A wedding officiant is an important part of any wedding. For one, their signature is needed on the marriage license. However, they can also provide guidance and comfort throughout your wedding. Anyone can be an officiant in a wedding, but you might already have a pastor in mind.
There are five steps to asking a pastor to officiate your wedding:
- Looking for potential pastors
- Preparing the major details of your wedding
- Scheduling a meeting with your chosen pastor
- Preparing a list of questions to ask the pastor
- Making a decision with your partner
The steps outlined above are explained in more detail below. A list of pertinent questions you should ask your pastor before agreeing to work with them is also given. Lastly, some things to consider regarding asking a pastor to officiate your wedding are also enumerated.
How to Ask a Pastor to Officiate Your Wedding: A Step-by-Step Guide
Look for Potential Pastors
For many people, pastors have been influential people in their lives. Directly or indirectly, you might have been inspired and guided by a pastor in the past. If this is the case, consider asking that pastor to officiate your wedding.
If you still do not have anyone in mind, you should look for potential pastors. You can do this by attending services at your local church. Likewise, your friend or relative might have someone they can recommend. You can also search online; some couples post footage of their ceremony on various social media platforms.
Have the Major Details Ready
To ask a pastor to officiate your wedding, you must know when and where your wedding will take place. This is important information; the pastor will need it to see if they are available on your special day. You can adjust around the pastor’s availability, though this may not always be a viable option.
Schedule a Meeting With Your Chosen Pastor
Once you think you have found the right pastor, request a meeting with them. They might have their contact information available online, or you might have to visit their church. Regardless, schedule a consultation with them at a time that is convenient for both of you.
You should call the church during the week, as pastors are less likely to be busy on these days. If you approach them after Sunday service, they might forget your request.
This meeting is an opportunity to get to know the pastor. You can get a sense of their personality and practices. Likewise, you will determine if you can work well with them. Pay attention to how you feel around them; if they make you or your partner uncomfortable, they probably are not the right choice.
Prepare a List of Questions for the Pastor
One way to get to know your pastor is to prepare some questions before the meeting. You can also ask them about how they officiate weddings, what services they include, and so on. When asking, remember to be respectful and polite. Here are some questions you should consider asking:
1. How many weddings have you been asked to officiate?
A good marker of a pastor’s experience and professionalism is how many times they have officiated a wedding. Though this is not the be-all-end-all, having an experienced pastor means they will know how to properly prepare for the event. Moreover, they will know how to handle unexpected situations, such as noisy guests.
2. Can we see a video of a past ceremony you officiated?
It is one thing to hear positive reviews about an officiant, and it is another to see them be good at their job. Ask them if you can see a video of a ceremony they have officiated. Through this video, you can see the way they speak, facilitate the ceremony, and engage with your guests.
3. Do you create custom ceremonies?
Depending on the pastor, the ceremony script can either be completely personalized or based on a template. Some couples do not mind following a template. However, some couples want their ceremony to be unique. If you are part of the latter group, ask the pastor if they are willing to do it.
4. How many other meetings are necessary?
On the occasion that you choose the pastor, they may ask for a few more pre-wedding meetings. This is often the case if you will be having a personalized ceremony. They need to know you better, individually and as a couple, to write a unique and heartfelt ceremony.
5. Do you require any premarital counseling?
Couples are frequently required to participate in couples’ therapy or premarital counseling. A session in counseling will prepare you and your partner for life as a married couple. It will equip you with communication tools, stress management techniques, and coping mechanisms. Moreover, premarital counseling is a platform for you and your partner to have an honest discussion about goals, priorities, and outlooks in life.
6. How long do your ceremonies take?
Most pastors are flexible with their officiating time; they can adjust to the time limit you or your venue set. However, some may have a preferred duration. In that case, you may have to discuss each other’s expectations.
7. Will you be handling the marriage license after the ceremony?
One task of a wedding officiant is to sign the marriage license; without their signature, your marriage will not be recognized by the state. After the wedding, you and your partner have to deliver the marriage license to the pertinent authorities.
However, some officiants might offer to do it for you. After they sign the license, they can mail it to the courthouse. If this is the case, you can go straight to your honeymoon.
