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CHOOSING AN OFFICIANT

By Rev. Marcy Ann

The person you choose to marry you is going to share a very intimate, personal, holy moment in your life. If you a member of a church, usually, you will choose your pastor to marry you. But if you do not go to church on a regular basis, or at all, then you will need to find a person who is approved by the state in which you are going to be married to legally marry you. This can be a Judge, sometimes a Notary, a Justice of the Peace, a Clerk at the County Courthouse, or you can choose someone like me who is a minister but does not have a church. Many people have ordinations from accredited institutions who never ever wanted to preach or have a church. I took my course of study originally just for personal spiritual enrichment. It was about 7 years later that I decided to marry people. I went to the local county courthouse to see if I was legal to marry people, and the Clerk of the Court said, "yes."

Even though in the United States, we have separation of Church and State, in all 50 states, the legal people to marry a bride and groom are ministers!  II find this a curiosity.  However, today, two legal churches in the United States ordain ministers in the original spiritual way.  If a man or woman feels "the call" to be a minister, in the olden days, the congregation of a church laid hands on them and sent them forth.  Today, The Universal Life Church in Modesto, California and Universal Ministries in Milford, Illinois ordain in this fashion.  They "lay hands" on the prospective minister through the Internet. 

A friend of mine is the retired Dean of the Pepperdine University Law School here in California. He explained the "intent of the law" here in California to me one day. He said that the couple who are being married actually empower the officiant. Their decision to be married is the "intent." It is nearly true that a couple could raise up a drunk from the gutter, have him say, I pronounce you husband and wife, have him sign the marriage certificate, and the couple would be married! If it came down to a court disagreement, the judge would probably declare that it was a legal marriage!  I don't recommend that you find a drunk to marry you!. Or even your best friend. It is best to use a professional-trained Officiant who is Ordained!

What is a PROFESSIONAL-TRAINED OFFICIANT?  Click Here!

You can sometimes find an Officiant in the Yellow Pages, or today, the best place to find a good Officiant is on the Internet. You will want to then set a time to meet with the Officiant and see if you have good feelings about him or her. You should have an easy conversation together. The Officiant should be very agreeable to do whatever you want in your ceremony. The Officiant should NOT dictate to you what you should or should not do. The Officiant is your Servant, and it is the Officiant's obligation to fulfill all of your wishes and desires for your wedding day.

www.marcyann.comIt is your decision whether you want to have any type of religious expression in your ceremony. In my experience, I find that most couples will want to have some type of blessing during the ceremony.  However, if they do not want a prayer, or any mention of God or The Bible, then I prepare a personal ceremony for them that just reflects their special love for one another. If you meet with an Officiant, and they insist on some type of religious ritual, or they condemn you in some way for things you have done in the past (already had a child) or are doing right now (maybe you are already living together), or they insist on you taking instruction and becoming a member of their church before they can marry you, then this Officiant is the wrong person to marry you. Keep looking. You do not want to do anything on Your Wedding Day that is forced upon you, or something you are not comfortable with, or any act that does not completely reflect who you are and what you believe. You have the right to insist on your personal desires being expressed. There is an Officiant available who will be willing to fulfill all of your hopes and dreams.

I marry many couples who have mixed religious backgrounds. Sometimes one person is Jewish, and the other person is Presbyterian. Sometimes one person is Catholic, and the other person has no religious experience. Sometimes, one person is Hindu, and the other person is Methodist. I have married a Vietnamese Buddhist to a Japanese Christian! When I meet with a couple, I ask them if they have any specific religious faith, and if they do, what part of their religious faith they would like to include in the ceremony. Even if only one person is Jewish, I most always "break the glass." If both the bride and groom are Hindu, they have their religious ceremony first with just the family, and then I do the legal, civil ceremony. Chinese couples that I marry have their Tea Ceremony first and then the legal, civil ceremony. I tell my couples that my ceremony (which I have written myself) is spiritual without reflecting any specific religious faith, but I can tailor-make it to suit any belief that they have. The Officiant you choose to do your wedding should be just this flexible.

When I was preparing for my Ordination, I studied all of the religions of the World. This experience provided me with a profound revelation - an idea bigger than anything any of the religions had taught me. There is a Creator - a Source of Energy. And there is a Creation - the results of the Creator's Hopes and Dreams. And the whole purpose of everything is to love and be loved!!! All of the religions of the World express this thought.  Each of the physical incarnations of the spiritual teachers of each religion has said for us to love the Creator by seeing the Creator in all things, to love ourselves and to love one another. So it is all pretty simple! I don't know how we got it all so complicated! Religion has done more to separate us from one another, has caused more wars and hatred, has brought more division and unhappiness than it has brought peace and unity and harmony on the earth. I hope to live long enough to see everyone Lay down their dogmas, their doctrines, and their personal "Belief Systems" (my minister friend, David Hulse, at www.lightwithin.com says our personal belief system is the "BS" in our life!).  Perhaps we could begin to love and respect one another. I personally have signed a Global Peacemaking Treaty for Unity and Harmony among Religions on the Earth.

