FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS- Rev. 12/14
So… How does all this go? Do we need to meet? We can meet and interview one another. Generally this lasts for an hour or so and I like to meet at a mutually convenient place like a coffee shop, restaurant, etc. There is no fee for this consult. I will be prepared with a contract should you wish to engage my services that day. I will send you a questionnaire to complete before our meeting so we can have all the necessary info on hand to complete a contract. A 50% retainer is expected at signing in person, or within 48 hours of receiving any signed agreement to secure the date on my calendar. I accept cash, check or M.O. or debit/credit cards via Paypal.com. If you cannot meet in person, an online meeting via “Skype” or Facetime is a welcomed alternative to secure my services for your BIG day.
The simplest and least expensive way to handle the arrangements is this… You email me an inquiry. I will respond and let you know if I am free on that date. I email you a contract. You return contract with non-refundable retainer—or pay via www.paypal.com. That locks in your date. We then start emailing back and forth a few weeks before your ceremony. Between us, we craft your ceremony script to suit your wishes.
When and where do I get a marriage license? MD requires that a marriage license be obtained from the Circuit Court Clerk’s office in the county (or Baltimore City) where the marriage is to take place (NOT where you live!) It is recommended that you contact the Circuit Court Clerk’s office where you plan to marry as each jurisdiction has different license fees. (Interesting note: a portion of every marriage license fee is allocated towards programs that assist survivors of domestic violence.) If it is not convenient for you to visit the Circuit Court Clerk’s office, you may apply using a Non-Resident Affidavit – except in Cecil County. Call the Clerk’s Office to have a copy of the affidavit sent to you or check the Clerk’s Web site to see if it is available to download. In MD there is a 48 hr waiting period between getting the license and marrying. Do NOT wait until the day before your wedding to get your license! If you are getting married in DC, your license is issued on the spot and is valid immediately and indefinitely. Check with the Circuit Court in your chosen city/state to see the most recent requirements.
Rehearsals: A date is only reserved and guaranteed at contract signing by adding the additional rehearsal fee to the deposit and setting your rehearsal date and time. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday rehearsals are based upon my availability. If I am unavailable, you may opt to have a friend or the venue coordinator run it. I can send an easy to follow printed guide if I have a conflict, or you can simply do withoutI find that most ceremonies generally do not demand my presence at a rehearsal. My years of experience allow me to simply step in and perform a ceremony and I am more than happy to arrive early to run through things with all interested parties. Please note that travel fees DO apply for a rehearsal day just as for the wedding day.
Wedding day: I usually arrive about 45 minutes to an hour early, handle licensing, coordinate with wedding participants and other vendors and perform your ceremony.
After: I return your signed marriage license back to the appropriate county clerk or hand carry it if you need a certified copy sooner. You live happily ever after. As do I.
Do you perform same sex weddings? ABSOLUTELY!
We’re already legally married (but no one knows). Can you still perform a ceremony? Yes. Simply provide me with a copy of your marriage license. I still plan and conduct a full ceremony to your specifications—the wording when I “pronounce” you is the only change and no one will know the difference, unless you choose to tell!
Will I need a sound system? If you have less than 100 guests, we probably will not need sound equipment as I have a fairly loud voice that carries well. However, if your wedding is larger, or outside, we’ll probably need a little help so everyone can hear both of YOU clearly. If the venue or DJ is prepared, I prefer a lavolier microphone (wireless clip-on) if at all possible. Handhelds are fine too!
How long will my ceremony be? Most ceremonies last around 10-15 minutes. I know, it seems so short! But a ceremony with the processional, one reading and a unity candle or sand ceremony only takes about 15 minutes or so. However, by the time it’s all said and done, you can plan on leaving the ceremony site about an hour after your start time.
I’ve done some comparison shopping, and it seems like all the officiants are in the same range, but it seems kind of high for a 20 minute ceremony. Why is that? Every wedding had a budget, and no matter what size it is, it is usually wrapped very tightly around all the elements of the day. Of course, I believe the ceremony is the most important part of the entire day (I would, wouldn't I!), and while my rates may never be the lowest of the choices, the care with which I treat my clients is unusual. You will find that officiants that write your story as a collaborative effort and make it a true feature of the day rather than a "point of entry" to the party hover in the same price range as I do. Many are higher.
