Planning a Wedding? Don’t Forget the Officiant!

My husband and I have been pastors for over sixteen years, serving in Protestant congregations and as campus ministers at a large university. During that time we’ve presided over a lot of weddings – probably close to a hundred between the two of us. And one of the things we’ve discovered is that unless a couple is an active member of a church or already friendly with a minister or judge, one of the last things couples tend to think about as they do their wedding planning is who will do the ceremony.

Most couples work hard to find the perfect dresses for the bride and bridesmaids, and the appropriate tuxes for the groom and ushers. They ask nieces and nephews to be flower girls and ring bearers, and book space for the wedding and reception months in advance, in addition to arranging for catered food, the cake, beautiful flowers, and a professional photographer. They order the perfect invitations to be sent the appropriate weeks in advance of the big day, select rings, and book the piano player, organist, string quartet, and soloist. But one of the last things many couples plan for is who will officiate at their wedding. In fact, for many, it’s not even on the “to do” list until the last minute.

I can’t even begin to count how many times someone has called our office asking if we do weddings for non-members of our congregation. We do, under the right circumstances, and tell them so. Then they tell us that they are getting married in a week. Or two days. Or tomorrow. And they wonder if we will do their wedding. I’m not kidding. They made all of their other wedding plans well in advance, the flowers are due to arrive on time and the cake is just about to go into the oven, but they forgot to arrange for who would preside over the spiritual ceremony itself, not to mention sign the wedding license and make the whole thing legal. And unfortunately, in most cases, we can’t just drop everything and preside over their wedding on such short notice.

Now I certainly understand that not everyone is an active member of a spiritual community, so you may not have a priest or pastor or rabbi or other religious cleric standing by to do the wedding. And that’s fine – being part of a faith community isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, we each have our own spiritual path and way of journeying on it. But if you are in the process of planning a wedding, and don’t have a pastor or other cleric you know who could do the ceremony, consider adding “Find an Officiant” to the top of your wedding to do list.

The Officiant can be any ordained minister who is licensed by your state to do weddings. Or it can be a judge or justice of the peace. If you are on a cruise, the Captain of the ship can marry you! Some folks ask their friends to get ordained online, and then they have them do the ceremony – and that’s fine, just make sure your state recognizes the ordination as legal. Whatever the case, just make sure you find someone who is licensed by your state to officiate. (If you don’t have a relationship with the Officiant before the wedding, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $300 for your Officiant, depending on: how much, if any, pre-maritial counseling is involved; how much planning of the actual ceremony is involved; travel considerations; and whether or not there is a rehearsal to attend the night before the wedding. You can ask how much is charged before your first meeting together – most will let you know their fee up front.)

The bottom line is this – it’s your special day, you’ve put hours of thought and planning and work into making it special. Just remember, when you are choosing between prime rib and salmon, and deciding between live music or a DJ, and trying to figure out whether to have an open bar or cash bar, somewhere in the mix make sure you include finding someone to actually preside over the wedding. Because the simple fact is this – if you don’t have an Officiant, there can’t be a wedding!

Wedding Traditions From Around The World Explained

In many cases a marriage is recognized both by a church and the state. While the legal requirements for a wedding are established by the state, many couple wish to follow certain religious traditions to have their marriage recognized in their church as well. In the Catholic religion marriage is considered sacred and is one of the sacraments of the faith. The Catholic Church puts forth their own requirements for a marriage to be recognized in the eyes of the church.

The Claddagh ring has a special meaning in a traditional Irish wedding. The Claddagh ring is a traditional ring that looks like two hands holding a heart that is adorned with a crown. Tradition holds that Claddagh rings be passed down from mother to daughter. As these rings are meant to be passed down for generations, it is not considered proper to buy a Claddagh ring for yourself. Yet another tradition involving the Claddagh ring relates to how it is worn. An engaged or married woman or man would wear the ring with the tips of the crown facing towards their fingertips. In this position the ring is considered to be turned inward and symbolizes that the heart of the person wearing the ring is taken. A man or woman who is not involved in a romantic relationship would wear the ring with the tips of the crown facing towards their wrist. This outward position of the ring symbolizes that the person wearing the ring is reaching out for companionship.

