2. Do you travel to the place I’m getting married?
Some officiants don’t travel or will only travel a certain distance. You may be getting married at home and some people decline to go to private homes. They may be available at the time of your ceremony but might have scheduling conflicts due to the time it would take to get back and forth to your wedding.
3. Do you charge an extra fee to travel to my venue?
The regular price for a wedding ceremony with the officiant may be very affordable. If they have to travel several hours to get there, the price is going to go up and, it could, go up substantially.
4. Will you marry us?
This is a very relevant question. This question is a little different from literally wanting to hire someone to marry you. You can’t just assume a wedding officiant will marry you. Some people are wedding officiants because they are full time pastors or ministers. They may have certain criteria you need to meet for them to agree to marry you. You may be asking questions to decide if you want a certain officiant to marry you. It can go both ways, the officiant may be deciding if they want to marry you.
5. Do you perform LGBTQ weddings?
I’m sure if you are LGBTQ, this is the first thing you will ask, but maybe not. I have it on my website that I marry anyone but some religious people could say that to lure you in so they can witness to you. If you are going to have LGBTQ people in your bridal party or participating in our wedding you might want to include that in your questions too. An overly religious wedding officiant could react badly to LGBTQ people being present. You don’t want to find this out at your rehearsal. Religious zeal can be unpredictable. I once got a call asking if it was OK that both the bride and the groom had twin siblings and they were all transgender and all in the wedding party. I said it was AWESOME and we went on from there. (Literally, what are the odds?)
6. Do you perform interracial weddings?
I was literally shocked when I received a call about interracial marriages. The groom said he had called 7 people who said no before he called me and I said yes. I still find this a really weird question but, where you live, it might be relevant.
7. What do you require from us before you will marry us?
Some officiants will want to meet with you first, others won’t care. Some require a number of meetings or counseling sessions. I once performed a quick, legal wedding for a couple who said I was so much easier then their local judge who required a meeting before scheduling the actual wedding, which was just a civil ceremony and a signature on a piece of paper. I would have assumed a judge or magistrate would perform a quick civil ceremony with no questions asked, but that can depend on the judge. That judge might have seen enough divorce requests that his personal requirements before marrying a couple make him feel better about performing a wedding.
8. Do you offer premarital counseling? - You might want counseling or you may not. One thing to keep in mind is counseling is counseling. There are qualified trained counselors available if you need one. I have a childhood friend that became a pastor and he said he would meet with couples before marrying them as part of the requirements of their religion, but he was not a counselor. He explained to me right away he is not a qualified marriage counselor. His church, like many churches, require you to take classes or read books, and meet with the pastor several times. That’s also not counseling. A religious officiant might offer counseling in accordance with their religion, they will counsel you as to what their interpretation of scripture says about marriage. A secular officiant might be able to refer you to a qualified counselor. Personally, I refer couples who ask, to a pre-marital coach. She has a program that literally coaches couples on relationship building and how to do it in a healthy way before problems arise. If you simply want your officiant to get to know you before marrying you so they can personalize your ceremony, that’s not counseling. That’s a consultation.
9. How much do you charge? - You will want to know if you can afford the wedding officiant. Click here for my explanation of prices.
10. What’s included in the fee? - Prices can really vary. I’m very cost conscious. I have several different priced options so customers can pick and choose what they really need and want to pay for. I have couples who are happy to pay for my most expensive package because they know they need everything it includes and it’s worth it, to them. Others just can’t afford it so I’ve gone out of my way to offer as much information as I can for free. All you have to do is read. They can then just pay me to do what they need me to do. There may be a non-refundable deposit due to hold your date and time.
11. Are there hidden fees? - Some officiants might charge extra if you start late. I literally state how long your appointment is and how long you have to get married. I explain it takes 5 minutes to complete the license and a certain amount of time to perform the ceremony. At the end of the 15, 30 or 60 minute appointment, I’m done. My premium package gives up up to an hour past your scheduled start time to start your wedding. Some wedding officiants may charge you $50 for every 15 minutes past your scheduled start time. They may charge a transaction fee, depending on how you pay.
