I’ve found that some couples are a little scared of a wedding officiant. They equate a professional wedding officiant with a religious leader that left a bad taste in their mouth. They don’t want a religious wedding or to be judged for their actions or decisions. They aren’t quite sure if I’m going to do that or not. When we meet and they realize that’s the last thing I’m going to do, they relax. Some couples realize that need to hire someone to marry them but don’t know where to begin, and it shows. They are nervous because they don’t know what to expect or what to ask. They might be familiar with wedding ceremonies but have no idea how to get from having a concept of what they want to an actual ceremony. I do my best to walk each couple through the process. I have a list of questions I go through, and in the process, I almost always answer 99% of their questions. Here are my core questions.
1. What Is the date, time and location of your wedding?
This is important because I want to make sure I’m available. I’ll ask you this with the first email, text or telephone call so we don’t waste anyone’s time going forward.
2. How did you meet? Tell me about your relationship. What do you like to do together?
This will be the first question. I want to get to know you so I can find the best way to relate to you. I’m also picking up pieces of your story to add to your ceremony and coming up with suggestions for things you might want to include in your ceremony.
3. How many guests do you expect at your wedding?
This gives me an idea of what to expect. Will it be an intimate gathering or a larger group? There are things more appropriate for smaller groups
4. How many people are in your wedding party?
This questions tell me what kind of rehearsal you are going to need. I offer ceremony only services as well as packages with a rehearsal- if you have a large bridal party, 99% of the time, you are going to need a rehearsal with a professional. I always respect your budget.
5. Will there be children in your wedding party?
I ask this to bring up other questions that need to be answered, How old are they? Where will they go once they get to the front? Will they have someone waiting for them? Anything the child does during the wedding is going to be perfect and a cute picture and I always say not to stress about it, just think about it.
6. Is there anything atypical about your wedding party?
Man of honor or best woman? I love different! No judgement at all. Usually the first contact will include the really interesting situations like, we both have transgender siblings in the wedding, is that OK? Of course it is! It’s your wedding, your way. I’m going to ask you questions like, are your parents and immediate family members OK with this or should I look out for their reactions? Family dynamics at your wedding are important.
7. Who will escort the bride down the aisle? Do you want to be give away or presented in marriage?
Sometimes it’s the bride’s father walking her down the aisle and he’s going to “give” her away. Sometimes he will “present” her, instead. Other times, he will just walk her down the aisle and that’s it. Sometimes is mothers or mothers and fathers or stepfathers or stepfathers and fathers. It might be a brother, cousin or grandparent. Sometimes it’s more than one person. Sometimes both parents will walk the bride and the groom down the aisle.
8. Do you want to write your own vows? Do you want to repeat after me or just say "I do."
You don’t have to write your own vows. You might be thinking about it, maybe I can give you some pointers or suggest other ways to share your vows in private instead of in front of everyone. Some couples don’t realize they have options. You can repeat after me or I can simply ask you a questions and you say “I do” or “I will.” That will often take a load of stress off a couple that is really shy or simply doesn’t like to be the center of attention. You have options!
9. Do you want a unity ceremony?
Some couples know for sure they do not. Others want to know their options. There are plenty of options!
10. What type of ceremony do you want?
Religious, non-religious, something in the middle? As a professional wedding officiant that happens to be an ordained minister, this is usually one of the first things we talk about, even before a meeting. I specialize in combining different religious backgrounds into your ceremony or just keeping it as atheist as possible. Often, we create a ceremony together that will keep the couple true to themselves but still honor the religious backgrounds of their families. More than once, I’ve been hired to perform a completely non-religious ceremony for closet atheists. I was very quickly escorted off the property at the end of the ceremony by their very zealous, religious families. But, that’s what I was hired for. I’m OK with that. I have a christian background - including Episcopal, Baptist and Pentecostal. I can definitely hold my own. Every season I do at least one multi-faith Jewish ceremony, one secular humanist ceremony, several kinda-Christian ceremonies and the rest are completely secular, non-religious and beautiful.
11. Will there be anyone participating in your wedding Readers? Performers?
Do you have special people you want to share readings? Do you have someone who is going to sing or play other music? Maybe you have people you want to include but are unsure how.
