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What To Expect From Your Wedding Officiant

Qualities of an officiant

Your wedding officiant is the person legally responsible for:

  1. The Declaration of Intent (leading the couple through the “I DO” stage)
  2. The Pronouncement (where the minister officially pronounces the couple is legally married)
  3. The Signing and Legal Filing of the Marriage Certificate (which must be done to record with the state of Louisiana that your marriage is legal)

In real life, however, you can and should expect your officiant to be a bigger part of the ceremony. I am also responsible for:

  1. Ceremony style: working with the couple to create a ceremony that that is unique and reflective of their own personalities and beliefs.
  2. Arranging the details: Helping the couple choose readings, craft vows if desired, and determine which elements of the ceremony will be included. Some examples might be a handfasting, a unity candle ceremony, or a sand ceremony. Each of these are elements of the larger ceremony, that focuses on the couple uniting as one either by binding hands together with ribbon, uniting two flames together as one, or combining two vessels of sand into one. They all represent the same concept of a conscious intent to unite as one.

So how does it all work?

First, get in touch with me to find out if I’m available for your wedding date and time. I’ll email you, and if I have your date available, I’ll send you a questionnaire and a copy of the contract, which we’ll all sign later. Next, we’ll set a time to meet either virtually via Skype or phone or preferably in person at a local coffee shop. This enables the three of us to get to know each other, and you can determine if I’m the right officiant for you.

The Coffee Shop Meeting

These meetings are always informal, so expect me to show up in jeans or shorts, and you should also “come as you are”. We’ll “get all dressed up” on your wedding day! I’ll bring the same questionnaire I emailed to you, and we’ll go over it during the meeting. We’ll get the basic questions (who / what / when / where) out of the way quickly, and then we’ll have more fun talking about the two of you, your relationship, how you met, etc. You get a chance to help me really “get who you are”, so I can write a custom ceremony that is just right for you. You’ll also be able to ask me questions about any aspect of the ceremony. If you decide then and there to hire me, we’ll sign the contract, and you’ll put down a retainer fee to officially book the date, via either credit or debit card, contactless pay (like Apple pay) or cash. (Both a retainer fee and a signed contract are needed before your date is booked). If you need time to decide, just let me know later on, and I’ll email an invoice to you. You’ll be able to pay via credit or debit card online via a link in the invoice, and you can scan and email the contract to me at that point.

The Planning Stage

Once your date is booked with me, I’ll begin writing your ceremony. I’ll send a draft to you within a few days and you’ll have the chance to add anything, edit anything, or delete any part of it. You and I work together on the ceremony to determine what it will include, how the process will go, what readings will be read, and by whom, which types of vows will be exchanged, and any other custom elements that you would like to have available.

The Two Weeks Prior To The Wedding Ceremony

Two weeks before the ceremony, I’ll send you another invoice for the balance of the fee. Right up until the big day, you can contact me with any questions or changes. At that time, I will also remind you that you must bring your valid marriage license and all accompanying paperwork to the ceremony.

The actual ceremony might look something like this:

Procession

Guests are seated, the officiant and wedding party enters and takes their places.

Invocation

The officiant begins the ceremony (this is the “we are gathered here today” portion). This is also where personal stories of the couple may be shared and specials readings are read.

Sample:

Dear family and friends, I call upon all of you gathered here to be fellow witnesses with me in the marriage of (Name1 and Name2).  You were each invited to join us today so that you may share in the joy that (Name1 and Name2) are feeling as they pledge their love and commitment to each other.

Love is a quality of spirit and an attitude of the emotions, but a marriage is a life’s work, a spiritual art form and it is both wonderful and powerful. Real love between two people is perhaps the highest experience that is possible to humankind.  Such love reduces selfishness, deepens personalities, but above all gives life new purpose and meaning.

We are incredibly happy to witness their joyous occasion of this marriage.

Charge to the Couple

This is when the officiant reminds the couple of their individual duties and roles in the marriage and prepares them for the vows they are about to take. This is sometimes eliminated or combined in a shorter form into the invocation above.

Sample:

Real love in marriage is something beyond the warmth and the excitement and romance of being deeply in love.  It is as much about the welfare and happiness of your marriage partner as about your own.  But real love is not being absorbed in each other.  Love makes burdens lighter because you divide them, it makes joys more intense because you share them.  It makes you stronger so you can reach out and become involved with life in ways you dared not risk alone.