12. Is a consultation included?
You might assume it is but ask to be sure. Some people assume there are always free, no-obligation consultations. That might not be the case. If you book a bargain elopement with me I’ll answer you questions, no problem. You don’t necessarily get a face to face meeting included with the bargain price. More than anything, you are paying for my time. A meeting takes 3 hours. I have to give myself time to get to the meeting, schedule an hour for the meeting and schedule time to get to the next appointment. I answer unlimited emails and texts and am happy to schedule a phone call for no extra charge. Honestly, a lot of people are happy with that, they don't have those 3 hours to attend a personal meeting either.
11. Is the rehearsal included?
This might seem obvious, but it’s not. I charge extra for a rehearsal. It takes time to get to the rehearsal, perform the rehearsal and then get to the next appointment. Weddings are generally on a timeline so start close to on time. Rehearsals are notorious for running late.
12. Is there a written contract?
If you are planning a formal ceremony, it’s a large financial investment. The cost of your wedding officiant might be minimal in comparison to your catering bill but the services are still vital to the success of your wedding day. Is there some sort of guarantee of services? There are ultimately no guarantees. But if someone is able to articulate their services and is willing to put them in writing, that’s a really good promise. I’ve gotten calls last minute when the officiant that was hired didn’t show up, or wouldn’t answer their phone, or both. If you book a wedding officiant that’s not busy every weekend they might forget they booked your wedding or lost interest and scheduled something else to do. It’s more common than you think.
13. What happens if something happens to you and you can’t officiate our wedding?
I’m going to be honest. For the most part, there are no absolute guarantees. Accidents and emergencies happen. Some people think if you book the pastor of a church the associate pastor will just step in if something happens. That’s really not the case. You may book through a wedding officiant service that books several wedding officiants. That doesn’t mean they will have someone available last minute. I tripped and broke my ankle between weddings a few years ago. I didn’t know it was broken and I kept going and everyone got married that day. After the x-rays, I was off my foot for a long time. If I couldn’t get there on crutches or with a knee scooter, I had to find someone else to perform the wedding. I know for a fact, there are other people who wouldn’t do that. They will just call and cancel, albeit with a valid excuse. Keep in mind, they may not be able to call. I had an emergency appendectomy several years. Everyone still got married. If it had been a bigger emergency I may have not had that option. This is a good question to ask, just to see how the person answers it. That will tell you a lot about them. I used to say I would find someone, at no extra charge, to perform the ceremony we already wrote and agreed upon. I stopped this because I realized I really couldn't guarantee it. I do try really hard to do it though. I would only offer this to a large for a large formal wedding. What I do explain is, as part of the process in writing your ceremony the ceremony and an organized rehearsal is all written in a document we share online. Someone else could step in and do what the document says.
14. Who will perform our ceremony?
This seems obvious, but it’s not. There are plenty of wedding officiant booking services out there. They may be located in another state and just subcontract to someone in your area. You could also be talking to a local business that books weddings and then sends a random officiant to perform your ceremony. This is truly not a bad thing. You might not care who performs your ceremony, but if you do, ask to be sure. Several years ago, when I first started officiating weddings I was a stay at home mom and I would book other moms in the neighborhood that wanted to make some extra cash. I would meet with the couples and personalize the ceremonies and then someone else would go and perform them. It turned out some couples were becoming emotionally invested in the process and didn’t want a different person to marry them. It became a problem, so I stopped. What I really learned when I booked other officiants to perform weddings is they really weren’t as invested in it like I was. I had an officiant cancel on a HUGE formal wedding last minute. She had literally already confirmed the details personally with the bride and it was less than a week before the wedding. I found another officiant to fill in but decided I would never to that again. It’s too risky. It’s not that it’s too risky for me, it’s too risky for the couple getting married. Keep in mind some booking services charge you a premium fee and only pay the officiant that performs your ceremony a fraction of that. You might pay $500 and then booking service will keep $300 of it, or more. They will charge you as much as they can and pay out as little as they can.
