Friday, March 27, 2009

One of My Readers Wants to Marry You

Well sort of!

Many of you will recognize the name SandyVoice as a regular commenter on this site, who was also profiled in one of my New York Stories. SandyVoice is trying to develop her business as a marriage officiant, and knowing what a great community of helpful commenters we have here, she's asked for your feedback. Please pitch in if you can, either in the comments or by emailing me at openwallet1 [at] yahoo [dot] com. I'll forward all responses to SandyVoice.


Performing weddings is the best part of my job! I'm a cantor, so of course I do a lot of Jewish weddings, but I also officiate and co-officiate at interfaith weddings, civil ceremonies, recommitment ceremonies, commitment ceremonies, same sex marriages where they are legal, and so on. I'm licensed in New York, which lets me perform weddings in most states.

I'd like to do more weddings to supplement my current income, and intend to turn officiating into a full-time career when I retire. Can you folks help me do a little market research? I would be very grateful for your answers.

IF YOU WERE MARRIED WITHIN THE LAST FIVE OR SIX YEARS ...
How did you find your officiant?
If you did an online search, what keywords did you use, and what did you think of the websites you found?
Did the websites provide helpful information, and did they help you pick an officiant?
When you interviewed officiants, what characteristics and information were you looking for?
What questions did you ask? What questions did you miss, but would advise others to ask?
Did your officiant offer any special services that helped you decide to hire him or her?
Did you write your own ceremony, use one provided by the officiant, or develop a script together?
Can you share any other thoughts about your experience of finding and working with your officiant?

Thanks to all for being so helpful! I can't wait to read your answers!
Thanks to Madame X for letting me hijack her blog for a day!
And, of course, if anyone here is getting married, and needs an officiant ... ;-)
Regards from SandyVoice

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I actually can comment on this because I got married last June and did not love my officiant! It's fine, I loved our wedding, just wish I had a little more information before agreeing to use her. For me, the main problem was that she was perfectly nice in our meetings but had a really flat monotone delivery when doing the actual service. Zero inflection, like reading straight from the script. It would have been extremely helpful to see her perform a ceremony (a YouTube link, maybe?) before committing because being nice and friendly in a meeting is not the same as being able to deliver a speech well -- and I would have been able to observe her delivery style in a video. Like I said, it didn't ruin my wedding but it's one thing I would have changed if I were to do it again. My husband and I are not religious but wanted someone cool and kinda lefty in keeping with our beliefs so we searched for humanist officiants.

A said...

I'm already out of your market research group because I haven't been married yet, but I'm *getting* married and looking for an officiant and I can tell you what I've *been* looking for.

I mostly use Google, I tend to search by "*location* officiant", and sometimes by a denomination, and just go down the list. So far I haven't seen much information that was helpful on websites; what I would like to see would be a video of part of a ceremony so that I can hear the officiant's voice and style, not just read a few of their "sample" ceremonies. I'd also like to find a price range on the website so that I can limit the number of people that I need to call and speak to in person.

When I do get to the point of interviewing someone, I'll mostly be looking for someone I like. I've been to weddings where it was clear that the officiant didn't know the couple, and those ceremonies have always seemed inauthentic. I won't know my officiant either, but I hope to find someone who is willing to talk to my fiance and I enough that it won't be obvious to everyone in attendance! :) I also will be looking for someone who has experience performing Jewish ceremonies but also does interfaith weddings and is comfortable combining multiple traditions (which means that I think we'll be developing a script together).

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I got married 4+ years ago. We had a guy that was one of the adults that was instrumental at my annual church camp. My husband & I didn't belong to any church, but had a religious upbringing in different denominations. We also didn't want to get married in a church and instead married in the local library/historical museum. I must say that we were the first couple he officiated and it was a little scary, but knowing him for many years I had the confidence that it'd be fine...my husband not so much! I think having personal recommendations of your nature, your past ceremonies, the video thing (as suggested), would possibly get around the 'personal' aspect of things.

We went the non-traditional route and pulled different things together that we found online, in books, and even did the 'sand ceremony' from trisha & ryan's (the bachlorette) wedding (we're not trend setters, but we tweaked the idea and made it our own). I think the fact that we didn't get a standard 'preacher' made us more comfortable doing something out of 'typical'.

We didn't pay our officiant but did made sure to set them up at a nice bed & breakfast and made him and his wife feel like part of our wedding and not just someone we paid to contribute.

Anonymous said...

I may be outside your market research group because I was married 4 years ago in NJ by the mayor of the town for free.

I really looked at the websites of several officiants, but could not make myself put down the money for any of them since neither my husband nor I are religious. I called the mayor of the city that we decided to get married in, and his office told me he would do it for free since main street was down the road from my location. In true frugal fashion, I picked a free officiant. I didn't even have to wait to have the forms mailed in to get our wedding certificate since the mayor just took it straight back to the office.

Anonymous said...

IF YOU WERE MARRIED WITHIN THE LAST FIVE OR SIX YEARS ...

We were married last August...we eloped. We decided on Sunday that we'd get married the next Saturday, so my responses may be a little atypical.

How did you find your officiant?
We searched online for a complete wedding package (officiant and photographer, no real "wedding" since we eloped) on the little beach on which we wanted to get married. So our choices were limited to the one or two companies that offered a package.


If you did an online search, what keywords did you use, and what did you think of the websites you found?

we used "wedding tybee island"...most of the websites were somewhat archaic (built like the geocities websites used to be, with simple text and a few pictures), but we didn't really care what the website looked like...we just looked at their pictures of past ceremonies and read what they had to say.

Did the websites provide helpful information, and did they help you pick an officiant?

Yes, helpful information, and as far as officiant, I think we just got whoever was available on such short notice. We really liked him though.

When you interviewed officiants, what characteristics and information were you looking for?
What questions did you ask? What questions did you miss, but would advise others to ask?

Can't say, as we didn't interview him. We'd never met him till the day we got married.

Did your officiant offer any special services that helped you decide to hire him or her?

He came with the company! :)

Did you write your own ceremony, use one provided by the officiant, or develop a script together?

The wedding company had a few to choose from, or we could make up our own...we chose one of the non-religious ones that they had. I'd have been too nervous to make up something in less than a week!

Can you share any other thoughts about your experience of finding and working with your officiant?

GREAT experience. The pictures were beautiful (I know, not really related, but whatever), and Steve was wonderful as an officiant. I think the biggest thing was that you could tell he loved his job and really liked meeting new people and being a part of their forevers. :)

MrsSmith said...

It's been ten years since I got married but only a year since I got an online certificate so I could officiate at my cousin's wedding. Here is what we all learned from the experience:
Knowing who is marrying you goes a long, long way to wards making you feel comfortable up there. I would recommend meeting with a couple two or three times at least so you could build some true chemistry and comfort with each other. They should be glad to see your smiling face when they get down that aisle!

Unless the couple is completely rudderless let them bring ceremony ideas to you. They should feel like you are just an editor of what they personally want. Tell them repeatedly that you only want to do what will make them feel comfortable!

Offer to be the heavy during the rehearsal. Be bossy and demanding if their families don't behave, so they don't run the risk of upsetting anyone. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. One walk through is not enough. Say ALL the lines you are going to use. It may surprise you that something you thought would work just doesn't sound right in the end.

You can't go wrong with asking the bride what she would like you to wear. You don't have to buy new stuff, but let her pick from two or three outfits. You want to fit in with the formality of the event, and definitely don't want to clash with the wedding party.

I think the best thing for a website would be to have photos of other couples you have helped and a quote from them. You could maybe give your first few couples a discount if they are willing to do this.

Good Luck!