Putting Yourself Out There, Pt. 1: How to Build Your Portfolio and Gain Exposure as an Officiant
Published: Friday, Aug. 9th, 2019
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You have become a wedding officiant! You have successfully celebrated your first wedding or handful of weddings! Now you want to make this a hobby, a side hustle, or a full time profession, so what can you do? I will be sharing tips and advice from other professionals within the wedding industry and beyond, and I will also share my own experience in growing my business (which is still quite the ongoing process).
This is Part 1 of a 5-Part series about how to best grow your presence as a wedding officiant.
Part 1 will focus on branding: making sure everyone knows who you are, what you do, and why you are the right choice. No one can answer those questions better than yourself, so let’s get started!
Part 1: Branding - Recognizing Your Identity and Putting It Out There
Finding Your Identity: Figuring Out Who You Are
Before you start making promotional content to share who you are, make sure YOU know the answer to that question first! You are a wedding officiant, but what kind of officiant are you? Do you specialize in traditional and/or religious ceremonies? Do you like to create unique ceremonies? Are you hilarious? Serious? Sentimental? When a couple chooses you, what are they getting? An even bolder question for you is: What kind of couple do you want as clients?
For me, I knew I wanted to work closely and directly with each couple and get to know them so that I could create a meaningful, personalized ceremony that was not only unique to them, but was clearly a ceremony about them, since they are the reason everyone is showing up to celebrate in the first place! My wife (without whom I could not have done this), suggested the three words that really summarized my style: warmth, insight, and humor. So I knew how to describe myself and summarize what I offer, but then I took some time to realize why I was choosing to do this.
A mission statement can really help one focus on exactly what they do and why they do it. An even more helpful exercise is to find that distilled core to your mission by defining your purpose. Early on, when I was starting to put myself out there as a Wedding Officiant, I had the good fortune to meet and speak with the amazing Purpose Coach, Joey Chandler.
Here is what he has to say: “There is a reason you do the job job that you do. For some reason and in some way being a wedding officiant fulfills your purpose. To make the most of your business and message, identify your purpose and explore how your work is a reflection of that purpose. That will allow you to more fully express what you love about your work and what that provides for your clients, their weddings and marriages. That will be the foundation for a business that works for you, your clients, and partners in the long run.”
Everyone’s purpose is unique to themselves, so I will share mine with the caveat that it is mine, and will probably not completely match yours. Through some exercises with Chandler that reflected and focused on what I really want to accomplish and what I have already accomplished in life, I realized my purpose is (and always been) to recognize and celebrate love in the world.
I do not achieve my purpose solely through my work as a wedding officiant and Toast and Officiant Coach, but I have chosen this work because it is a profession that allows me to share my purpose with a specific population of the world: couples getting married, their family and friends, and the wedding professionals who support them. Recognizing my purpose really helped me create language for my promotional content that summarized not only what I do and why I do it, but the impact and value my services have for the happy couple and everyone involved in celebrating their love.
Once you have your identity set, and you know who you are, what you do, and why you do what you do, you are ready to share that identity. Time for promotional content!
Sharing Your Identity: Name It!
Once you know what your business is, it is time to figure out how to present it. Lexie Fuller, a Marketing Program Manager with over a decade of experience with major international companies, has some great insight on the importance of branding a small business: “A good brand stands for something and is grounded in meaning,” Fuller says. “People purchase based on trust and emotion; creating your own brand can be a powerful way to connect with potential clients”. As wedding officiants, we have the emotion and definitely want to form trust with our couples, so here are some ways to make that happen through your brand.
The first step is obvious: What is your business name? A good business name is memorable, simple, easy to use, comfortable to you, and describes what you do. The majority of Wedding Officiant business names I see out in the world involve words that describe what an officiant is and/or does: words like “Celebrant,” “Marry,” “Wedding,” “Nuptial,” and even “Officiant” are effective. It is also a good idea to incorporate your name into your business name, since you are the main product of your business.
For me, it was once again my wife, the amazing Beth, who put “Matt Marries You” out there into the world. It uses my name, it describes what I do, and it is short but memorable. Another great reason to have a simple name is so you can easily and consistently use it in all content for your business, namely your email address, website domain, and social media handles. For me, my business’ name is “Matt Marries You,” my email is “[email protected],” my website is “mattmarriesyou.com,” and my social media handles are all “@mattmarriesyou,” so I have that consistency locked down!
Make sure your name will really works for your who you are and what you offer. For instance, the name “Matt Marries You” does present two challenges for me. The first is that anyone who grew up with me (family and friends before highschool) know me as “Matthew,” and I have now officially branded myself as “Matt.” While that seems like a small problem (and it relatively is), the first wedding I ever officiated was for a childhood friend, and it is very hard for her to refer to me as “Matt” when giving referrals and testimonials.
The second challenge is that while my business name clearly identifies me as a wedding officiant, it is not as clear that I have since added the services of being a Toast Coach and Officiant Coach, and so I rely on people reading more than just my business’ name to know all I offer. However, the benefits of having an easy-to-manage, catchy, and fairly representative business name far outweigh the minor issues, so I continue to be very happy identifying as “Matt Marries You” (though keep an eye out for “Matt Coaches You” in the near future 😉 ).
The next step is optional but recommended: a logo. While logos are not essential to small businesses, visual content representing your business is memorable and brightens up promotional materials. Also, since most small businesses no not have logos, Fuller points out that a logo will “allow you to stand out amongst competitors”.
