The officiant is an essential part of any wedding. They will lead the ceremony, including your vows, and set the tone for your marriage. Your officiant is also in charge of making sure you check all the boxes so that your wedding is legal. Recruiting a good one, therefore, is essential, but how do you make the best choice for you and your partner?

Types of Officiants

There are many types of officiants, offers Suanne Bonan, a wedding officiant and owner of Officiant NYC: “An officiant can be a religious or spiritual leader, a judge, a private officiant or a friend.” The type of officiant you should have at your wedding depends on what kind of ceremony you want to have. As she reminds, “There are many ways to get married.”

Tips for Finding and Choosing an Officiant

Interview Your Officiant

If you are selecting a professional to do your wedding make sure you interview all candidates. Not only is it important to hear their voice, but it’s also essential to make sure you feel relaxed in their presence. “The couple should relax and be themselves,” explains Bonan. “We love hearing about how they met and what’s important to them as individuals and a couple. If the officiant is experienced enough, they will know what questions to ask. Couples usually reveal what’s the most important to them without prompts.”

It’s also important to make sure you are on the same page as your officiant about what the wedding ceremony will look like. For example, if you don’t want any mentions of religion in your ceremony you might not want to hire a spiritual leader to officiate your wedding. If you want humor embedded into your ceremony, make sure you have the same sense of humor as your officiant.

Do Your Research

Bonan recommends reading an officiant’s biography and asking about his or her background. In her opinion, the more experience the better. “The first wedding I ever did, I forgot to tell the guests to be seated after the bride’s processional, which in turn messes up the photographer and guest’s comfort. I learned quickly from that,” she admits. “Learning from the past has helped us become the best officiants we can be.”

Professional officiants should also have a website where you can read reviews. You can ask to speak to couples whose wedding the officiant performed in past or even attend an upcoming wedding to see how the officiant performs the duties on a couple’s big day.

Make Sure Your Officiant Has the Right Skills

“Officiating is a mixture of public speaking and relatability,” says Bonan. “A good officiant will address the couple and their guests at the correct time and not just project their words.” Because an officiant oversees the ceremony and the saying of the vows, they have to be comfortable speaking in front of you and all your wedding guests. Make sure to take that into consideration if you are tapping a family member or friend to do the honor; they may know you well and have great stories to share during the ceremony but not be able to deliver them in a compelling and moving manner.

You also want to make sure your officiant is organized. They will have to register with the state before the ceremony and some have to mail in signed paperwork after the big day to make the marriage legal.