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What to Look for When Hiring a Minister for My Wedding?

Just a few generations ago, the individual performing your wedding ceremony probably would have been a fairly straightforward choice. Your officiant naturally would be the family pastor or, if eloping, a justice of the peace. As a modern couple, you perhaps are among the growing number of modern couples who desire a non-traditional wedding outside of a traditional church setting.

Couples in the midst of planning their wedding face numerous major decisions. You probably are facing the same challenges, such as selecting just the right wedding dress, reception location, florist, and photographer. And yet, perhaps you are like many who tend to overlook what should be one of your most important decisions – selecting the person who will officiate your wedding ceremony. Rather than an afterthought, your choice of an officiant can easily determine if your ceremony will be the dream of a lifetime or a lifelong disappointment.

Your approach to selecting a minister should be much like any employee hiring process. It needs to begin with creating a type of “job description” in which you have clear performance expectations of the officiant. The interview is next step in the hiring process. No officiant should object to meeting with you in person at no cost or obligation and answering any questions to your satisfaction. In developing your list of interview questions, consider including the following:

1. “How many years have you been performing wedding ceremonies?”
Only through direct experience will a minister develop the skill to prepare and present consistently memorable ceremonies.

2. “From what church or religious organization did you obtain your ordination and when?”
Ensure that the organization granting the minister’s ordination has a legitimate religious purpose. In the past ten or so years, the Internet has resulted in an explosive growth of online churches that have as their primary mission the ordination of individuals who only want to make money performing marriages or obtaining IRS tax exempt status. Every minister should show you his/her “letter of good standing” from the church or organization.

3. “Exactly how will you help us create a personal and memorable wedding?”
Every wedding minister should be able and willing to provide you extensive guidance that will give you several ideas and options that you can use. While you are describing your “dream wedding,” is the minister truly listening and asking questions in order to gain a complete understanding of your vision? Do you get the feeling that he/she thinks of you as “just another customer” or as one of the most important persons in the world at that moment?

Your interview with a wedding minister should be a two-way conversation. The minister should ask you several questions – not only about your vision of a dream wedding, but also the type of ceremony you have in mind (Christian, spiritual, civil, etc.), size and composition of your wedding court, and attire (formal, semi-formal, business, or business-casual).

You will have many choices to make in planning your dream wedding, and yet only one opportunity to achieve it. Insist on a minister with whom you have confidence in their experience and ability to guide you to realizing your dream.

Article contributed by Rev. Fred William Graf, certified wedding officiant located in El Paso, TX