There are many reasons why I love officiating weddings and chief among them is that I love stories. Every couple not only has a story; every couple is a story. The first question I ask when meeting with a couple is, "so, how long have you been together and how did you meet?" And that's when the storytelling begins!
As the meeting progresses, I'll ask a "bunch" of questions as I try to get a sense of who the bride and groom are -- individually and as a couple -- and as I try to get a sense of what they want their ceremony to be like.
Most couples aren't sure what to expect from our meeting since most are used to formal, religious weddings performed within a religious building. Since they're often not sure what they want, they're not always sure what to ask me.
Some couples have done their "homework" and come with a checklist of questions that include, how long have I been a wedding officiant; how was I ordained; how many weddings have I performed; do I attend the rehearsal; do I require pre-marital counseling; what's included in my fee; am I married; and what is the back-up contingency if an emergency arises and I can't make the ceremony.
These are all basic questions and if an officiant isn't able to give clear answers to them then you might want to move on to another officiant! However, as important as these questions are, they don't tell you the story of who this officiant is.
Couples often tell me that they want to be married by someone who "knows" them. And while it's important for your officiant to have a clear sense of who you are, the only way that person is going to get to know you is if you, in turn, get to know him or her. You need to learn the story of how the officiant reached this juncture in his or her life.
I find that many couples aren't sure how to have a conversation with me beyond asking about the mechanics of the ceremony. And so, what I suggest is that you interview potential officiants from a place of curiosity and encourage them to tell their story.
Here's a list of ten questions that you can use as a springboard for conversation that will let you gain insight into the person who may share with you one of the most intimate moments in your life as a couple -- the moment you exchange vows!
Questions that get to the "soul" of an officiant:
1. What was the most moving wedding you celebrated?
2. What was the biggest wedding mistake you ever made and "vowed" never to repeat?
3. Have you ever turned down a couple's invitation to perform their ceremony and why?
4. When meeting with a couple, what do you look for and have you found it in us?!
5. What do you think is your main responsibility as an officiant?
6. What's the best compliment a wedding guest ever gave you?
7. What is your biggest challenge when officiating a wedding?
8. What is the funniest or oddest moment in a wedding you celebrated?
9. What is your rock bottom wish for every couple?
10. What do you love about celebrating weddings?
A wedding ceremony is a unique experience in that it actually is one of the most intimate moments of your life together and yet it's being played out in one of the most public of settings. And so it creates a relationship between you and the officiant that is unique and intimate in a way unlike any other relationship.
Of course, if you just want the legal aspect of your wedding taken care of, then it really doesn't matter who "marries" you. But if you consider the ceremony as the core of your celebration, then you want to invite as your officiant the man or woman who not only "gets" you, but who you "get."
I tell couples that I'm not going to pretend that the three of us are old drinking buddies, but, I want their guests to have the sense that we've established a relationship. Story begets story, so make sure that your officiant is curious about your story and that you're equally as curious about his or her story!
JP Reynolds, M.Div. has officiated more than one thousand weddings and has coached hundreds of people in how to create and deliver heartfelt, personalized ceremonies. If you've been invited by a friend or relative to celebrate their wedding ceremony and are wondering what to do, visit JP's website: http://ceremonymadesimple.com OR on Facebook at: http://facebook.com/jprweddings