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When should officiants say No to a ceremony?

Published Monday, Oct. 12th, 2020

Illustration: A wedding officiant talks to a couple while deciding whether or not to officiate their wedding ceremony. The couple is wearing a dark suit and a yellow shirt. The officiant has dark hair and a green shirt.
Illustrations by Jessica Levey

Attention wedding officiants! Keep an eye out for these red flags and warning signs of a bad match



For couples, weddings are all about saying yes, right? Yes to love, yes to commitment, yes to rings and gifts, and yes to learning how to grow and change with a partner.


But for officiants, is there ever a time to say no, instead? Are there times when it’s best to turn down someone’s  request to officiate their wedding?  


The answer is... yes! 


Experienced officiants know that sometimes it’s best (for the couple and the officiant) to say no to leading a ceremony. 


With the help of an AMM minister who has more than 700 weddings to her name (find her shout out at the end of this post!), we’ve compiled a list of things to do before agreeing to officiate. 




Keep an eye out for red flags


Red flags come in a variety of shades, but if something gets your intuition or 'spidey sense' tingling, trust your gut.


Red flags often involve communication styles—demeaning or condescending language, aggressive language, or couples that are quickly dismissive of your knowledge or skills. Other red flags can include refusing or struggling to pay a deposit on time, or being unable to commit to a date or time for a ceremony.


If you’re sensing red flags, it’s best to walk away. You can always suggest an officiant you think will be a better match.


Know your strengths


If you’re a creative thrillseeker, and designing elaborate adventure ceremonies for roller coasters and sky-diving trips is your bliss, a two-minute exchange of ‘I do’s in a coffee shop might not be the best fit for you. And vice versa... No one wants to see an officiant with a fear of heights trying to lead a ceremony in a hot air balloon! 


If you can afford to be selective, choose couples that you click with and whose weddings will incorporate all the things you do best.


Related: How to Find the Perfect Wedding Officiant



Be willing to challenge yourself


But don’t say no just because something’s unfamiliar. If you haven’t performed a specific unity ritual or led a ceremony in a certain setting, lack of experience doesn’t mean you won’t do an incredible job given the chance.


Keep an open mind, be willing to learn, and give some thought to saying yes to new experiences… especially those that will expand your portfolio and improve on your existing strengths. 


Related: Putting Yourself Out There, Pt. 1: How to Build Your Portfolio and Gain Exposure as an Officiant



Don’t forget about reviews


There’s no denying the power of a bad review, whether it’s written in good faith or not…


In a world where anyone can become a food critic or spa reviewer with the push of a button, and most of us look to online reviews to help guide our decisions on big investments, wedding professionals have to think ahead!


If signs are pointing to an unhappy outcome from the start—for example, couples who are skeptical of your ability to do a good job, ask you to say or do things you aren’t comfortable with, or ask for an unreasonable amount of proof of your experience—taking a step back might help you avoid a bad review down the line.



How to say No?


If you get to the end of this list and realize you’re not a good match for a couple, that’s ok!


Keep it simple. An honest response of, “I don’t feel like I can do a good job for you, here are some recommendations for people who can,” will go a long way toward helping couples have their best possible wedding. Be gentle, and be firm. 




...what about you?

Have you ever had to tell a couple no?


We want to hear about it! 



You might also like: 




This article was written with the help of AMM Minister Bonnie Sanchez of Weddings By Bonnie in Sarasota, Florida. 


Bonnie has led over 700 weddings in some of the most interesting wedding venues we've encountered -- from bathrooms and backyards to high-end Vegas clubs. She’s even helped couples take their vows while skydiving!


Find her here: Website , Instagram , Facebook 



AMM Minister and wedding officiant Bonnie Sanchez on a beach in Florida at the start of a large wedding ceremony

AMM Minister Bonnie Sanchez, via Weddings By Bonnie



(AMM recently donned their best pair of business-casual yoga pants to meet with Bonnie over Zoom… a reminder that video-conferencing is a great way for couples to meet with their officiant during the pandemic, too!)



Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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