On Finding an Officiant That’s Just Right

We seemed to be having the most difficulty picking an officiant for our wedding. We have contacted the most people during this search and I’m starting to feel like Goldilocks when looking officiants.

At the end of this search, we managed to contact nine different people, meet with three of them, and ultimately, I think we’ve found the one that is perfect for us.

los angeles wedding
Photo by: Paul Von Reiter on Wedding Chicks via Lover.ly

I was amazed, though maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised, at just how many people weren’t available on the date more than seven(!) months out. Unlike in the beginning of our engagement when every vendor was more or less still available, we seem to be at the middle of the pack in terms of finding an officiant. We ultimately contacted people in three groups of three, and out of each group of three, only one was able to meet with us for an initial consultation.

The first officiant we talked to was very laid back. I think he’s someone we could have been good friends with. Officiating weddings is a side job for him that he does for fun. Thus, we liked the fact that he is only willing to do one wedding per month and thus, we wouldn’t be just another couple to him. However, though he’s had the experience before in terms of doing wedding ceremonies, I felt like we were driving the conversation. Not that that is a bad thing, but we really would like to have the experience of someone who had seen what works and what doesn’t.

Alison and Damien's Urban Brisbane Wedding
Photo by: Studio Sixty Photography on Polka Dot Bride via Lover.ly

The second officiant made me feel like I would be a tiny gear of a gigantic wedding machine. She has very clearly done thousands and thousands of weddings to the point where she had a very regimented ceremony that she uses every time. She went through the structure with us and mentioned the different rituals we could include and that was it. She seemed more reluctant to let us use whatever words and rituals we wanted. I’m 90 percent sure she uses the same words every time and it felt very impersonal. She mentioned that she doesn’t like to book weddings within two hours of each other, so that she can space them out. However, to me, that just felt like I could be one of three, four couples that get married on the same day for her. While I’m not expecting us to be best friends, I guess I’m not sure she’d remember who we were or that she knew us at all if she saw us on the street.

The last officiant we met with was Gayle Smalley. She, to me, is very much what we imagined our officiant to be like. I really felt like she got us as a couple and knew what kinds of questions to ask and what would be important to us. When we sat down and actually talked about the type of ceremony we wanted, she encouraged our input while giving suggestions about what usually worked and what didn’t.

Image by Kate McElwee Photography

I really appreciated the thought she had put into the ceremony itself and it was very obvious in her comments. I loved that she viewed the ceremony very much like a performance or a story. You have to bring people into it and set up the show. Then each subsequent part builds up on the next part until you reach the climax of the story. It was very much like a light bulb went off in my head. I hope this draws people into the ceremony and makes them feel like they are a part of something much bigger. It was a novel way of thinking about the ceremony for me and is soon as I heard it, everything seemed to click together and it has really molded how PBear and I have been thinking about our ceremony.

Looking back at some of her old ceremonies, it seems very clear that each ceremony is customized for each couple. I’m actually really excited about how this ceremony will turn out and it’s a relief to have the ceremony in such capable hands. It was really a no brainer to book her.

Did anyone else have a lot of difficulty finding an officiant? Did you try to customize your ceremony or did your officiant do most of it for you? Did you just know when you found the right one?


Mrs. Panda

Boston, MA
Wedding Date:
June 2013
The Beanstalks Are Married!
Married Melodies: Our Video
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  1. Member
    lovelyduckie 756 posts, Busy bee @ 7:14 am

    I seem to be following the same pattern as you, I’m 11 months out and I have the venue, makeup/hair person, photographer, caterer, dj, and florist. But I haven’t been able to bring myself to be active in my search for the JP/Officiant.

    How did you find your JP/Officiant options? Any searching suggestions?

  2. Member
    dragonlover 578 posts, Busy bee @ 7:18 am

    I’m in the same boat – neither FH or I is religious, and we’ve been really sorta wanting someone who cares about us (not just ayone) to do the ceremony.

