For over a decade, Steven Delaney has accumulated knowledge and experience officiating weddings. Although he is well-known in the LGBT community, he caters to all couples and has officiated over 500 weddings since 2006. In order to maximize a couple’s wedding day experience, we sat down with Delaney to get an idea of what to expect from the wedding officiant before, during and after the big day.
The biggest things a couple needs to look for when searching is the officiant’s background, what other couples have to say about them and their experience. “With the onslaught of online ordination for wedding officiants, you’re getting people with no background and haven’t done a lot of ceremonies,” says Delaney. Be cautious when you start the hunt for an officiant. Delaney warns that the advent of online ordination may be problematic. “People often say, ‘Well, my cousin is going to do it.’ And that’s great, but does your cousin have the stature or consistency to keep the show going smoothly?” The officiant, according to Delaney, isn’t just there to make sure the couple is legally married; he or she is there to be a resource as well.
In order to start your search, there are many ways to find officiants. One option is the classic word-of-mouth from friends and family who’ve wedded in the past. There are also wedding expos where couples may meet officiants in person. Delaney also mentions the importance of the online market. “The big two are Wedding Wire and The Knot: Most of us are going to be found on these two,” says Delaney. These websites show ranking, past experience, a short resume and often link the officiant’s website too. Plus, pricing is typically included. “In terms of pricing, for a St. Louis wedding — I’ve seen a range of $50 a ceremony to $1,000 a ceremony. The average is about $125 or $150.” However, every officiant is different.
The Big Day
Once a couple has made a selection, the next step is meeting with the officiant and drafting the ceremony. This usually happens a week or two after the proposal is accepted. If the drafted ceremony sounds good, there is really not much more interaction with the officiant until a few weeks before the ceremony. “Two weeks to a week before the ceremony, the officiant will reach out [to plan the] rehearsal,” says Delaney. He also mentions not to be worried if there isn’t constant contact from the officiant, but to expect to hear from him or her at this time. “Once it’s the day of, the officiant calls a lot of shots. They should coordinate with the venue, photographer and wedding coordinator in order to provide the perfect ceremony. They’re the one creating the main action.”
Once the knot is tied, it’s up to the officiant to ensure signatures are received from the bride, groom, and him or herself; then the marriage certificate is sent to the marriage bureau. “Here is what you should expect: Most weddings are Saturday weddings. Monday morning, the license goes in the mail, then the marriage bureau takes about 10 to 15 business days. The bureau will ask if couples want a certified copy, and I usually tell my couples to [get one] for legal purposes,” says Delaney. The couple is now legally married, and the officiant’s job is done.
Rules of Thumb
Delaney also gave some helpful hints for the groom-to-be. “Have a timeline, but make sure it is fluid. Yes, everyone wants a perfect wedding. However, expect minor problems — something breaks, the ceremony doesn’t start on time — don’t fret,” he says. This will make things smoother. If anything should happen to the officiant, “There are things in place in case I should become incapacitated or I’m in an auto accident. I have certain backups who can step up and provide the same quality service for the couple. That’s another thing a good officiant will provide.” Otherwise, as long as a couple invests time and research, they should expect the best an officiant can offer and simply enjoy their big day. M