this is a very small wedding or elopement, ask:
Ask if they provide other resources, such as:
Why is it more important to ask the officiant about their services than their fees? It is important to ask a potential officiant what services s/he provides before booking because many of these items have the potential to bust your budget if overlooked.
Don't make a mistake in assuming that the vendor with the lowest cost automatically represents the best deal. Remember, cheaper is not always better; in fact, it seldom is! In the end, try to get the most bang for the buck. And remember the old saying, “You get what you negotiate!”
Take into account that higher quotes may include services you want that are not normally included in lower priced packages.
An experienced officiant has worked with many wedding professionals and should have assembled a qualified vendor shortlist. Why is this important? While some officiants may have good reviews from couples, they should equally have reviews from colleagues and fellow vendors, such as photographers, DJs, musicians, wedding planners, etc. Even if you don’t use their lists, ask about them. These are people they can vouch for, and, more importantly, these are people who can also vouch for the officiant. Some officiants and other vendors, because of working relationships, will give incentives to the clients of the other professionals in their network. Take advantage of these relationships.
The reviews you often see on an officiant’s profile on popular sites, like Wedding Wire and The Knot, are reviews that each officiant sends to past couples, asking them for feedback. However, they don’t usually request reviews from clients that they know are not happy with their services. So, you don’t often get to see the negative reviews. So an officiant’s network is vitally important!
Anyone can go online and find a sample ceremony and then fill in the couple’s names and voila!, but this is your day, and your wedding should be reflective of who you are as a couple. You love story in not like anyone else’s, nor should your wedding ceremony be. What makes the wedding uniquely yours is the wedding address, sometimes called the wedding charge or homily. While some components of the ceremony template can be reused or cut and pasted, the wedding homily should be original, constructed around the couple’s journey of love. Ask your officiant if he or she constructs a custom wedding charge or homily.
For standard and basic weddings, we estimate an officiant to spend between 6 and 13 hours. Of course, weddings involving couple’s conferencing should take an additional 10+ accumulated hours, based on 4 to 8 weeks of one-hour sessions with homework exercises and counseling as needed. Ask the officiant, “how many hours will you work on my ceremony?”
Ask if the vendor has a back-up plan if something happens to them and they must unexpectedly cancel. Ask them, is there a back-up officiant who could step in if you are unable, for whatever reason, to officiate my ceremony? Reputable and professional vendors and clergy will have a viable back-up plan. No ceremony should rest in the hands of one particular individual. In most cases, a wedding ceremony rests squarely on the shoulders of the officiant. If the officiant can’t make it, the wedding cannot be done.
Liability insurance protects you in case an unfortunate accident occurs on the date of your event. Reputable and more experienced vendors and officiants should answer "Yes" to this question. Couples should avoid booking vendors and officiants who do not carry professional liability insurance.
Just like with liability insurance, reputable businesses will appear online in various ways, including Facebook, Twitter, and other forums. Less reputable vendors and officiants tend not to participate on social media, as new customers will be able to quickly learn from the feedback posted by previous unhappy customers and stay away.
Accountability is vitally important! And most reputable vendor and clergy professionals should have some credentials that legitimize the work they do. For instance, some clergy are affiliated with a governing body or denomination that serves to qualify or sanction them to perform services for the public on the behalf, or under the auspices, of the organization. Even independent clergy have colleagues who can vouch for them. Another way of asking this questions would be, “Do you have any collegial references?” These references are not client testimonials but rather peer feedback and recommendations.
Hiring, booking, or retaining a wedding professional should necessitate the implementation of a wedding engagement agreement or contract. Most agreements and contracts are usually designed to protect both the client and the vendor. Most all reputable vendors and officiants should have some type of agreement. We would caution any couple doing business with a vendor who does not use some form of contractual agreement.
Life seldom goes as planned; there are those times when a cancellation of a service is necessary. Ask if the vendor’s wedding agreement or contract has a provision for cancellations. Also ask if all or part of your deposit is refundable if you cancel before a certain point or date.
A service guarantee is similar to a money-back guarantee, but differs in that a full refund may not be the sole remedy to a service issue. Reputable vendors and officiants should offer some remedial options. A typical service guarantee might contain the following:
“If you are not completely satisfied with the service that we have provided, your transaction will be fully refunded, less any outsourcing fees and incurred expenses related to your service project.”
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