Are First-Time Wedding Officiants Hurting Professionals? Here’s How to Adapt to Online Ordination.
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 16th, 2019
We’re at Wedding MBA in Las Vegas this week, meeting with wedding professionals from across the country and preaching our gospel of online-ordination and wedding ceremony planning. One topic that has come up enough times to warrant a response is the following: are first-time wedding officiants a threat to professional wedding officiants?
Put another way, when couples ask “Uncle Bob” to officiate their wedding ceremony, does that put professional officiants out of a job?
The answer is a bit more complex than just yes or no.
Professional wedding officiants are the most sincere and hard-working folks in the wedding industry. They have a special set of skills that make them an essential part of the ceremony planning, regardless of whether or not they are the ones standing with the couple as they say their vows. That means that there is always a place for them in the wedding planning process. Here’s why:
Online ordination is just one part of a broader paradigm shift that is transforming the way that couples celebrate their weddings. A dynamic market is evidence of opportunity for the professionals that adapt and innovate. The rules have changed, and couples are experimenting and trying new things, especially when it comes to weddings.
When it comes to professional officiants, couples still need guidance. They might want friends and family members to participate in symbolic and meaningful ways, but they also want the ceremony to be coherent and legal. As a professional, your insight into the aspirations of the couple makes you the perfect expert.
Think of a wedding planner, but with a ceremony focus. That’s what officiants are. (It’s worth mentioning here that all wedding planners should be ordained too!) And as weddings grow more complex, you are the perfect intermediary between the couple and the wedding industry, where lots of vendors are more focused on logistics. You are the only one that can communicate the spiritual and emotional aspirations of the couple, and integrate them into the wedding celebration experience.
Professional wedding officiants can also secure a central role in the wedding experience by raising the profile of the officiant, and doing a better job of communicating the value that they bring to the wedding experience. We’ve often said that the most lasting memories are of the ceremony and the feelings that the words evoked - not the decorations or the cake (even though these are also important).
Bill Clinton’s success as a politician (at least in the 1990’s) stemmed from his ability to clearly communicate complex ideas. Instead of wonky fiscal plans, he cut through the noise with phrases like, “it’s the economy, stupid.”
As officiants, we know that the ceremony is the most important part of the wedding. But we need to do a better job explaining this to couples. Perhaps it’s time to start saying, “it’s the ceremony, stupid!”
Professional wedding officiants are experts at much more than “just the ceremony.” We’ve talked to pro officiants like Matt McMurphy, who have expanded their services to reach other parts of the wedding experience. Matt has started helping members of the wedding party with their Best Man and Maid of Honor speeches. For most of us, these speeches are our first time speaking in public, and the prospect can be terrifying. That’s where wedding officiants should step up and say, “hey, I can help!"
Consultations to assist with public speaking and Best Man speeches are just the beginning. With the rise of social media, wedding moments often live forever on the internet, and people want to make sure that what they say accurately represents what they believe. That’s precisely what a good officiant is an expert on, and where the opportunity lies.
Here's the takeaway: First-time officiants solemnize hundreds-of-thousands of weddings per year in the United States, and that’s a trend that isn’t going away. That’s hundreds-of-thousands of nervous uncles, friends, colleagues, or cousins that are actively reaching out for advice. They want to deliver a ceremony that does justice to the honor bestowed on them, and they are willing to pay for the right advice.
Rather than criticizing these dedicated and sincere friends and family members, let’s support them and their hard work. Criticizing Uncle Bob, the first-time officiant and his valiant efforts, is ultimately an attack on the couple’s decision. That’s counterproductive and short-sighted because by embracing Uncle Bob, professional officiants can communicate their value and still be an important part of the wedding - and still get paid.
The decision is up to the couple, like Melissa Curie and Dotan Schips, who asked their former college professor Florence Hunt to officiate their wedding last year.
Picture yourself, sitting in your study with a glass of Merlot, reviewing a ceremony script, suggesting a meaningful reading, revising the closing remarks, and doing what you love - all while earning an income. Sounds great doesn’t it? If you are a professional officiant, this could be you.
One of my favorite quotes is from Game of Thrones when Littlefinger tells Varys that, “chaos is a ladder.”
While I wouldn’t call our current state of the wedding industry “chaotic,” it certainly is dynamic and changing, and that means opportunity.
Here at AMM, our mission is to empower couples to celebrate weddings that reflect their values, beliefs, and world views. We ordain officiants that can make this happen. We ordain ministers because we believe that the celebration of love is the ultimate liturgy. Embracing change and technology is at the heart of this mission, and for those that embrace this paradigm, opportunity abounds.
We encourage you to join us in this conversation, and welcome your thoughts. Drop us a line and let us know what you think: [email protected]
Next Article: What is a Wedding Officiant and How Do You Beco... ▶