Friday, March 19, 2010

5 Things Every Officiant Wants You to Know

As promised, I'm finally getting to post what every officiant wants you to know as a follow-up to my previous "What Most Officiants Don't Want You To Know." 

  1. First, do your homework.  The most challenging ceremonies for me to create were ones that the bride and/or groom had no vision for their ceremony.  Months are spent planning the color scheme, food, decor, favors, music, flowers, guests, but only a few minutes on the ceremony (the purpose for the event).  There are so many great websites out there and all you have to do is Google "Sample Wedding Vows" and you can get an idea of what kind of elements you like and don't like.  This also includes the music during the ceremony.  If you do not know what music to use, we can help you decide, but most officiants don't have musical experience and feel most comfortable when the music is pre-selected by the couple. Oh, and you don't have to write your own vows.  I know it's romantic and heart-felt, but unless you're a writer and a performer repeating small phrases from your officiant will be all you can handle during the emotional climax of your wedding ceremony, AND THAT'S OK.
  2. Have an idea of how long you want the ceremony to be.  Most states only require the "Do you...I do" and "By the power..." to be stated and that takes only a matter of seconds.  We want to earn our fee, and could easily complete the ceremony with minimal inclusions, but we want this ceremony to be special to you and your significant other, and vows and pronouncement just don't seem to be very personal.  Are there friends or family members you would like to include?  Do you have a favorite Bible verse, poem, song?  Will children (or pets) be involved?  Does your ceremony site have a time limit?  An experienced officiant can give you a rough estimate about how long the ceremony will last by what elements you would like to include.  Keep in mind some elements may be dependent on the location of the ceremony.  Some locations do not allow candles (some churches, museums, and protected wildlife areas) or flowers (some protected wildlife areas).
  3. If you don't have a planner or ceremony coordinator, experienced officiants can step in.  Most brides I have worked with were on very tight budgets and could not afford any coordinators and I was happy to help explain the order of the service and guide the bridal party through the rehearsals.  Planners and location coordinators prefer officiants to just "read what's on the page" and let them take care of the rest, but we are very capable of helping out (I've also been known to arrange flowers and last-minute cake decorating).  If you would like us to run the rehearsal, please let us know in advance.  Many of us have great resources and can even print out the order for the bridal party, if needed.
  4. We want to get to know you and your significant other.  I always ask to meet with both parties on our first consultation so I can get a feel for your relationship.  The best ceremonies usually include a story about the couple (how they met, got engaged, major challenges or triumphs), and we can't get that information from just one person.  Remember each story has at least two versions, and we officiants like to hear both.  Tell us about the theme of your wedding or what made you decide on your color scheme.  A good officiant can incorporate other elements and choices about your wedding in the ceremony, which makes it even more personal.
  5. Finally, this is your day, make it your way.  There are always going to be people that are disappointed with your choices in your wedding, but they are your choices to make.  Let go of trying to please everyone when planning your wedding and go with your gut.  No one likes to go to a wedding where the couple is so stressed-out it is clear they are not enjoying themselves.  Weddings are for celebration, and we officiants are honored to be able to help you celebrate your commitment to one another.
There you have it!  Tune in next time when I outline what you should ask your prospective officiant.  Cheers!

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    5 Things Most Officiants Don't Want You To Know

    From my first posting, most of you know I've been on this journey rather sporadically for the past eight years, but have only seriously considered officiating as a profession for the past few months.  I've been researching this career at length for the past month and have perused innumerable websites and blogs of other ministers, officiants, celebrants, or whatever title these people wish to use to set themselves apart from the herd (not ministers, etc. affiliated with a particular religion or institution).  I've noticed some common threads woven throughout each of these sites.  You won't find this info on any personal website or blog, but I think it's important for you to know about us.

    1. Most officiants were ordained over the internet.  There are a few out there that attended a few trainings, but most are like me and were originally ordained to perform the ceremony of a close friend or relative.  There are some that tout the ability to provide marriage licenses (basically a permission slip from the state that says you are allowed to get married), but that is because they attended a 6-hour training and paid a fee to be a notary.  Any notary public can provide a license if they have the paperwork, but the filing process at your local courthouse is not extensive and not very inconvenient (and I'm from Los Angeles County!).
    2. We get our ideas for ceremonies in the same place you do - the internet.  Sure, we read books and take classes, but we get most of our ideas from our past ceremonies and from other officiants that post their ceremonies or sample ceremonies on the internet.  We live in a age where it is acceptable to incorporate cultural rites into the marriage ceremony that may or may not be familiar to us.  The quickest and easiest way to learn about those rites is to jump on the internet and Google it (or Bing it, or Yahoo... you get the picture).  We say we want your ceremony to be just yours, your way - but we will borrow ideas from previous ceremonies or colleagues to make your ceremony as seamless as possible - especially if you don't have a preference or idea about what you want for your ceremony.  We borrow from others and ourselves because these ceremonies worked out well and we want yours to be successful, too.
    3. We're wedding vendors but hate to admit it. There's a reason you won't find many officiants at bridal fairs - we're not a very competitive bunch.  If we were we'd be planners.  We also realize our role in your special day is very minor compared to the rest of the planning, but we try to convey the significance of the ceremony nonetheless.
    4. We hope we're the only officiant you've interviewed so far, and will be the only you interview at all.  Please see above about our lack of the competitive gene.  And unless you found us on the internet or through the nearly extinct phone book, you were most likely referred to us by a friend or relative.  We hope that friend or relative already sold us to you and you are meeting us to discuss the ceremony and get working (i.e. we're hired).
    5. We're nervous before the ceremony, too!  No matter how many ceremonies we do, we get nervous before each one.  The day we stop getting nervous is the day we need to find another profession because that is the day we stop caring.  We care about your ceremony just as much as you do.  We want everything to run smoothly and it is usually up to us to deal with any glitches with grace. I will usually say a small silent prayer before entering the ceremony and mentally go through everything daily until the rehearsal.  We can't prepare for everything, but officiants know the weight of the emotional tone for the ceremony rests largely on our shoulders and we want it to be perfect, just like you do.
    Well, there you have it.  The five things most wedding officiants don't want you to know.  Remember, we are human, want to be liked, and want to be a part of your special day.  Stay tuned for my take on what every officiant wants you to know in my next submission.  Cheers!

