Finding the right officiant for your ceremony
Are you currently looking for the right celebrant to lead your wedding ceremony and official journey into marriage… but have no idea what to look for? Jeannie Sheppard, wedding planner and stylist, shares these tips for finding the right officiant for your day. Jeannie is the founder and manager of Stradbroke Weddings (established 2002).
In my years as a wedding planner, I have had many clients who tell me that all they are interested in for their wedding is a “big party”. That’s fine. I can make that happen with one hand tied behind my back! However, sometimes I feel that they are missing the point of their wedding; this day marks the beginning of their new life as a married couple. This journey begins with a legal process and a public commitment to each other, known as the wedding ceremony. Integral to this process is the marriage celebrant and be it civil or religious, it should be afforded the respect and solemnity it rightly deserves.
Finding the right celebrant for your needs and wishes is vital. As you can imagine, I have seen hundreds of marriage celebrants in action. Some have been wonderful and profoundly moving, some have been average, some boring, and a few, I’m sad to say, have been atrocious. What do I mean by this? Well, I’ve seen the celebrants who can’t remember names, the celebrants who are only there to be the centre of attention, the ones who seem completely robotic and even one who was late and then publicly berated the bride and groom for giving her the wrong ceremony time! Not an auspicious start to a wedding.
Anyone who has sat through a lecture at school or university, listened to a public speaker, or watched a politician going through the motions of their job seemingly semi-conscious and completely disimpassioned will know what I mean… Boring!
On the other hand, when the speaker is passionate, honest, genuine and sometimes vulnerable, everyone present becomes engaged and uplifted. The same can be said of celebrants and is the making of a beautiful celebration.
So, what do I look for in a celebrant? This is my list of must-haves!
• Genuine. Yes, your celebrant needs to earn a living from his or her work, but genuineness is the magical ingredient that lifts a ceremony from ho-hum to sparkling. A good celebrant, while obviously needing to earn a living, will also want to be there to celebrate your marriage and will take a genuine interest in creating the ceremony that is right for you.
• Honest. These celebrants don’t brag about how perfect they are and how they will dazzle you with their charm and wit. In fact, whenever I see one (and this applies to any supplier) who needs to boast about how ethical, honest and perfect they are, it usually screams the opposite to me. An honest celebrant will promise you 100% of their attention and skills and will be truthful about what they can fulfill for you on your wedding day. No matter how hard we wish it to be, nobody is perfect and sometimes, mistakes happen. These mistakes don’t become a huge problem in the hands of an honest professional who will acknowledge them, rectify the mistake and move on seamlessly. An honest celebrant will never pressure you into booking their service, but will instead, provide you with all the information you need to make an informed choice about their service. They will then step back and allow you to take your time and decide who is right for you.
• Passionate. A great celebrant is passionate about what they do. These people want to be there and take a real interest in you and your needs and wishes for your day. You will sense this quality, if present, in your initial dealings with them.
• Humble. One of my pet dislikes is watching a celebrant who makes it all about them. The mark of a professional celebrant is that they are seen and heard, but still manage to walk the fine line between seamless ceremony facilitation and being the centre of attention. It’s your day, not the celebrant’s, so beware of celebrants who you see wedged between the bride and groom in every photo on their website. It’s usually a good indication of their desperate need to be the star of the show.
• Professional. Creating a wedding ceremony is a personal and intimate process and it takes a skilled professional to manage the myriad of personalities, egos, dreams, likes and dislikes of their clients, while still meeting all timelines and legal requirements. Balance, organisation and experience are all key. A professional celebrant will provide you with information, paperwork and examples of other ceremonies in a timely manner and will skillfully guide you through these processes without you ever feeling bullied or coerced. He or she will ensure that all legal requirements are attended, both before and after the wedding day, and that on the day your wedding ceremony will be relaxed and enjoyable.
And my last piece of advice is: Trust your intuition. If you do this, you will know who is right for you. How often, after making the wrong choice, have we said to ourselves, “I knew it’? The truth is that every one of us instinctively knows what feels right for us. When you ignore those niggling feelings in the pit of your stomach that something’s amiss, trouble usually follows. Find the celebrant with whom you feel a real connection and who has your best interests at heart and follow the guidelines above. Do this and your wedding ceremony will be beautiful, seamless and above all, a reflection of your love for each other.
(© Jeannie Sheppard. This article may not be copied, distributed in whole or part, without written permission and credit of the author)
One of the first wedding planners and stylists in Australia, Jeannie Sheppard established the successful destination wedding businesses, Stradbroke Weddings (based on North Stradbroke Island, Queensland) in 2002 and Lolly Who in 2010. She has now clocked up over 1500 weddings, created more than 5000 bouquets, scattered hundreds of thousands of flower petals, calmed the fears of a plethora of brides and wrested in the wedding budget for hundreds of nervous grooms! Visit the Stradbroke Weddings website, Lolly Who website, or follow on Facebook and Pinterest.