The Elopement Officiant
The officiant, or minister, for your elopement wedding sets the tone for the entire ceremony. This person is the individual who is responsible for actually marrying you two. As such, he or she is the most important person at your ceremony besides you and your soon-to-be spouse. Like traditional weddings, elopement ceremonies include officiants. In fact, most officiants perform their duties at traditional weddings as well as simplified elopement weddings. Fortunately, despite their obvious importance, most officiants aren’t overly expensive.
Make sure you select an elopement officiant who is compatible with your personalities as well as your spiritual backgrounds. You wouldn’t want a Buddhist officiant marrying you if you and your spouse are devout Lutherans, for example. Now, many officiants will claim to be “non-traditional” or “non-denominational”, but you should still try to figure out what the general religious background, if any, your officiant leans towards. Some officiants will list themselves as ordained ministers, for example. They may even go so far as to list the actual religion that they practice or the specific religious community that they favor. This is important – while a “non-denominational” officiant may appeal to you, make sure it’s because you have no strong formal religious ties yourselves. Otherwise, the lack of emphasis on your specific spiritual background my leave you feeling as if you may have omitted a rather important facet of your elopement wedding.
There are many websites that give general background information as well as references and reviews for officiants (and other wedding professionals). Of course, most engaged couples look for those officiants who have been marrying people for some time, and can provide references to back up the experience that they claim to have. On the other hand, perhaps you prefer an officiant who may not be as experienced but instead may offer a fresh perspective on the marriage process. A more experienced officiant may charge more and take a more rigid approach to your own marriage, while someone with less experience might be unable to finesse last-minute problems if they arise.
Officiants can offer suggestions on many facets of your marriage that have little to do with the formalizing of your marriage. An experienced local officiant can offer suggestions on outdoor venues where you can be married, might know of low-cost photographers that you can hire, and might suggest the best local restaurants to provide you and your party with a beautiful after-wedding dining experience. But don’t take their suggestions, if offered, as set in stone. It’s still your wedding, not theirs. (In fact, beware any wedding professional who seems to be pushing a little too hard for you to use his “cousin, who is a fantastic DJ/florist/photographer!”)
Officiants tend to charge a couple of hundred bucks for their services. Some offer packages where they provide ministerial duties along with certain “extras” like floral archways, folding chairs, and/or recorded music for your ceremony. You may or may not want these – your choice. And, of course, every officiant is different. Shop around for your officiant, and talk to two or three on the phone before deciding on who you want to marry you. Don’t settle on the officiant who is the least expensive if you aren’t comfortable with him or her. On the other hand, if a specific officiant is too booked up and/or too costly, he or she probably wouldn’t be the best choice for your elopement ceremony.