Almost without exception, there is one service provider that my clients are adamantly clear about when I ask them their preference for their Santa Barbara wedding. That service provider is the officiant. Any other service provider (i.e. caterer, photographer, florist,etc.) evokes an open feeling from the couple as they are open to different ideas from each provider. But when asked about their preference for what type of officiant they would like (i.e. religious, non-religious, etc.), they don’t hesitate to answer one way or the other. “We do not want any religion at all” or “We are spiritual, but not religious” or “We really want to be married by a Catholic priest, but a priest won’t marry us if we don’t do it in the church and we want an outdoor wedding” or (and this next one is very precious to my heart and these are often my favorite): “I am Jewish and my fiancee is Catholic. Please find us two officiants who will perform an interfaith marriage.”
And the reality is, I have the perfect officiant for every single request. But beyond who I think the couple should consider, choosing the person to orchestrate the ceremony is deeply personal and there is a lot to be taken into consideration.
One of the finest human beings I have ever had the honor of knowing is also a wedding officiant and one of Santa Barbara’s finest. She brings life, joy and deep insight to the marriage vow process. To her, ceremonies are deeply personal and she gets to know the couple and what brought them together. Reverend Miriam Lindbeck is also an incredibly talented writer with words that so touch the tender heart and are so unique to her couples, no two ceremonies are alike . To witness her perform a ceremony is watching poetry and art.
I recently asked Ms. Lindbeck what recommendations she had for helping couples find the ideal officiant for their wedding. Here is what she shared:
You are looking at both yourselves and the officiant. So it’s not just what to look for, but who to look for, which leads you to your top choice.
Look on line for testimonials, reviews, and go to their websites and/or blog sites. Once you’ve seen what interests you, contact them. Let them know the date, time, location of your ceremony so they can check their calendar.
Do they offer a non-obligatory interview. Some do, some don’t. It’s your choice to move on if you want choices in this matter. After all, it’s your wedding, your marriage.
Will they work with your specific needs. You may be having a ceremony that is interfaith; non-denominational, civil. or same faith, but are unable to use the church of your choice in the location you are getting married. Some ministers can be flexible, others not.
Ask them how long they have been doing this work, about how many weddings they have performed, if they are ordained or received their “ordination” on line.
Will they travel for you.
Ask them how they work, how many times they meet with you. Do they have one ceremony they use, adding your names and vows. (Template Ceremony); or do they have a few that you can choose from, adding in your names, your personal vows, some particulars about you and perhaps a reading of your choice. (Personalized Ceremony); or do they meet with you several times, going into depth about you, your family relations, what you want in your future etc., designing a ceremony specifically created for just you, your family and friends. (Customized Ceremony).
Each one of these approaches to wedding ceremony call for different levels of commitment to you and vary on the amount of time they require of both you and the officiant. The Template Ceremony choice is quick and can often be decided upon via email or over the phone; the Personalized Ceremony can often be accomplished in one meeting, and the Customized Ceremony takes several meetings involving more time, relatedness, commitment and creativity by both you and the officiant.
Ask how long a ceremony should be. 20-25 minutes is most comfortable, but some have to extend to 30-35 minutes. Anything much over 35 minutes becomes uncomfortable for all of you.
Ask if they conduct your rehearsal. Some do, many don’t.
Ask what they do to complete the marriage license process–witnesses, their signature and returning in to the correct County Clerk Recorder.
Ask them their fees. If that is your first priority, then always ask that first.
Check to see if you feel comfortable and open with the officiant. See if you feel respected, if you feel trusting and positive. See if you are inspired and moved. If you are, you may be getting close.
See if you would feel secure and proud to introduce the officiant to your family. Would your friends enjoy them. Will their appearance, their manner of speaking, be suitable for you.
Do they relate to the things that are important to you, to what you love.
Are they non-judgmental, accepting and warm.
Are they a good listener, and do they offer insights to give meaning to your day.
Are they skilled at what they do, will they make you feel that you are in good hands from beginning to end.
Are they reliable.
Will they be committed to you, or will they make your wedding a platform for their own interests.
Do you feel that they “got” you, and offer you every thing you are wanting and needing.
Are they generous, caring and flexible with their time, and will they give their all in their work with you.
Do they care about you, your day and your life long marriage.
If you said yes to all of the above, then you’ve found your officiant!
Miriam Lindbeck can be reached at: 805-564-4414 / Miriam@WeddingSantaBarbara.com