15. Do you have a selection of ceremonies for me to choose from? - This is the reason I became a wedding officiant, to offer couples choices. Not every officiant is going to offer you that, and if they do, they may charge extra. I have cost conscious packages that allow a couple to choose from pre-written ceremonies, but I always allow them to write their own ceremony and vows if that’s what they want. If a couple wants me to personalize their ceremony with them, I charge more. It’s a lot more time consuming to personalize ceremonies then you might think. Keep in mind, just because someone says they personalize every ceremony it doesn’t mean they do. They might have a few ceremonies they use, they just don’t tell you that. I decided to put all my ceremony information online to choose from. I can usually point you to the information that might be best for you.
16. Can we write our own ceremony?
I think it’s great that you want to write your own ceremony and are just looking for someone to perform it. Not everyone may be OK with that. If you want to perform a handfasting or something like that, you will want to ask if the officiant is OK with that.
17. How long will the ceremony be?
This is soooooooooooooo important! Some venues are on very tight schedules. They may stipulate your ceremony can be no longer than 30 minutes. Some couples simply want a short ceremony.
18. Can I read the ceremony ahead of time and control what is said?
I could reword this different and ask, “Are you going to give a long boring sermon about something nobody cares about?” You might want to make sure that sermon won't offend anyone. How about, “Do I have to say the word obey?” I still laugh when people ask that. Of course not! We generally don’t ask if there are any objections either, unless it's a really fun wedding.
19. What do you wear?
I get this question from time to time and usually, the reason a couple asks is if they are having non-religious wedding they want to make sure I don’t look religious in a robe or religious garment. They may not want me to clash. Usually, for a formal wedding, I’ll wear black, because it looks best in pictures, unless a different outfit would be more appropriate. Some couples prefer me not to wear black. I’ve started asking couples what I should wear because sometimes I’ll show up to a bargain elopement on a Tuesday in an everyday dress and they will have on a wedding dress and tux and have a professional photographer. Other times, I’ll show up dressed for a formal wedding and end up hiking across a large property in a completely inappropriate outfit. I think this question may be more relevant because I’m a woman. I don’t just have a regular suit to wear.
20. Are you qualified to marry us?
This is an interesting question. You would assume that if someone were advertising themselves as a wedding officiant they would be legally able to perform your wedding. Usually, I get this question when someone is calling to inquire about a bargain wedding. I have very low priced options for basic services and sometimes it seems to good to be true. Whomever you ask should be able to explain their qualifications. Click here for how to find a qualified wedding officiant.
21. Can you accommodate our wishes?
If there is something you want that’s out of the ordinary, ask to make sure they will do it. There are some things people just aren’t comfortable with. Better to know ahead of time what those rules are. One popular question is about photography during your ceremony. Photographers will always ask me that question and I usually ask if there is anything special that I should do so they can get the shots they want. Some pastors or priests won’t allow any photography during the wedding ceremony or if they do, only from a distance.
22. Do you have a video I can look at so I know what my wedding will look like?
I actually hate this question. Let me explain why. What sort of video would I have to show you? Can I videotape your wedding and share it with strangers? How could I get an authentic video of me performing a wedding? If you have a videographer at your wedding they might have me in a few seconds of the final product, and it might just be my voice or me standing next to the groom watching his bride walk down the aisle. It’s my job to personalize your wedding ceremony. I may use the same words I’ve used a hundred times before, but this is the first time I’ve said them for you, surrounded by your family and friends. The venue is decorated for you. The two of you and your wedding are something amazing and spectacular that’s never, ever been done before and will never be done again. It’s a feeling I want to invoke. It may be lighthearted and funny with children running around. It could be a deeply moving, family affair where you father walks you down the aisle knowing he has a few more months left to live. It could be a deeply spiritual time or the moment you’ve been waiting for your entire life or since your very first date and very first kiss. Ask your videographer to see their videos. Ask your photographer to see photographs. Ask your caterer to taste their food. Take a few minutes to talk with your wedding officiant and ask them questions and decide if you get along and you feel comfortable together.
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.