Things Your Wedding Officiant Won't Tell You Openly

Exchange of Wedding Rings

Would you really believe me if I told you that often the wedding ceremony is the worst part of the day for most everyone involved? A lot (read, LOT) of couples don’t spend nearly enough time thinking through the significance, details, and logistics of the ceremony. I sat down with a local pastor who has officiated many weddings to ask him his real, honest opinion on why the ceremony can be the worst part of the day, things every officiant wants you to know but may not tell you, and some things that you can figure out before meeting up with him or her to make everyone’s life easier (also check out the freebie below!)

Wedding Ceremony Planning Checklist

click to download and share with your officiant!

Why do you think people don’t plan out their ceremony like the rest of their wedding day?

In comparison, the amount of money put into the ceremony is less than most any other wedding expense. People tend to treat the ceremony less valuable because there is less monetary value tied to it. With current wedding trends, there’s less emphasis on the ceremony and more emphasis on the reception and the fashion. I think some of it, too, is that people don’t have a high view of marriage anymore and don’t see it as a sacred covenant between both of you and the Lord.

What’s something you wish couples knew about planning their ceremony?

You have to actually plan it. Most people don’t really even think about it. You should definitely at least have a coordinator for the ceremony, otherwise the officiant often has to coordinate, or it ends up being someone in the wedding party or family member that does it, and often none of those people are really great at it. It’s important for you as a couple to specify the expectations on the officiant, because in cases like this it becomes much more than just conducting the ceremony.

What’s your biggest pet peeve when someone asks you to officiate?

When I don’t know the couples at all. I always urge people to be plugged into a local church or meet up with your officiant at least once before your rehearsal. If the officiant knows you, it’s easier for the ceremony to be meaningful because it can be more customized to you, your relationship, your personalities, your family, etc. If I don’t know you and I officiate your wedding, I can only bring so much to the table. In my opinion, it’s actually better to pay for a friend to become ordained online than to hire a pastor you don’t know. 

What kinds of questions do you ask couples that come to you to officiate?

First off, have a plan when you meet your officiant. Don’t put more time into thinking about the music than the actual vows. Some questions I like to ask are:

  • How long do you want the ceremony to be?

  • Do you want it to be a Christian ceremony?

  • What’s the feel? Light? Solemn? Emotional?

  • Are there special elements like communion, feet washing, candle lighting, sand ceremony, etc.?

  • Who will set the stage/altar with decor, flowers, or anything needed for special elements mentioned above? 

  • Do you want to do your own vows? Traditional vows?" “Repeat after me” vows?

  • Can the officiant write the vows for you if you don’t? 

  • Do you want to exchange rings during vows, or after?

How do you coordinate a wedding ceremony?

It’s basically coming up with answers to a bunch of logistic questions BEFORE your rehearsal such as:

  • Where are people going to enter from?

  • Who is on stage at the beginning of the ceremony?

  • Who is walking in and when?

  • Is the dad giving away the bride? Will he be down front?

  • Where do you want bridal party and family to stand? Sit?

  • Do the ring bearer or flower girl stand or sit?

  • What is the speed of professional? Is there music?

  • Is there a stage with stairs? Who is on that stage or stairs?

  • Where does bride and groom stand in relation to officiant? 

What does it mean to have a “Christian” wedding ceremony?

To me, it means that the Pastor is allowed to use the Bible and biblical terms of marriage. Some things to think about that would make it a “christian” ceremony would be”

  • Do you want an “altar call”?

  • Do you want the officiant’s message to have a “counseling” feel with advice?

  •  Do you have verses picked out?

Popular wedding ceremony verses:

  • 1 Corinthians 13

  • Ecclesiastes 4:12

  • Song of Solomon 2.10-13; 8.6,7

  • Genesis 2:24

  • Ephesians 5:22-33

  • 1 John 4:8; 18

  • John 3:16

  • Proverbs 5:18-23

  • Proverbs 31

Why is the ceremony the most important part of the day?

That’s the moment that the commitment is made. It’s way better to remember a special ceremony than to remember a special night dancing with your friends. Because we don’t put much thought into the ceremony, it it’s easy to forget the details of it years later. You can have a marriage without having a reception and a dress and flowers and rings. You can have a marriage without all of those things because it’s most importantly a covenant to one another and the Lord.