Start your search for "the (other) one" early.
bridgett ian groom's childhood friend as officiant during wedding ceremony
Credit: Natalie Bray

You've finally found the one you're going to marry, but before wedding bells can actually ring, you need to find the one who's going to marry you both. The wedding officiant plays a pretty integral role in the big day, but with all the other items on your to-do list, it's easy for booking one to become an afterthought. So, at what point in the planning process should you hire an officiant?

"I typically suggest starting the officiant search around the nine- to twelve-month mark before the wedding day," says Krisy Parker Thomas, the owner and senior certified wedding planner behind Southern Sparkle Wedding & Event Planning, says. "This will allow you enough time to find the right person to marry you."

Look for "the one."

You don't have to fall in love with the person performing the ceremony, but you also shouldn't strongly dislike him or her. And ideally, the three of you will "click"—at least a little. "Like any other wedding vendor, chemistry is key, so take the time to meet with several potential officiants before making a final decision to make sure you like them and that the feeling's mutual," Thomas suggests.

Complete counseling (if required).

One of the reasons Thomas tells brides and grooms to find an officiant so early is that, if you're planning a religious service, many places of worship recommend or even require pre-marital counseling with the priest, minister, or rabbi in order for him or her to officiate. "Pre-martial counseling can take several weeks and even months," Thomas says. "So give yourself enough ample time to have these sessions with your significant other and officiant."

Unfortunately, if it's a same-sex wedding, finding a member of the clergy to officiate can take even longer, so you'll need to plan accordingly.

Schedule some meetings.

Even if you're not obligated to put in some face time with your officiant, meetings aren't a bad idea. "Ceremonies offer you a chance to incorporate your personal love story, so taking the time to meet with your officiant prior to the wedding day will allow him or her to get to know the two of you," Thomas explains. Plan on two appointments: "One to get to know each other, share your story, and discuss your ceremony options," she continues. "The second, to nail down and finalize all of the ceremony details before the wedding day."

Look into the laws.

If you're considering asking a friend or family member to officiate a civil service, take some time to check what the ordination process entails—requirements vary by state. "Depending on where your friend gets ordained, this came be a quick process," Thomas says. "As easy as filling out an application online and getting an ID card sent in the mail."

Know you have options.

Waited too long to find an officiant or need to replace yours last-minute? Don’t panic! Though nine months or more is advisable, it's certainly not necessary. "There are many wedding officiant vendors who offer a team of people who could be part of your wedding day," Thomas explains. "These vendors still take the time to get to know you, even if it's a brief phone call."


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