Published: Monday, Oct. 12th, 2020

Tags: advice, couples, officiants


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When should officiants say No to a ceremony?

Officiant red flags
Illustrations by Jessica Levey

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 spidey sense (intuition) 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.


(If you’re on the other side of things, a recently engaged couple that’s trying to find a wedding officiant you can click with, read 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. 


(Read 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. 





A big shout out to AMM Minister Bonnie Sanchez of Weddings By Bonnie in Sarasota, FL, for her help putting this list together. (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!)


Bonnie’s led over 700 weddings, from bathrooms and backyards to high-end Vegas venues. She’s even helped couples take their vows while skydiving! We greatly appreciate her sharing her experience.


...what about you? Have you ever had to tell a couple no? We want to hear about it



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