In honor of Olivia and Eric's first anniversary, and the first anniversary of my first wedding, I'm introducing a new series: Ask the Officiant.

A, months ago I emailed some engaged blogger girls I know and asked them to float me some questions about their wedding ceremonies. They (Ali, Laura and Maya), all emailed me back very excitedly- and then I panicked because who was I to answer questions about wedding ceremonies? I'm not even married. And then I remembered that I asked them because, oh yeah, my first job (this being my other, other job and teaching being my other job and illustrating being my freelance job and babysitting being my summer job) is Wedding Officiant. I often see myself as a facilitator- I forget that I actually have a small wealth of knowledge on wedding ceremonies. So here's my best shot- it's not perfect, but it's honest. They might not be your answers, but they're mine. If you have a question for me, about the ceremony- feel free to email me at, or use the email button on the side.

Today I'm answering questions from Ali of the Sunday Flog.

Question: How do I choose an officiant?

Answer: Choosing an officiant is a highly personal decision. First think about what you want from your ceremony- do you want a religious ceremony that is steeped in tradition? A secular ceremony that is lead by you and your fiance? No officiant at all? (In many states this is an option, in the Quaker tradition!). An officiant like myself is generally secular and open to whatever you want to work into the ceremony- you want to throw Buddhist readings in with Catholic texts? I say no problem. You want to do a little horrah instead of stomping the glass and then recite some Japanese poetry? I'll plug the iPod in. I think what it comes down to is that you need to get along with the officiant and feel like it's your wedding. I've seen officiants who try to limit the number of guests at a wedding or impose strict rules on your wedding- to me that is crazy. It is your wedding. Yours! Not mine, why would I try to say anything about it? Some people like to lead and some people like to be led, know which one of those kinds of people you are and move forth accordingly. Usually an officiant from more religious tradition (often older, more conservative) will have a way weddings are done. Some people love this, they want a wedding which is timeless, of the ages- reaches back in time to your ancestors and connects you to a truth from then. Some people want to re-create what a wedding means, a secular officiant or celebrant is usually a better bet (though Unitarian Ministers are known to be pretty flexible, and you can probably worth with a reform Rabbi pretty comfortably.) Some people want in between- in which case I recommend a cleric from a more liberal religious institution. Or a secular officiant.

Question: Does the officiant stay for the reception?

Answer: Great question! It's certainly nice to be asked. And I have had some lovely mothers' of the brides making sure appetizers are brought my way while I wait for the papers to be signed, but I have never stayed for a ceremony. I have a lot of reasons for this, sometimes the wedding is far, and I want to get a jump start on the trip home, but mostly it's because I want the day to be about the couple. I've done my job, they're married, now it's time to scoot. But it's nice to ask, if you feel your officiant is someone you wouldn't mind celebrating with!

Question: I want to do traditional vows. Are there any true traditional ones...not the modern takes on them?

Answer: Of course! I mean depending on how traditional you want to go! A quick google search of "Traditonal Wedding Vows" yielded a fair amount of material. I also really like these two books for ceremony building.

Question: If I'm not getting married in a church and don't have to follow their rules, how much say do I have in the ceremony?

Answer: I always tell couples the name of the game is getting them to say "I do." The only part of the ceremony which is legally required in the "Do you take this man to be your lawful wedded husband" part- which can be changed. But I need both parties to say "Heck yes!" or "I do!" or "DUH!" It is called the declaration of intent- and legally it is the only part of the wedding that must happen. Legally, hand binding can replace this, and I believe in Quaker ceremonies a handshake can replace this.

Question: Do I get a gift for the officiant?

Answer: If you are paying the officiant, you certainly do not have to get them a gift! It's a job, like anything else, we're paid- that's more than enough! If a friend is doing your wedding for free- yes, by all means get them something, essentially they are in the wedding party- get them something like you get the Bride's Maids and Groom's Men. For officiating my sister's wedding she bought me a crazy pair of earrings I love!

Question: Any traditions I MUST do? And any that I can do without? What is passe?

Answer: Like I said, the only thing you must do is the declaration of intent. If you don't want to do the rest, or want to do it your way, throw it all out! The only thing I think is passe is being funny-mean up there. I don't like it when couples get snarky with each other on the altar. This is your wedding, no jabs.

Any more questions? Feel free to email me at, or use the email button on the side.

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