The beautiful thing about love is that it’s an experience we share with the whole of humankind throughout the world.  And yet, to everyone who falls in love, it is the most unique, precious thing in the world.  A really happy marriage is founded on love.  There is nothing in life that love cannot change.  Love is, of its nature, unselfish, understanding and kind.  True love, too, is a commitment of heart and mind.  There can be no stronger bond to ensure a happy married life.

Harmonious wedded life is a precious gain to both partners because, even though marriage increases the scope of responsibility, it adds the dimension of love to life, giving it new meaning and purpose.

On this day, (Name1 and Name2) the day of your marriage, you are standing somewhat apart from the rest of us as a symbol of the open expression of your love.  This is as it should be, but love is not meant to be the possession of two people alone.  Rather it should be the source of a common energy, which gives you the strength to live your lives with joy, happiness and with courage.

Exchange of Vows and Declaration of Intent

This is where the couple makes a loving promise and commitment to each other. Officially, couples must declare their intent in order for a marriage to be legal. This is the “I Do” stage, and it is the public verbal declaration that the couple knowingly and willingly enters the contract of marriage, so it must include some sort of verbiage that shows this willing vow.

Sample of non-traditional, personal vows:

Today I give myself to you and ask for your tomorrows.  We don’t know what challenges lie ahead.  We know only that we will face them together. Because of you, I am a better person than I once was. I promise to love you more than anyone else can; to give you my strength and ask for yours in return; to help you in good times and in bad; to try to always see the good in you.  I give you all my trust and will try to be worthy of your love and trust. Before these witnesses, I vow to be loyal to you in every way, to comfort you, to cherish you, and always to love you.

Readings

This is an optional portion of the ceremony, but some couples like to have favorite poems read. Here are a couple of samples of readings that are sometimes used.

Apache Wedding Prayer:

Now you will feel no rain,
For each of you will be shelter to the other.

Now you will feel no cold,
For each of you will be warmth to the other.

Now there is no more loneliness,
For each of you will be companion to the other.

Now you are two bodies,
But there is only one life before you.

Go now to your dwelling place
To enter into the days of your togetherness
And may your days be good and long upon the earth.

Marriage Is Love
by Gloria Matthew

If two are caring as they are sharing life’s hopes and fears,
If the music of laughter outweighs sadness and tears.
Marriage is togetherness.

If both derive pleasure from the mere presence of each other,
yet when parted no jealousies restrict, worry or smother.
Marriage is freedom.

If achievements mean more when they benefit two
and consideration is shown with each point of view.
Marriage is respect.

And if togetherness, freedom and respect are combined
with a joy that words can never fully define, then
Marriage is love.

Ring Exchange

This is the stage where couples exchange wedding rings, using symbols to show their commitment, and generally make statements similar to “With this ring, I thee wed…”. Other symbolic rituals can be done at this stage as well, including handfastings, unity candle ceremonies, and sand ceremonies.

Sample:

From ancient times, a circle was always the symbol of eternity–a sign that life, happiness, and love have no beginning and no end.  A wedding ring, or circle, was placed on the third finger of the left hand, the ring finger, because it was traditionally believed that this finger was a direct connection to the heart — the perfect spot to place a symbol, representing eternal love and commitment.  The vena amoris, that is, the vein of love, runs directly from the “ring finger” to the heart. Now (Name1 and Name2) will exchange rings as a symbol of their love and fidelity. Repeat after me: With this ring I thee wed.  Take it and wear it as a pledge of my love and as a symbol of all we will share.

Pronouncement

This is the final stage, and the minister is required to pronounce that the couple is now married. The pronouncement often begins with the phrase “By the power vested in me by the State of Louisiana…”, which signals that the marriage has taken place both legally and spiritually, and that the officiant has been given the authority by the government to pronounce the couple as legally married. Of course, this is also the traditional stage where the couple is told to kiss.

Recessional

The ceremony is now over, the couple leaves first, followed by the wedding party, and finally the guests depart. We (myself, the two of you, and two witnesses) will fill out and sign the marriage license paperwork before you join your guests.

 

 

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