12. Is there anything you must have in your ceremony?
You might want a certain reading or unity ceremony that you’ve seen before. Maybe you want exactly what they did in your favorite movie or TV show. Maybe a certain version of 1 Corinthians 13 is what you have been dreaming of your whole life.
13. Is there anything you definitely do not want in your ceremony?
Chances are, there is something you’ve seen in a ceremony you hated and definitely don’t want in yours. No sermons or definitely not the same unity ceremony you’ve seen over and over again.
14. Is there a theme to your wedding? Anything interesting?
Themes can be fun! Dr. Who or Harry Potter. Maybe your dog is going to be in your wedding. I can work in lyrics from songs or quotes from movies into your wedding ceremony.
15. Are your parents still married? Remarried? Do they get along?
The family dynamic is important. It’s important for me to know that your mother and step mother hate each other or your parents haven’t spoken in 13 years but promise to be civil they day of your wedding. Maybe your stepmother raised you as her own since you were 4 and your biological mother just stepped in a year ago to steal her, mother of the bride, thunder…
16. Are your grandparents still living? Will they be in attendance?
Sometimes we Skype or Face Time to those not in attendance. Sometimes they have recently passed away and it's a sore spot.
17. Do you want to remember anyone during your ceremony? Do you want a moment of silence?
Most often, we do a general moment of silence, sometimes we name specific people. It’s often a good idea to discuss this with your parents to decide if it’s a good idea to name people. It may take away from your moment and put your guests minds in a sad place instead of loving, happy place. You don’t want someone to simply breakdown in the middle of your wedding because you mentioned a name. Personally, my parents always do this out of absolute respect.
18. Will you be drunk at your wedding ceremony?
Generally, I know there will be drinking at your receptions. That’s not the question. I want to know if you plan of being drunk or tipsy at your actual ceremony. I don’t care what the answer is, it will just give me an idea of what I’ll be dealing with. Drunk or tipsy people can be a lot of fun in a wedding and I’ll walk you through it, it’s not a problem. I’ve learned from experience, some people are too drunk to sign a marriage license of might need someone paying attention to details. One bride answered, “Absolutely! I’m not going to be able to walk down the aisle without a bottle of champagne, the rehearsal is very important!.” Another couple said they were going to send me their vows so they could repeat after me instead of reading them. Turned out, EVERYONE at the wedding had at least one drink before the ceremony, if not two. Many had drinks in hand during the ceremony.
19. Will there be children in attendance?
This is a really important question. I learned it the hard way, in a closed room where there was a screaming child in the front row. No one removed the child so we had to just keep on going. I ask the question so you can be aware of what might happen so you can prepare for it. If you are having an outdoor wedding kids can run around no problem, in a formal setting, this can really ruin a ceremony. Often couples are happy I bring it up so they are aware and could prepare for it.
20. Will you have a day of event coordinator, wedding planner or someone organizing your rehearsal?
This will tell me how much I have to do to prepare for your rehearsal and what my place will be. Will I just arrive and follow directions or do I need to arrive ready to give directions? If you are on a budget and you do have a day of event coordinator you might save money by not hiring me to be at your rehearsal. I’m familiar with many area venues and how they run their rehearsals. I’ll know best how to prepare to make sure everything runs smoothly.
When we are done with all of these questions, most couples are satisfied. They realize I’ve answered questions they didn’t even realize they had. They are confident that I know what I’m talking about. I’ve had a few couples, who in the end, still weren’t satisfied because they had other preconceived ideas of that a wedding officiant should be. They were concerned with how I’d be perceived as a person by their family. Do I look the part? I realize I am who I am and I can’t suddenly become a man or grow my hair. I might not be able to meet their budget so they choose someone cheaper. That’s perfectly OK. It’s your wedding. It’s your money, they are your memories. Everyone has a different idea of what their wedding ceremony should be and I respect that. I want you to have what you want. If I can help you with that, I’m happy to.
Victoria Meyer is the founder of Marry Me In Indy! LLC. She's been officiating weddings in the greater Indianapolis area for over 8 years and has married over 2500 couples.