    We have a friend who I know has done at least a dozen weddings. He knows us fiarly well over the last two years, and is silver tongued. He seems family friendly.

    We’re hoping things work out with him – or life could getinteresting. Thank goodness we expect a short (20 minute?) ceremony.

    Vows – Ring Exchange -Hand fasting. Done.

  3. mstoadstool Member
    mstoadstool 2485 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:22 am

    We booked the first officiant I talked to, but it was because she acted the way you described yours, interested (even though she officiates thousands of weddings) and involved, she made me tear up on the phone talking about the meaning of marriage, I can only imagine what she’ll do on our wedding day.

  4. Member
    fuzzle79 79 posts, Worker bee @ 7:22 am

    I am also using Gayle for my wedding! And I love that you found that picture of Gayle because I found the same picture and that couple’s wedding video and showed it to Gayle! Too funny.

  5. otter Member
    otter 1321 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:53 am

    We were worried that finding our officiant would be difficult because we were planning a non-religious ceremony, but like you, we found someone lovely who was a perfect fit! I can’t wait to see how your ceremony plays out. :)

  6. bluewhale Member
    bluewhale 638 posts, Busy bee @ 8:03 am

    I like the idea of thinking of the ceremony as a performance, with each part building into the next. That will definitely help us figure out how to structure our ceremony!

  7. panda Member
    Mrs. Panda 1359 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:06 am

    @lovelyduckie: well, we found a lot of them through different sources. We first used the Justice of Peace of Massachusetts website to find the people that were close geographically to us. We literally just went down the list of possible jops with websites and just started contacting the ones close to us. I also went through the boards to see if anyone had any recommendations. I also got some recommendations from our venue. Ultimately, we found Gayle through Yelp though.

    @dragonlover: I’m so jealous that you have a friend that would be willing to do it. We originally wanted to go that route, but honestly just couldn’t find anyone to do it. oh well. I’m really happy with where we are now.

    @Miss Toadstool: exactly, I was tearing up and I guess at that moment I knew. Oh man though, I am going to be crying like a big baby at the actual ceremony.

    @fuzzle79: aah! someone else who’s using Gayle! That’s awesome! Isn’t she the best? She actually sent me the pictures, so I’m guessing you had a part in why that picture was chosen 😉

    @Miss Otter: yeah, the non-religious thing just seems to trip me up. Never had that be a problem before this. weird where it pops up.

    @Miss Blue Whale: yup, it’s such a genius way of looking at it.

  8. castle Member
    castle 1191 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:15 am

    We had such a hard time finding an officiant. In the end we found the perfect match but it was such a long process!

  9. mswallaby Member
    mswallaby 2070 posts, Buzzing bee @ 8:39 am

    I’m sorry you had a tough time finding an officiant, that really sucks – especially since that’s the one thing you need to actually get married!

    Mr. W and I are sporadic church-goers so we hired a pastor from our church to officate our wedding. We were lucky, it was a very easy process and we didn’t interview anyone else.

  10. Member
    Almost Mrs.P 2056 posts, Buzzing bee @ 9:03 am

    Love the idea of building a story and drawing people in– what a great way to think about it.

  11. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 9:49 am

    It was hard to find an officiant for us too, especially since we were having a secular ceremony in a somewhat rural location where they were few and far between. So glad you found the right person to perform yours!

  12. Member
    mspiggy14 39 posts, Newbee @ 10:48 am

    omg!!I totally agree with you how important this is. I was previously married and for that wedding we had a guy who said was a pastor. I was like almost an hour late to the ceremony and I heard from my guests that he was cussing cause I was late. I was mortified! I will never recommend him to anyone.

  13. Member
    ChicagoDreamer 509 posts, Busy bee @ 7:58 pm

    Sounds like you found the “just right” officiant!

  14. Member
    jacofblues 1468 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:28 am

    It really does sound like you found the perfect option!

  15. graywolf Member
    graywolf 725 posts, Busy bee @ 7:44 am

    sounds a lot like our meeting – im excited to see how it turns out!

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