8. Will you be joining rehearsals?
Wedding rehearsals are dedicated to practicing positions, the order of the processional, and so on. The ceremony proper is not usually rehearsed. If you want the officiant to join the rehearsal, you need to tell them explicitly. This step may be necessary if you have a tradition that needs to be rehearsed.
9. What happens in case of an emergency?
You must always be prepared to address contingencies. Your officiant might have a personal issue, travel plans suddenly change, or they become sick before the ceremony. Although unlikely, having a backup can give you peace of mind. Moreover, the backup will ensure that your ceremony will continue.
Ask them if they have a backup that can step in. If not, coordinate with your planner about this issue. The planner, or any of your vendors, might already be ordained. In that case, they can be the backup.
10. What fees do we have to pay?
Generally, you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars for an experienced officiant. Other factors will influence the final cost, such as the cost of living in your area and if you want a personalized ceremony.
Moreover, ask about any additional or miscellaneous fees. You might need to shoulder the costs of their travel, food, and so on. As mentioned above, they may also charge you for any pre-wedding consultations. Likewise, ask about their overtime fee.
In the same vein, you should clarify the proper methods of payment. Be thorough in this matter, especially if you need to monitor your budget.
11. Is there anything else in the contract we need to know?
Once you feel like you have covered all the bases, ask them to explain the content of the contract. Concurrently, read through the terms and provisions. To avoid getting blindsided, you must be aware of what is written in the fine print.
Discuss with Your Partner
Choosing an officiant for your wedding is a great exercise for your communication skills. You and your partner should share your insights, opinions, and feelings. If one of you feels that the specific pastor is not the right choice, then it might be best to look for another one.
Otherwise, you may be good to go. If everything is settled, ask the pastor what the next steps in this partnership would be. You may be asked to sign a contract, pay a fee, or schedule a premarital counseling session.
Make sure to thank your pastor wholeheartedly. Show your appreciation for their time and willingness to officiate your wedding. A simple “thank you” would suffice, but you can also prepare a small gift for them after the wedding.
Things to Consider Before Asking a Pastor to Officiate Your Wedding
Ask Them Early
Being a pastor entails a lot of responsibilities. As such, they become highly busy every once in a while. With that said, you must ask a pastor to officiate your wedding as soon as possible. Once you have settled on a date and location for your ceremony, start communicating with pastors in your area.
Asking them early gives you more time to get to know them. On the occasion that you choose not to work with them, you will have enough time to find another officiant.
Look for Pastors in the Area of Your Wedding Venue
If you are holding a destination wedding, it is best if you search for an officiant from that destination. In doing so, you will not have to shoulder any travel and accommodation costs. Likewise, they are more likely to be available to officiate your wedding.
The Denomination of the Pastor
In Christianity, there are a lot of denominations. Furthermore, Christianity is often divided into three broad branches: Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy. Within those branches are dozens of denominations, including Evangelist, Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist, and so on.
You need to consider your pastor’s denomination. Most of them will be part of one, though some may identify as non-denominational. This is important, as each denomination has a set of beliefs and restrictions:
- Inter-denominational unions are not permitted in some denominations.
- Same-sex marriage is not recognized or not permitted by many denominations.
- Some pastors will not officiate couples who have been living together before marriage.
Account for the Officiant in Your Guest List
When planning your wedding, keep in mind that your officiant is also a guest. This may not be an issue in traditional weddings. However, in types of weddings wherein the guest list is limited, remember to account for the officiant.
Asking About Fees Upfront Might Be Considered Tactless
In some cases, asking about fees upfront might be considered a red flag by the pastor. They might think that instead of a genuine connection, you approached them for simply a transaction.
Let the conversation about the fee happen by itself; do not force it, nor do not go into it immediately upon starting the meeting.
The church or parish might have a committee or person in charge of the business or finances. Likewise, they might have a secretary who handles all the inquiries. It is better to direct your questions about the fees to these people.
Technically, an officiant can be considered a wedding “vendor.” However, their involvement in your marriage is more intimate and special. Throughout the process, you can connect with your officiant and gain a new friend. They can also guide you spiritually, which you might appreciate, especially if you are overwhelmed with everything.