An Officiant who is legal to perform your ceremony actually represents the authority of the state where you are married. I say in my ceremony: "by the power that I do have from the State of California, I now declare that you are husband and wife." Many Officiants say their power to marry is from God. But the Legal power is from the State where the couple is married. The power the local State recognizes is the Officiant's Ordination which can be from a Seminary, a University, or a church organization.

Many ministers will say in The Wedding Ceremony that they represent God.However, the legal power to marry is vested in the State.  Every Priest of The Catholic Church, every Rabbi of a local Jewish Temple and every Christian minister must sign the marriage license and send it into the Count Courthouse to be recorded.  If they don't, even though you have had a "sacrament" of marriage, you are not married!

Some ministers who feel that they are "called by God" do not even have ordinations. Yet these ministers can perform legal ceremonies which are recognized by the Courts of the State where the couple are married. Once again, it is the "intent" of the bride & groom who desire to be married that empowers the Officiant, whether the Officiant has any kind of ordination or not.

Also, ask the Officiant if they have any rules about the photographer, the musicians or the videographer. I have heard about Officiants who will not let photographers/video take pictures during the ceremony. Or the Officiant will set up rules about the musicians. Let me tell you this: It is Your Wedding, and you and only you have the say-so about EVERYTHING! I do not set any rules about the photographer. I say, whatever the bride wants. And I have had photographers practically get in my face, and nearly push me out of the way in order to get a good picture of the bride coming down the aisle or the bride and groom having their first kiss, but - you know what? I am thrilled that the photographer makes such an effort to get that good shot. After all, it is those pictures that you will look at for years to come, those pictures will remind you of your Wedding Day over and over again each time you look at them, and you want the best shot the photographer/videographer can get!

Most Officiants can handle your wedding rehearsal, also. If your wedding party is more than the two of you and a best man and maid of honor, then you will need a rehearsal. I will always run the rehearsal for the couple I marry if they do not have a wedding coordinator. I charge to do rehearsals, because for me it is like doing the wedding twice, but for you, it is worth it to have your Wedding Day be less stressful and go very smoothly. Your bridal attendants will appreciate it, too. They want to do a good job for you, and a rehearsal shows them exactly what they are suppose to do, where and when!

Let me say a few things about the fee for the Officiant. If you are being married by your pastor, a small monetary Gift - usually $100 - is adequate for payment. However, you must remember that your pastor is being paid a salary plus housing and car allowance each week, which Is paid to him out of the tithes and offerings given by you and the other members of the Church. But if you do not go to church, you need to hire an Officiant, like me, who does not have a Church and a professional Officiant is "in Business" and has all of the expenses of doing business - like Paying for their Internet Site, a Webmaster and a Server, their Telephone, fax machine, cell phone, not to mention the big expense of operating an automobile. There is office expense, Stationery, stamps, personal cards, printers, print cartridges and paper, and out of the fee for every wedding that I conduct, I put $20 in an envelope that goes to my "tax account." So, if the Officiant charges $300 plus an extra $100 for the rehearsal, this is a bargain!

I researched Officiant Fees on the Internet, and it is not unusual for the Officiant's fee to be $400-$700!!! I see couples spend anywhere from $3500-$10,000 just for the dinner afterwards for the guests and $200 for a bridal bouquet that is thrown awaylater that day.  Your Officiant is a very vital part of the Wedding Day. You must have a Ceremony and a Marriage License signed by a legal Representative of the State where you are married in order to be really married! So, whether you have anything else or not In your plans for The Wedding Day, choosing an Officiant is a #1 priority, and the fee - even if it is $300-$700 - should be considered a very small but very necessary part of the overall expense of the occasion.

Many times, the bride and groom are so happy after the wedding, and they are so grateful to the Officiant who marries them, they invite the Officiant to stay for the reception dinner. But unless the Officiant is a close friend of the family, I do not suggest that you invite them to your reception dinner. Usually the Officiant doesn't know anyone, and sometimes, people feel like they can't have a "good time" if the Officiant is sitting at their table! Many times, the Officiant has another wedding they need to get to anyway. So, even though we are honored by your invitation to attend the reception, we will be relieved not to be invited to stay.

Whether you know the Officiant beforehand or not, by the time the Officiant marries you, you will feel like you have known one another for all time! I always feel a very special bonding with the couples I marry. Beverly, Dian, Jeff, David, Richard and I truly believe that we get the very special brides and grooms that we are suppose to marry, who need our type of ceremony, and who have a very special love.

Choose your Officiant by what you feel in your heart, as you will be sharing a very precious time together.

Sincerely, Rev. Marcy Ann, Wedding Officiant

Article in NY Times on Wedding Officiants - Link good 5/04

Also See "How To Hire a Wedding Minister":
www.weddinghowto.com



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