The most successful logos in the world are simple (a child should be able to draw it), recognizable, and symbolic. My logo is a very literal interpretation of my business, but it is easy to replicate and very symbolic: the letter “M” uniting two rings. One of the rings has a diamond on it, which not only helps establish that the round shapes are rings and not circles, but also establishes the fact that I am there for a couple from the engagement through their wedding day. The rings are gold to represent the high quality and emotional value of my wedding ceremonies, and the M is blue to represent confidence, wisdom, and loyalty. Another helpful reason I found for having the logo easy to replicate is that I have two graphic design friends who like to play around with my logo, and one was kind enough to incorporate rainbow colors into my logo, which I use to promote my belief in and intense commitment to marriage equality.
Now you are ready to put your name, logo, identity, purpose, and contact information on promotional materials! Let’s start with the most basic, necessary tool any business needs these days: a website.
Sharing Your Identity: Website
Future articles will explore other platforms, especially social media, but having your own website gives you the freedom to really display and express who you are. Most social media platforms have character limits for the “about” section, but a website allows you to write as much as you want about yourself. My website greets visitors with a home page that immediately presents my name, logo, identity and purpose.
The other pages tell my story, describe more in depth what I do, provide links to my social media pages and articles like this one, and highlight reviews given about my services. All of these elements provide visitors with a much broader look at my personality, experience, and philosophy. I have definitely gained clients solely from their reading my website and learning from the content that I am the right fit for them.
Unless you are a computer programmer, you probably would benefit from using a website building and hosting service, most of which charge an annual fee and are designed to be intuitive and easy to use. I am fairly limited in my own knowledge of website design and downright ignorant when it comes to coding or programming, but the service I use allows me to easily figure out how to create the content I want and make it accessible and presentable to any prospective clients or colleagues. If I can do it, you can!
A Quick Word About Pricing
The focus of these articles is how to put yourself out there as a wedding officiant, but I wanted to include a few tips about how to price your services, as I am sure many of you, much like I was back in the day, are not sure where to start. The two best tips I can give you are as follows:
1. Look at the websites of wedding officiants in your area. Read their services and prices, and factor in their years of experience as well. With that information, you should be able to come up with a relative and comparable starting number for your services.
2. When I really started focusing on creating a business as a wedding officiant, I measured exactly how much time it took me to provide my services - I clocked every phone call, meeting, writing session, practice session, time to and from the ceremony, the ceremony itself, and the time it took to complete and submit the marriage license. I then thought about how much I wanted to make per hour of my services, and used simple multiplication to come up with my base price.
Using either/or a combination of these strategies should give you a good starting place for your pricing. Also, while not everyone does this, I like to post my services and pricing on my website. It is an easy reference point for me, and it clearly, quickly, and immediately communicates to all potential clients what I offer and the value at which I offer it.
Sharing Your Old-School Identity: Business Cards
Many wedding professionals still use business cards as a way to store and share information about other professionals, so creating a good amount early on is a great way to get started.
Leaving a stack with wedding venues or professionals who will in turn hand them out to engaged couples is helpful as well - I even have some jewelers who have stacks of my business cards so they can hand one out to people when they purchase engagement rings, just to be really proactive!
Much like your website, you want your business card to immediately communicate your identity, but you have a lot less space. Something a lot of people overlook (including me when I ordered my first batch of cards) is that each card has two sides - do not use just one to communicate all your information. What I recommend is that one side have a photo of you (preferably one in which you are officiating), your logo, the name of your business, your name and title, and your contact info.
On the back side, have a couple of sentences that explain who you are and what you do. I also recommend keeping the front glossy and the back side matte, with room to write a quick, personal message to the person you hand the card to, just to help them remember exactly who you are (the photo of you really helps with that as well). Here is a great article with an in-depth look at all the elements that go into a business card that really represents you.
Putting Yourself Out There is Never Done!
Once you have your business name, logo, identity, purpose, website, and business cards, do not think you are done! Every three to four months, be sure to check in on all of these and see if they still represent who you are, what you do, and why you do it. Ask friends, family, and other wedding professionals to look at your website and tell you what they think.
See if you have any new photos that better illustrate different parts of your website. Education Entrepreneur Jennifer Kephart, founder of Unlocking Potential, gave me some great advice on my website’s pricing page: “Be sure to look at your services’ pricing every six to twelve months and make sure those prices are still reflective of your value, and consider increasing them every year.” Make sure the content you create to present yourself continues to represent yourself as you evolve and grow! As Lexie Fuller puts it: “Building a brand is a long-term process; it's an ongoing effort and you need to deliver against it consistently.”
Of course, there is also still much to do to really grow your presence as a wedding officiant. You have put yourself out there, but now it is time to build your network, get your personality out there regularly, and keep yourself out there. Check back here for upcoming articles that will continue to give advice and anecdotes about building your portfolio and gaining exposure as you venture down your new path of wedding officiating!
This article was written for American Weddings by guest contributor Matt McMurphy.
Matt is a professional wedding officiant living in the northern Bay Area of California who creates and leads wedding ceremonies personalized for the couple that help everyone recognize, declare, and celebrate the love that is between the couple and ever-present in our world.
In addition to performing beautiful wedding ceremonies for every couple, Matt offers coaching in writing and presenting wedding vows and toasts, so that couples and their loved ones are confident and prepared for the big day. He also offers a NEW service coaching first-time officiants in crafting wedding scripts and delivering the best ceremonies for the families or friends who have chosen them for the honor.
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