Traditional Irish weddings also adhere to several unusual superstitions in an attempt to ward off bad luck. A rain or overcast day might be cause for concern at a traditional Irish wedding. This is because one of the strange superstitions is that the sun must shine directly on the bride to ensure that the couple will be blessed with good luck. Birds also factor into some of the traditional Irish superstitions. Hearing a cuckoo bird or seeing three magpies are also considered to be signs of luck for the couple.

Another Catholic wedding tradition requires that previous marriages receive an annulment before the couple can be married in the church. Even if the previous marriage was not held in the church or recognized by the church, they still require an annulment before they will perform a marriage ceremony. In this situation a divorce decree is not enough. The previously married party will have to seek an annulment that verifies that the previous marriage was not valid.

A traditional Irish wedding usually concludes with a toast that has been recited for many years. At the end of the reception the guests will gather around the couple for the final toast. The couple will begin the toast by saying, “Friends and relatives, so fond and dear, ’tis our greatest pleasure to have you here. When many years this day has passed, fondest memories will always last. So we drink a cup of Irish mead and ask God’s blessing in your hour of need.”

The guests then respond to the toast with the following answer: “On this special day, our wish to you, the goodness of the old, the best of the new. God bless you both who drink this mead, may it always fill your every need.” “Friends and relatives, so fond and dear, ’tis our greatest pleasure to have you here. When many years this day has passed, fondest memories will always last. So we drink a cup of Irish mead and ask God’s blessing in your hour of need.” The guests respond: “On this special day, our wish to you, the goodness of the old, the best of the new. God bless you both who drink this mead, may it always fill your every need.”

Of course, no traditional Irish wedding complete without the presence of bagpipes and kilts. It is customary for friends and family members to bring along their bagpipes and pipe the couple into the mass and into the reception. They may also continue to charm the guests with an assortment of bagpipe tunes suitable for dancing. Not only do friends and family members enjoy performing for the couple and the other guests but they also enjoy taking the opportunity to dress in traditional kilts for the occasion. The look and sound of the bagpipers creates the feel of a truly traditional Irish wedding.

A traditional Irish wedding is a festive occasion filled with good friends, food and music. In addition to these traditional elements the Irish people also have traditions regarding the Claddagh ring and standardized toasts that are used to wish the new couple well. Superstitions also play a role in a traditional Irish wedding. Many of the traditional superstitions relate to objects or occurrences that are thought to bring the couple good luck.

Weddings – How to Save Money on Your Wedding Day

With the average wedding budget running between £17,000.00 and £25,000.00 (yes it looks more if you put the 0’s in) what can you do to save money on your wedding without compromising your day.

Generally the most expensive parts of the day are:

  • The Church – usually costs around £500.00. Church decoration can cost anything up to £5,000.00 (believe me – I produced the video for the wedding)
  • The Reception – the sky is the limit but at least £35.00 a head for the meal, £20.00 a head for the drinks plus another £25.00 a head for the evening buffet. That could be at least £80.00 for every guest – £800.00 for ten, £8,000.00 for 100.
  • The dress can cost £500.00 to £2,500.00 and more.
  • Bridesmaids outfits – usually at least £100.00 each.
  • The cake could be £500.00 to £1,500.00.
  • Photography normally costs £1500.00 to £3,000.00.
  • Wedding cars again can cost from £500.00 to £1,500.00
  • Stationary and postage for invitations at least £150.00

You are already well on the way to spending £17.250.00. Could that be the deposit on a fairly nice house?

So how can you save money on what should be the greatest day of your lives?

Talk to people – many suppliers will offer you special prices for “Off Peak” weddings – usually weekdays, Sundays or from October to April.