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Lately I've been at an impasse.  Even though I have only written one submission, I have found I don't have much to say that relates to being a wedding officiant.  I have joined several social media websites (Facebook, Twitter, and several wedding-related sites) but have not found many people like myself.  In fact, when I searched for "Wedding Officiant" or "Minister/Pastor" on any of those sites, my profile is the only one that came up on several of them.  I guess that can be a good thing - untapped resource and all, but I really didn't know what to do with it and I still didn't know what to say...

    That was until today.

    I came across a blog from the Huffington Post by John Shore titled "What Would Jesus Do If Invited to a Gay Wedding? " Intriguing title, no?  I mean, after all that has happened in the past year here in California with Proposition 8 and the rest of the country going back and forth on the same-sex marriage issue, this blog is sure to strike a chord (disharmonious for some) in us all.

    Now, I'm not going to take this opportunity to expound Biblical references to make that point; Mr. Shore did just fine by me. Mr. Shore was debating whether or not as a Christian, if he should attend a few gay weddings he had recently been invited to.  His inward debate resulted in 244 comments at last count.  I wonder if he had anticipated such reaction...

    There is also a debate of what kind of man Jesus was.  I think Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code created quite a controversy with the possibility that Jesus had been married and...OMG had children.  My husband and I have even had discussions about who Jesus was and is in relation to today's social norms and expectations.  I've come to the conclusion that Depeche Mode was right - we each have our "Own Personal Jesus."

    Anyway, I can't help but think of the possibilty that my Jesus indeed attended a homosexual union.  Since there is evidence of such marital relationships in Roman times, why not Biblical times?  And just because it isn't written in the Bible doesn't mean it didn't happen.  Shore's blog says basically the same.  Jesus surrounded himself with theives, tax collectors, and even a protitute, but it was the Pharisees who used God's law to judge and punish other that really ticked him off. To quote Mr. Shore:
    "Around Jesus you can whine, lie, shift your loyalties, be late, be greedy, be too ambitious, be stupid, be a coward, be a hypochondriac, constantly complain, fall asleep at every wrong moment -- you can do nothing right, and it won't in the slightest way seem to offend him. But you put dogma ahead of empathy? You transmogrify God's law into a justification for denying God's grace?

    Then ... yikes, man. Then you've got yourself a problem no one wants."
    He decided to attend the weddings, by the way, because he realized it is the right thing to do, as he would expect people he invite to attend his special events.  But I think it's more than that.  Because our culture de-values marriage and there are so many couples that refuse to marry out of fear of divorce (which has increased 200% in the past 20 years), I think it even more important to support and bless ANY adult couple that has decided to take the lifelong vows of commitment to one another.  Marriages fail most of the time due to lack of support.  After being married to my husband for eight years, I still seek support from my family and close friends, which I don't see ever ending, as my mom also seeks support from her family and friends for her marriage.

    So in answer to Mr. Shore's title question, I think yes, Jesus would have attended the wedding, danced the night away, and would have probably brought the wine!

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    How it all started...

    It was 2002 and I was caught up in the planning of my own wedding when I got a call from a dear friend and sorority sister Michal who was also planning a wedding.  They were planning on having a civil union (at the courthouse), but didn't like the impersonal nature of it.  As we talked, she said they had scheduled an appointment at the local courthouse, but she wasn't looking forward to a stranger just going through the motions for them.

    I recalled a recent episode of the TV show "Friends", where the character "Joey" performed the marriage ceremony for another couple on the show.
     I didn't know it at the time, but Michal was searching the web to find out what it would take to get me ordained.  She ended the conversation by saying, "Ok, you're now ordained and YOU are performing our wedding!"

    None of us were sure if my "ordination" was legal, so we arrived at the courthouse an hour early to talk to the registrar about the legality of online ordination in the state of California (different states have different laws).  We were told that if I received all the necessary paperwork from the church I was ordained from, it was legal.  We ran out of the courthouse and searched out a location.  As we searched, Michal called another friend and her brother to meet us once we determined where.

    This wedding took place with a total of five people present.  None of us knew what we were doing or what we were really getting ourselves into, but it was a magical day with lots of laughter, a few tears, and if I remember correctly - a bongo drum.

    I can't believe almost eight years have passed since that day.  Life has definitely happened for everyone there that beautiful day.  They are still very married (in case you were wondering).  Michal is now a doctor of linguistics and Ezequiel is well on his way to having the title (Dr.) in front of his name, too.  They recently moved to Boise, Idaho when Michal accepted an Assistant Professor postion, and I miss her immensely.

    I got married two weeks after I married them.  I've also had two kids and performed several ceremonies but sporatically.  My friends and family have been encouraging me to take this opportunity and run with it, but it's always been more of a hobby than a career.

    I performed a renewal ceremony for a national cable network while I was six months pregnant.  I was pulled out of work shortly after for pre-term labor and returned to my full-time (and unfulfilling) job eight weeks after my beautiful baby girl was born:
     I lost my job eight weeks later.

    No worries, though.  If I hadn't lost my job, I would have never made it to this point.  I am a true believer in the fact that when one door closes, God opens another door.  I'm finally ready to walk through that door... now if I could just find that bongo drum...