For an event that revolves so largely around the concept of marriage, it’s somewhat surprising to read all these in-depth wedding planning tales and hear very little about probably the most important person in the ceremony (besides the bride and groom). That’s right, I’m talking about the officiant here.
The officiant, the minister, the rabbi, the whatever you want to call him/her is in charge of leading the wedding ceremony. Additionally, he/she is vested by the powers of the state to make your marriage legally binding, which means that your officiant is a pretty big deal. Admittedly, trying to find your perfect officiant is less glamorous than trying to figure out what kind of flowers you want to have at your wedding, but someone has to sign the marriage license and pronounce you spouses!
Although it’d be pretty hilarious if you had The Impressive Clergyman from Princess Bride officiating for you.
Anyway, there is quite a bit of effort involved in finding an officiant that won’t (these have actually happened, taken from personal accounts):
- ding-dong-ditch with your $100 and leave your wedding photographer to be the surprise officiant
- take the opportunity to turn a meaningful sermon into a homophobic, politicized rant
- call your tasteful choice in classical walk-down-the-aisle music “pornographic” (C’mon, “Air on G String” pornographic?!? You gotta be kidding me!)
- forget to sign the marriage license altogether, rendering your expensive wedding somewhat meaningless in legal terms
Nowadays, it seems like finding a great officiant is sort of striking it lucky, but it honestly just takes a bit of research, some phone calls, and communication to figure out who exactly you want as an officiant (and who you can promptly ditch).
See what’s legal in your state & county
I feel like one of the biggest reasons why looking for an officiant is a huge pain in the arse is because there are so many laws regarding marriage that differ not only by state, but by county as well (the ‘federal rights’ vs. ‘states’ rights’ debate never fails to give me a headache). Because there are so many religious denominations out there, it’s sort of hard to keep track of what sort of officiant works under that county’s specific jurisdiction. But this is when I emphasize doing your research, because if your officiant isn’t able to legally wed you in the location of your venue, then you’re going through a LOT of trouble without reaping the most important reward! For instance, in Pennsylvania, you cannot use an officiant who has been ordained online.
The Monastery does a great job of breaking down the legal requirements in each state (as well as showcase the complexity of the law via a nifty meter!) For county requirements, you’ll probably have to contact the county clerk for more information regarding the specifics.