Choosing a Wedding Officiate
By Reverend Michael J. Calderin, MA, CAP
Choosing the person who will perform your ceremony, like many of the other decisions you must both make, is an important one. First, it is important that you both know what type of ceremony you wish to have. This is important, because it will be an important factor when choosing the person you want to perform the ceremony. Religious, Civil, Spiritual are all terms that come to mind when classifying the type of ceremony you desire. You must also consider each other's own religious beliefs, and whether they are similar or different. Interfaith marriages are more common in today's society. Hence, the person you choose must be sensitive to the differences and competent enough to develop a ceremony that is respectful of those differences, avoiding conflict or disagreement, and bringing the special parts of your faith into the ceremony.
Non-denominational ceremonies are also quite popular because they too serve the purpose for a bride and groom who are of different backgrounds. I performed a ceremony for a bride of Jewish background and groom from a Catholic background. Although the ceremony itself was non-denominational, we were able to bring in some prayer and custom that would not be offensive to either side. Let me give you an example: The prayer we chose for the closing prayer was from the Old Testament, which is recognized by the Jewish faith and the Catholic church. This was a terrific compromise and it was creative. Additionally, the couple agreed that they wanted to do the Jewish traditional breaking of the glass. After researching the tradition, I knew it was not a religious one, but a customary one. In fact, the couple and I were both impressed with the actual explanation of the custom, and it was included at the end of the ceremony.
I bring this example to you, because it is important that you choose a person that is willing to be flexible and creative in putting together the ceremony. As the couple, it is your right and solely your decision to make the ceremony flow, as you want it to be. In your choice of wedding planners and officiates, you want a person that is willing to accommodate all your wishes and does not want to impose their own desires as to how it should be handled. Of course, you will want someone who will be able to provide guidance and counsel.
In ceremonies in which the bride, groom or both are of Latino background, you may want to have part or all of the ceremony in Spanish. Therefore in choosing and Officiate, if language is an issue, you may want to choose a bilingual professional, and of course one that is also culturally competent. Remember that although someone is bilingual, does not necessarily guarantee that they will be culturally competent. Likewise, and unfortunately, although someone may be of Latino background also does not guarantee cultural competence.
Finally, it is always a good idea that the couple meets with the Officiate a few times to get to know one another and discuss the ceremony as well as some premarital counseling. This may be a little tricky as not all Officiates are qualified to perform premarital counseling. In the State of Florida, a Notary Public may perform a wedding ceremony, but is not qualified to perform premarital counseling unless they are a clergyman, or a licensed professional as defined in the statute who has been approved by the local Clerk of Courts.
Premarital counseling is a good opportunity for the couple to discuss future plans and solidify their love for one another. Although law does not require it, it is certainly recommended for developing a good marital foundation. For example, in the State of Florida, couples will receive a discount in the cost of a marriage license for completing 4 hours of premarital counseling with an approved provider. 4 hours is hardly enough to cover all the points and explore feelings, but at least it is better than nothing and helps to form a foundation and venue for further discussion.
© 2003, 2004 By Rev. Michael J. Calderin, MA, CAP, ICADC