Ask for help to save money, get help from friends and family, search out any musician friends and ask them to perform, find a well spoken, confident friend who can be your toast master or master of ceremonies. Most of us know someone who is good with makeup, hairstyling, design, crafts and so on. Ask for help, most people will be more than happy to be a real part of your special day. Have a “DIY” party for your friends to help you with invitation, flowers, table decorations, favours and so on but be sure to give them some delicious snacks and drinks as a thank you.

Music. Contact your local college and ask if they have anyone who would perform at your wedding.

Make the most of EBAY and the Wonderful World Wide Web. Check out OXFAM where you could find a new or ex catwalk dress for as little as 30% of the retail price.

Church. Talk to the vicar at your church, if you are a regular church goer explain that you are on a really tight budget but want to get married in the Church and ask for his help. Do you really need the Bells?, or even a choir – find out about using a music CD, do you need a copyright or PRS licence or has the Church already got one?

Save on Church decoration by timing your day to coincide with a religious holiday or flower festival when the church will already be decorated.

Unless you have a good reason for getting married in Church consider using a Registry Office, wedding venue, Pub, Hotel, village hall and so on. Many farmers have diversified into offering facilities ranging from a field, to a designer venue with room for your reception, marquee, converted barns and so on.

Why not do the “Legal Bit” at a registry office and have a civil celebrant to conduct a relaxed and beautiful celebration of your marriage at home if you have space or at some other venue, field, tent, barn, marquee etc.

Reception. Trim your guest list, and then trim it again. You don’t need to feel pressured to invite cousins, colleagues from work or distant relatives. If you don’t invite anyone from a particular group none of them will feel left out. Don’t let your friends bring their children or feel pressured to let single friends bring a date. Every time you add a name you could be adding £50 to £100 or even more to the cost (that’s a cool £1000.00 for 10 people).

If your wedding and reception are in a hotel ask for a substantial discount on the room rate for guests.

Talk to your caterer, be honest and don’t be afraid to ask whether a buffet would be cheaper than a sit down meal, find out which are the least expensive entrees, nibbles and canapés. Ask if you can supply your own booze, find out if just beer and wine would be cheaper than a full bar.

Most of the major supermarkets produce “party platters” with a selection of canapés, snacks and nibbles. The Dress. Shop around, check out the Internet. Look for designer dress sample sales – if your size 6, 8 or 10 you could find an absolute bargain but the sales only happen once a year. If you buy second hand be sure that the dress has been properly cleaned and is really goo quality you should save up to 80% on the new price. Oxfam has a specialist shop for wedding dresses some of which are new, ask them for details. Consider buying a beautiful suit or outfit that you can wear again. The so called traditional White Wedding Dress is a Victorian invention along with all those expensive designer Christmas, birthday, get well soon and wedding invitation cards that we needlessly spend so much on.

Bridesmaids outfits. Will they but there own? Something that they might wear again for a party etc. Do you know anyone who could make the outfits, especially for little bridesmaids, or flower girls.

Invitations. Save postage and printing costs by keeping them simple, print your own using one of the excellent DIY design packages available on line, leave out the RSVP card and ask guests to reply by phone or e-mail.

The Cake. Can someone make a cake or decorate a shop bought cake for you. M and S and several other stores produce really lovely wedding cakes which you can decorate with fresh fruit, flowers, chocolate etc. Why not hire a cake stand and buy some “designer cup cakes” – again check out the web for suppliers.

Having said all of this you should consider those things where you really need professional help –

Large flower arrangements and centrepieces (do you really need them?). Really?

Bride and Bridesmaid bouquets as photographers we see far too many fall apart on the day, usually because the flowers have just been stuck into oasis foam without wiring.

Your wedding Dress – see above.

Your wedding cake – again see above.

Catering – see above.

Photography – Obviously as I make my living from wedding photography I think that everyone should have a professional wedding photographer. I genuinely hear all sorts of horror stories about the pictures that “didn’t come out”, blurred, dodgy backgrounds, so if you want more information check out my other blogs.