I am an officiant in the state of Florida. Recently a bride asked me, "What do you do when you arrive at the venue?" and I had a time explaining it. So, this is about what a minister/officiant (mainly, me) does before, during, and after a ceremony. I thought perhaps this might help couples understand how it works from my perspective.
I don’t know if it’s true for every officiant but, from the moment I walk into a wedding, I take on many different titles…
My first title, often, is babysitter.
The vast majority of weddings that I officiate are small and cozy, and thus small children — flower girls and ring bearers — are often milling around, while parents, aunts, and uncles are preparing. I will often find myself talking to wee kids. I tend to occupy them for a few moments at least until a parent, realizing their child is quiet, comes looking for them. They see me…
“Oh, hi!” I say, “I’m the minister.” There is usually some relief and a little perplexity. There’s a tattooed, female minister, sitting on the bottom of a flight of stairs, talking to a three-year-old about how itchy her dress is. Weird, but okay. Better than them running wild.
This role quickly changes as grandparents arrive and my title quickly becomes that of “The Inquisitioned.”
Which faith am I from? How many of these have I done? Do I know where the bathrooms are? Do I have an education for this? Most of these are innocent enough and kindly but, occasionally, I am the source of misplaced discontent. “I didn’t know women could marry people,” said one. While another (slightly intoxicated) said, “Did all those tattoos hurt ?!”
When this happens my job changes again…
For I am now the referee that is meant to handle such penalties with grace.
They are not personal attacks, they are cultural misgivings, and I am there to demonstrate why a short blonde with tattoos is as good a choice as any. I deflect discontent from any guests or party member, and handle fouls with grace. Trust me, I win them over with a 100% success rate.
Then in comes the couple, and I shift from referee to running back.
If they haven’t done a rehearsal (and many don’t) this will be the first time we’ve met in person and my role is now that of the best friend they didn’t know they had.
“How are you doing,” I will ask or “Just don’t puke,” or “How much have you had to drink?” are all standard questions. I’ll ask for the wedding certificate and payment (because all too often these are forgotten in the joys of the ceremony) and ensure them that they won’t be left with awkward gaps in the service. “I got your back, and will guide you through it,” I’ll say, and they’ll look relieved.
I ask, “Who has the rings?” and someone will often point to the best man. More often than not the rings will end up in my pocket because, you know, safety. It is the reason why I always wear a dress or pants with pockets.
Then my role shifts again to traffic director.
One partner is often standing beside me at this point, and the rest of the wedding party isn’t sure where to stand, or the mother of the bride can’t remember where she’s supposed to sit, or the flower girl is already trying to dispense her heavy basket of petals. So, I point out a spot to best man, or remind the groom that I got this, or pick out a seat for the bride’s mom, and direct the little girl to the back of the rows of seats, before heading back to my spot as if I knew the plan all along.
Nothing in the world is as comforting as someone who knows what they’re doing. So, I become a traffic director to ease the tensions in the room while I wait for the music to begin.
And then it happens. The procession begins and my role of babysitter, Inquisitioned, referee, best friend, and traffic director all fade away and the real reason I'm here unfolds before us.
This is what I do.
Sometimes, that commitment is mediated between audience, God, and couple. Often, it is just between the couple and audience. And other times it just the couple — standing in front of an audience making a commitment to themselves. Either way, I am needed to help guide the spoken words of things already understood, but too huge to say without help. I mediate, and it is the single best role I will ever have.
I've mediated the religious, the spiritual, the atheist, and the pagan. I have hand-fasted, read Hebrew, and read poems. I have read Christian scripture, led meditation before services with couples, and have ardently removed any mention of God, and remained steadfastly present regardless of their needs. It is my job to mediate their needs; it is not their job to revolve around mine.
Me? I like me some God. Yet, I realize that every human capable of love is worthy of committed love and nearly every committed love in our culture needs a mediator. So there I am, quite literally standing in the gap of an unmarried couple regardless of sex, gender, faith, or politics, and I mediate. I hand them rings, hold tissues, guide them to say “I do,” ask them questions, and remind them that it won’t always be easy. Then I ask them to remove me from the gap, to create their own space, and kiss.
Just like that, my job is over.
There is often 30 seconds where we take a wedding-day selfie (one of my favorite little things I do) and I remind them to call me if they need anything; they don’t have to do it alone. With a rush they are met with parents and friends and they are moved away from me. I find a quiet place to sit and take out my black pen and sign their wedding certificate. I catch a bridesmaid or a parent and ask them to confirm that the Wedding Certificate IS signed in case the couple asks. I will hand her vows, empty wedding ring boxes, and used tissues that they may want to save. They take them, and quickly leave for pictures, and I’m left alone again.
I pack up my things, perhaps stick my tongue out at a flower girl or stray cousin on my way out, and leave without so much as a “goodbye.” Most don’t want it, don’t need it, or are too busy to be bothered.
That’s okay. I’ve run out of roles to fill anyway. As I walk out to my car I think to myself, “Not too shabby,” but I’m already critiquing my words and how I might do it better next time.
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Marianne Dunlopp · Married on 02/08/2019
Professional affordable friendly and fun!
Amy was the absolute best choice. She worked with our needs, budget and was super friendly and comforting. She even snapped a few pics as a keepsake to send me within hours of my ceremony. It was a sweet surprise to come home to!Sent on 02/12/2019
A Note On The Go's reply:Marianne - Sharing the ceremony with your dad was amazing! I have never performed with another officiant at a ceremony before, but he was absolutely hysterical!! I am so glad you enjoyed the Snaps. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your special day!
Kellie Lee Sampson · Married on 01/11/2019
Amazing Amy Saves our Day
Amy was able to save our day when I wasn't able to reschedule with my pastor. She listened to my hubby to be and even customised her part of the ceremony to fit us. It was a cute twist we didn't expect and it made it that much more special. We hope she is still doing this when we plan to renew our vows every 5 years! You won't regret choosing A NOTE ON THE GO MOBILE OFFICIANT SERVICES.Sent on 02/12/2019
A Note On The Go's reply:Kellie - You and Kristian were absolutely adorable. After speaking with you on the phone so many times, I knew I had to make your ceremony fit you both. I am glad you enjoyed the personalized ceremony. God bless and happiest wishes!
Julie Logsdon · Married on 12/31/2018
So sweet and delightful!
Amy was great! She was a perfect match for marrying myself to my silly husband. I couldn't have asked for anyone better! Zero stress!Sent on 01/25/2019
A Note On The Go's reply:You and your family were so funny! I love how involved you all were coming together during the rainbow sand ceremony. It was a real treat for me to be your officiant.