How to Choose your Wedding Officiant

In Alberta, unless you’re getting married in a religious establishment, you will need a Wedding Officiant (aka Marriage Commissioner) to legally marry you. 

“It doesn’t matter” is something we often hear when we ask our clients what type of individual they wish to marry them. We’re pretty quick to advise our couples otherwise; who marries you really is so important! 

Often times when we hear the word “wedding” we immediately think about the reception… the supper, the party, the decor, the cake, etc. Obviously we LOVE those parts of every wedding, but the ceremony is one of the most important aspects of that day. 

Think about it… why are you having this day to begin with? 

Why did you invite your guests? Why are you funnelling thousands of dollars into this day? Why are you spending months and months perfecting details, choosing THE dress and having your own personal Pinterest party night after night when you know you should be sleeping (no shame, but you know we’re right)? 

Well…BECAUSE YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED! 

And here’s the thing, without the ceremony it’s not a wedding - it’s just an amazing party!

Yes, you can have a symbolic ceremony then later go and sign your marriage documents or vice-versa, but unless there are extenuating circumstances, this isn’t what most couples would purposely choose for their wedding day. 

Now that you’re with us and agree on the importance of this , the first question you might have is … “where do I find an officiant?!”. 

In our experience and in no particular order, the 3 best sources are: 

  1. Friends & Family Referrals

    • Pros:

      • Personal experience (perhaps you’ve even seen them in action)

    • Cons:

      • You might have a completely different personality, style or wishes for your ceremony than your friends

      • Your family or friends might not have a full understanding of all the behind the scenes steps required for a smooth ceremony and whether or not that was executed properly

    2. Your Wedding Planner (Hi There!)

    • Pros:

      • Personal experience - has seen them in action and knows their organization and approach

      • Has worked with many officiants and has comparisons to pass on stating pros, cons, similarities and differences, etc.

      • Knows you as the clients and can recommend officiants to match who you are and the type of ceremony you are envisioning

    • Cons:

      • Likely hasn’t worked with every officiant in the market

      • Might have some biases based on their own personality, similarity bias being the most common

    3. Service Alberta Website

    (we are assuming most of our clients and readers reside in the Edmonton area)

    • Pros:

      • All the options - every legally registered officiant is listed by city including their contact information

    • Cons:

      • Potential selection paralysis. We’ve actually heard from several Wedding Day Management clients that they simply went down the list until someone answered and then booked that person immediately just wanting this checked off … ouch!

      • No way to know how these individuals work, their personality or style of ceremony delivery

      • Potentially many hours of communication attempts and meetings required in order to select an officiant you are comfortable and happy with

Another common question is, “When should I book an officiant?

Our general recommendation is ASAP, generally 9-12 months before the wedding or as soon as you have your wedding date and venue booked.

Now, this recommendation varies from planner to planner but it’s a fairly common consensus. Officiants are BUSY, frequently booking a year or more in advance and often filled with back to back ceremonies on popular wedding days like Saturday, so getting to those superstars who you vibe with early on matters.

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, we recommend selecting 2 or 3 to meet with face-to-face, via video messaging or at the very least a phone conversation. This, again, is a very important step that is often skipped with many couples never meeting or actually talking to the person that is marrying them until the rehearsal, or even worse, their wedding day. Let that sink in…. this person is going to MARRY YOU!

A ceremony is so special, so personal and so symbolic of the rest of your life together. How can someone who performed a simple transaction over email have any idea who you are as a couple and truly personalize the ceremony to your personalities and wishes?

“But he / she had us fill out a questionnaire”….. cool, but a questionnaire can never replace human interaction. That questionnaire is important, absolutely, but should only be used as a guide to get to know you better as a couple and as a memory trigger of the conversations you’ve had. It should not be the only reference to guide something so special.

Back in agreement? Perfect…here are some important questions and things to consider when selecting your officiant:

  • Overall professionalism & personality (this is just a feel you will get). Does he or she seems to understand your priorities? Did you feel a connection? Do you trust that they will be organized, on time and professional?

  • Ask about their process from start to finish and make sure you not only understand but are comfortable with it.

  • Look for flexibility - can you, as the couple, decide the order in which you walk in, when and if you pass your flowers to your maid of honour, where you stand, etc. There is nothing, legally, that prevents you from making this your own and you have 100% say in how it's done (within some recommended logistical parameters, of course). 

  • On the flip side, is he or she willing to advise you of best practices with an explanation as to why the recommendation is given? Will the officiant advise you when your plan might be logistically challenging or create any other issues?

  • Are they available for rehearsal and if so what is the additional fee?

  • What is their contingency plan in case they, personally, are unable to be there?

  • Do they prefer a more serious or light-hearted approach to the ceremony? Ask for examples.

  • Will they bring their own mic? If yes, ask if it is hand held or clip on (preferred).

  • Are they willing able to send you some scripts to review?

  • How much will they allow you to customize the scripts?

    • Legally there are certain parts that MUST be said in order for you to be married but those parts are very few

    • Someone who wants to make this YOUR wedding and will respect your wishes, will explain this to you and tell you that you are able to customize as much as you wish while guiding you to what makes the most sense for a smooth and enjoyable ceremony

Enjoy the process, this is so special!

Questions or thoughts? Feel free to get in touch! We are always happy to chat.

until then, xo

Sandra