Would you like to have a wedding ceremony that is as elegant and inspired as the rest of your wedding day? Would you like your ceremony to be different from the cookie cutter, impersonal and unmemorable ceremonies that you’re used to? Would you like to have a creative professional with education and experience in ceremony leadership perform your wedding ceremony?
If you answered yes to any of these questions you should read on.
The word officiant has become mired in misunderstanding.
Couples and Wedding Vendors Alike Are Very Confused About:
- Who an officiant is (and what differentiates them from clergy, celebrants and ceremonialists)
- What they do
- What they charge
- When in the planning process to hire one
They are also confused about the difference between a lay-officiant with an online credential, and certified life cycle celebrant or ceremony leader with years of training and experience.
As the old systems of spiritual and religious leadership are dying, and more than 30% of Americans identify as secular or spiritual-but-not-religious (and many others as multi-faith or inter-spiritual with no obvious clergy person) there is a great need for ceremonial leadership during major life milestones.
And because so many people have had experiences of ceremony that were long, boring, impersonal and irrelevant, they have all but forgotten about the rare power of ceremony to fill them with reverence, love, connection and wonder.
The current wedding industry is based on frills, consumption, pomp and Pinterest. It’s a trillion dollar industry with zero focus on the deeply connective and transformational potential of a great ceremony.
Award wining author Leslie Marmon Silko wrote “the only cure I know is a good ceremony…”
I love ceremony. In my own life ceremony has been a place of refuge, healing, growth and connection. I spent 5 years overseas learning about ceremony. In most of the rest of the world ceremony is at the center of communal life.
Those ceremonies are rich, fragrant, colorful, sensual, dynamic and animated. But because we are quite subdued here in America, and feel uncomfortable expressing big emotions, ceremonies are relatively toned down. However they can still be timeless, magical and memorable.
In ceremony we get present, slow time, and create space. We laugh, we cry, we are uplifted and inspired, and in the end, we are changed. I write original ceremonies for each couple that I marry. There are no cookie cutter relationships, so why have a cookie cutter ceremony?
I love getting to know couples, understanding their unique story, beliefs and values, and adopting them through this special time in their lives. I love taking what I learn about them and creating a ceremony that is dynamic, heartfelt, inclusive, relevant and personally meaningful.
I’ve never performed a ceremony in which someone didn’t come over to me and say something like: “that was the best ceremony I’ve ever been to.” Why?
Because they can feel the emphasis on love, and the absence of dogma. Because they are starving for spiritual nourishment and community connection, and a good ceremony provides that. For many people, this will be the only ceremony they will have in their lifetime. So why not make it count, right?
Some couples think that anyone can perform their wedding ceremony, but…
Perhaps this sounds woo-woo, overly spiritual, or un-relatable to you, but I assure you that it’s not.
My Ceremonies Are:
Layered, Textured, Grounded, Honest, Heartfelt, Emotionally, Connective, True to the Moment, & Relevant to the Couple
Your ceremony is the only cohesive moment of your wedding, the only time when everyone is together focused entirely on you and your love.
It is literally the HEART of your wedding.
One of the biggest challenges that I face in my work as a ceremony leader is the fact that most people don’t know that this beautiful kind of ceremonial experience exists.
Which means that they don’t know to seek it out, or how to find it when they do.
The other big challenge is financial.
This is because referring wedding vendors and Google searches do not pr0vide accurate pricing for a good officiant.
Maybe an untrained officiant performing prewritten ceremony script charges $200-500.
But anyone with specialized training in ceremony creation and facilitation charges way more, much the way that any creative wedding professional would.
It boggles my mind why anyone would spend more on alcohol than on their wedding ceremony?
Or on those China-made chachkas that nobody uses or remembers.
“You were amazing at the ceremony. Friends and family continue to mention you.” (From a bride on her one year wedding anniversary.)
In the days when everyone had pastors and priests who knew them since birth, they had a reliable presence that would show up for them during major rites of passage.
Churches, synagogues, and mosques offered clergy legitimacy, protection, and financial security, and they in turn could offer themselves freely in service to their congregants.
Money was rarely discussed at these life milestones, and it didn’t need to be because annual salaries and regular tithings sustained their lives.
There was continuity of relationship, and there was continuity of financial remuneration, and that made it reciprocal and sustainable for everyone involved.
But because many of the people who lead ceremonies nowadays are unaffiliated with those global networks and organizational structures – precisely so that they can work outside of those antiquated norms – the equitable exchange of money for ceremony is something that needs to be reassessed.
Unlike a priest, imam or rabbi, a ceremony leader is not there to judge you, or determine your readiness for marriage.
They are there to:
Welcome you regardless of your background and orientation Help you reflect on your relationship Provide skillful leadership and direction Offer resources and ideas that help bring your dream ceremony to life
For years, Monterey-based Coastal Wedding Magazine did a bi-annual spread called: “She said yes, so now what?”
It contained an elaborate checklist of all the things needed to plan a wedding: save-the- dates, thank-you cards, rings, honeymoon reservations, etc.
But nowhere did it suggest that you find someone to perform your wedding ceremony. Not even uncle Bob.
Sadly this is all too common and not at all limited to any one magazine.
Since they won’t give you the scoop, I will.
Booking a wedding officiant, celebrant or ceremony leader should be one of the first things that you do when planning your wedding.
A good ceremonialist can add so much care and creativity to your wedding day, and to the time leading up to it.
My hope this blog gives you some good food for thought whether you’re a wedding vendor or a couple looking for the perfect person to perform your wedding ceremony!
About the author: Naomi Ehrich is a Santa Cruz-based wedding ceremony leader and destination wedding officiant. She creates completely custom wedding ceremonies for couples of all cultures, beliefs, genders and sexual orientations. Naomi believes in the beauty and transformational power of a good ceremony to feed our spirits and enrich our lives . She is a voice for #ceremonymatters in Santa Cruz, CA and beyond. You can learn more about her work at www.santacruz.officiant.com