How to Choose a Minister

October 28, 2015

When getting married outside of a traditional church setting, choosing a minister for your wedding ceremony should never be an afterthought. The Minister or Officiant is the most important person attending your wedding. You can’t be married without one. This article offers some help on how to choose a minister.

When Things Go Wrong

country weddings

A perfect wedding is not necessarily one where everything goes perfectly; it is perfect because everything is perceived to go perfectly. A few years ago we sent one of our ministers to do a beautiful cottage wedding in Muskoka. It was a lakeside setting and the weather was heavenly. The bride and groom were stunning. The ceremony was at the water’s edge on the dock. As the ceremony drew to a close, smartly uniformed waiters were standing by with ice cold champagne, waiting to serve for guests for the post ceremony toast to the newly-weds.

The champagne toast was designed to bridge the event from the ceremony to the reception. It marked the transition of the event from the traditional or religious part of the day to the celebration. At this wedding all of the details were carefully planned. The master of ceremonies, a charming friend of the family, was chosen to propose this all important first toast to the newly-weds. This would bring a perfect ending to a perfect ceremony. Everyone was served a crystal glass of bubbly, the bride and groom stood before them, all smiles. It was now time for the master-of-ceremony to step forward and give the not only the first toast, but also the most important toast of the day. At that instant, disaster nearly struck. The master of ceremonies became tongue tied. He froze on the spot.

country weddingsFor a pregnant moment a great silence ensued. Everyone stood on the grass bank, drinks at the ready. But no toast came. Even the birds perched in the trees above felt the pause and quieted. Our minister quickly realized what had happened. Naturally, she stepped forward with a calm demeanour, her glass shimmering with afternoon sunlight and gave a resounding toast to the bride and groom.  Her efforts won a hearty cheer and a long kiss from the newly-weds. Everyone drank their champagne and a perfect wedding continued to be a perfect wedding.

The Minister Is In Charge

After your guests experience the spectacle of the bride in all her finery stepping down the aisle, it is the minister that is in charge. Despite this responsibility, it should not be an endurance test for the wedding couple or their guests to endure a lecture on love and marriage. Apart from the legal questions and pronouncements that must be asked at a wedding, the rest of the ceremony, for better or for worse, should be left to the bride and groom.

Ministerial Qualities

outdoor wedding venues

No matter the style or look of the minister there are certain qualifications that are essential in conducting a wedding ceremony:

  1. An understanding of the legal obligations of conducting a wedding & processing wedding  documents;
  2. An ability to speak well with excellent timing;
  3. A system for organizing a last-minute replacement should the first choice unexpectedly become incapacitated and unable to perform your ceremony;
  4. An understanding of attire appropriate for the occasion
  5. An understanding of the officiant’s role as a facilitator and leader and not the centre of attention.
  6. Sensitivity to the needs and feelings of the bride and groom.
  7. Adaptability and flexibility when the unforeseen happens, as it always does.
  8. An awareness of aware of what’s going on around them.

Couples who do not personally know someone who can legally marry them have to search for a competent minister to perform a ceremony to their liking. It is difficult, tedious and time consuming to meet with individual ministers to find a good fit.

Use a wedding coordinator

An ideal approach is to use a wedding coordinator. Any experienced wedding planner will know many ministers of varying abilities and styles and can make introductions. A good wedding coordinator will know the key questions to ask to evaluate a couple’s mutual personality. This is essential in matching a couple with an officiant. The cost for this service should be included in the price of hiring the chosen minister and organizing the content of the ceremony. In this way there are no budgetary surprises.

Start the Search Early

Don’t leave the decision to the last minute. The demand for Ministers and Officiants who will perform a wedding ceremony outside a Church far exceeds the supply. Your search should start the minute that you set the wedding date.

– – This blog post jointly written by Tim Simmons Of Heritage Weddings in Hamilton and edited by Gary Hendin of The Garden House.