Published: Friday, May. 7th, 2021
If you’re new to officiating weddings, you might think that if you’re not the one getting married, you don’t need to worry about getting ghosted before the ceremony… but you’d be wrong!
As any professional wedding officiant will tell you, couples sometimes disappear without a word, even after putting down a deposit on services.
Most often, ghosting will happen shortly after an officiant receives a frantic message over an online wedding platform or by email, asking if they’re available to perform a wedding asap. This is kind of understandable, because desperate couples usually send out these types of last minute messages in bulk.
But sometimes, ghosting happens later in the planning process, even after you’ve met face to face and made a few drafts of the wedding script. Situations like these leave officiants scratching their heads and asking themselves what they did wrong.
Don’t worry! Unless this is happening frequently, indicating that you might want to work on your communication skills or pricing, disappearing couples probably have little to do with you. In fact, this happens to experienced officiants all the time, too!
Below, we’ve compiled some common ghosting scenarios, along with a few ideas on what to do next, depending on where things are in the planning process.
We’ve also included insights from AMM Minister Bonnie Sanchez, a professional wedding officiant who’s performed more ceremonies that we can count. (At least 800, last we checked.) If anyone can help us understand what to expect from these ceremony specters, it’s Bonnie!
Couples will usually contact several officiants in their area all at once as they begin the planning process, unless they already have someone special in mind. If they’re in a time-crunch, they may only follow up with the first few people who get back to them, or use other criteria to quickly narrow down their choices, such as price, location, or availability.
“It happens all the time on the wedding platforms, like WeddingWire, the Knot, Eventective, Thumbtack, etc...
I try to respond within 2 to 6 hours, but very rarely hear back right away. They’re shopping around or just busy. I almost always have to follow up with them to get a response. In all cases, we’re able to see that they read our response, but they just don't respond with any sort of acknowledgement until nudged once or twice.
I usually give it a week, unless the date is close in, and then send a follow up email. If I don't hear back...see ya!”
If you don’t hear back after a first message, don’t worry about it! A better match will come along soon. And remember, couples that contact you directly through your website or through a referral are far less likely to ghost.
Unfortunately, this is a possibility. The bad news is that it might not feel great, but the good news is that it probably doesn’t have much to do with you.
Some couples won’t understand the purpose or importance of a meeting, or they won’t want to hurt your feelings by passing on your services face to face, and might avoid having a direct conversation.
Other couples will change their minds or budgets later on and decide to have a friend or loved one officiate, but be so overwhelmed by wedding planning that they forget to (or choose not to) keep you in the loop.
“In the beginning I used to take it quite personally if people exchanged a few emails with me and it looked as though I had the booking ‘in the bag,’ but then out of the blue, the bride would say… ‘I'm so sorry, my fiancé hired someone else.’
I would get all bent out of shape that I lost the booking. Now, I'm just happy for them… and say, ‘NEXT!’”
When this happens, it’s disappointing but most likely isn’t a reflection on you. On to the next wedding!
This is one of the more rare and bewildering cases of ghosting, especially since a couple has already given you money towards your services! And in most cases, a deposit indicates there’s a contract in place, too. What to do?
In these cases, it’s important to make adequate efforts to contact the couple. This means trying them by both email and phone, because important emails can end up in the spam folder, and many people have multiple email addresses or don’t check their email frequently. You might want to start with a text, but a direct call should follow.
If the wedding is only a couple of days away, the safest course will be to finish the wedding script, because the couple might resurface just in time for the ceremony.
If the wedding is still several weeks or months away, review what your contract says about follow-up dates, and what pieces of the ceremony you’ll provide at each follow-up -- and go from there.
“I can only remember one couple that filled out my Agreement [contract] after saying they wanted to hire me -- and then disappeared. I reached out several times, this was for a September wedding, and never heard back. That was unusual.
Then out of the blue, she sent me an email in December that she was ready to move forward with the deposit! I asked her for what date -- Where have you been? -- Same location? No answer again. I think she must have made alternate plans with someone else and responded in error from one of my posts. Who knows. That is a very rare occurrence.”
Consider adding a clause to your contract that lets couples know how often (and when) they need to follow up with you, and what happens if you don’t hear from them (such as forfeiting their deposit or wedding date, or rescheduling the ceremony). This will give everyone a clear idea of how to handle the situation, should something unexpected happen.
Read The Officiant Timeline, a wedding officiant’s guide to what to do and when to do it.
Should you head to the venue? Will they be there? Did something happen? These are all great questions, but unfortunately, you won’t know until you get there!
Couples get busy, get cold feet, miss planes, decide to skip town and elope without telling anyone, forget to charge their phones, and any number of other things that cause them to go MIA in the hours leading up to the ceremony.
Most often, though, they’re just running late. It takes a lot of planning to get outfits and hair-dos ready, coordinate last minute details, and get the wedding party to the venue on time. The fact is, weddings -- and couples -- will frequently run late.
Head to the venue fully prepared to marry someone (with your script and wedding emergency kit), and see what happens!
If you wait around for awhile and no one shows, then you can decide when it’s time to call it a day and leave. How long you’ll wait should be written in your contract, too, but we’ve gathered some fantastic advice on just what to do from some of our favorite AMM Ministers:
“It's all in the follow up! Don't come across desperate -- just respond, stating you're checking in and wondering where they are in the wedding planning process. Ask if they’d like to schedule a call or receive additional information by email.
If they’ve already hired someone else, that information is helpful, too. This way, I can express my gratitude that they considered me and I’ll be happy knowing they’re in good hands with someone they’re comfortable with. This shows I’m happy for them regardless of who they hire, that I truly have their best interest at heart.”
AMM Minister Bonnie Sanchez is a professional wedding officiant based in Sarasota, Saint Petersburg, and Anna Maria Island, Florida, and performs personalized ceremonies anywhere along the Gulf Coast of Florida.
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