My fees reflect many things; time is one of them; meeting, writing editing beforehand; officiating, of course, pre-ceremony time, travel on the day and follow-up for the license. Most of my ceremonies booked for next year will be in the $500-600 range. This isn't greed speaking, just the reality of time & care involved, and a fee that allows me to do this work full time, which contributes to the quality of both the finished ceremony and the process that leads up to it. There is also the factor of availability. During some of the busiest months, it is just not a time that I can really negotiate my rates. Usually, the difference between my pricing and an officiant who is going to do an "off the rack" ceremony is less than 200.00. I know that this isn't an insignificant amount, but it will be a ceremony that your guests will remember and talk about whenever they see you, rather than a ceremony that simply accomplished the task at hand. I make sure that our work together results in a script that is truly unique, truly reflective of your personalities and your story, and gives your guests a gift of inspiration, of laughter, and of joy for you. Besides, I am likely your lowest cost vendor and without the officiant/celebrant, your day simply doesn’t happen!
What about you? What is your religion? How long have you been doing this? Is this all you do, or do you have another job? I am an award-winning civil wedding officiant and non-denominational minister, ordained in 1997. I happen to be a Lutheran, but I consider myself a student, rather than a teacher, of religions and philosophy. At this writing, I have performed2,000+ weddings. I have a husband and three young boys. I have sailed around the world, climbed the Great Wall of China, slept in a jungle tree house in the Philippines and seen Paris at sunrise from atop the Eiffel Tower, but….they’repretty much enough for me now….
Are you available on my date? Having a short-notice wedding? Simply call and find out! Keep in mind that whatever contract and deposit arrives first, “locks in” a date. Sending your contract in quickly will eliminate concerns of double-booking. I am usually able to work something out. There ARE days when I perform more than one ceremony, but I don't schedule anything closer than 3 hours apart unless they are within a short distance from one another.
What documents should you bring to the first meeting? If either of you’ve been previously married, I’ll need to see a copy of your divorce papers. Beyond that, you don’t need anything. Be prepared to answer LOTS of questions from me and please be prepared to ask anything you want to know. Oh—and a form of deposit too, just in case you decide you’d like to secure my services on the spot!
Are you open to personalized vows, readings, poems, or music? Do you perform interfaith or intercultural ceremonies? Absolutely!
Will the officiant/celebrant give a sermon or speech? It is generally woven into the body of the ceremony so as not to stand out too much and make the guests feel like they are being lectured on a hot Sunday morning. It’s more of a “message on love and marriage” really.
What kind of pre-wedding counseling is required, if any? None is required.
Are there any restrictions on the type of music you can play or on the readings? None.
Will you offer input on my vows and proposed readings? Sure, if you need help! I am well-versed in many religious and cultural traditions and if I am not, I will find out from someone who is!
Will you have input on the ceremony and/or hear it in advance? Absolutely! You will be offered a copyof the “Order of Service” by email before the day of your ceremony. But in most cases, I will not reveal ALL of it to you during your rehearsal so it can remain a lovely surprise for you on your wedding day. You may request a copy after the ceremony so you can look back on it later on.
Is there a dress code? Not really. I am most comfortable while robed for weddings and generally wear a black judicial-style robe. I do have white and cream colored robes as well. I have several colored clergy stoles that may coordinate with your wedding colors. While I’m game for theme weddings, such as Renaissance Fair, etc., I draw the line at appearing as “Glinda, the Good Witch” in a pink ball gown and crown and I will not participate in “skyclad” (nude) weddings. (Trust me…) You can certainly wear whatever you'd like.
What if I am delayed/late or if I need to change my start time or wedding date? I try to be as flexible as possible but I cannot guarantee that I will be able to adjust the time or date. I do my best to accommodate, but many times I celebrate more than one wedding/event in a day. Just as you expect me to be on time for your wedding, I MUST be on time for all other weddings and events. I pride myself on punctuality and on honoring my contracts. If your ceremony does not start at the time contracted it is possible that I may not be able to perform your wedding in full as initially planned or even at all. This is not meant to sound scary. Certainly 10 minutes is within the realm of a reasonable delay; however, there have been times when a couple showed up an hour late or we had to wait for a late guest. Please remember that you expect punctuality from me and I appreciate the same. There will be a $50 late charge PER every 10 minutes that you are late, to be collected in cash BEFORE any ceremony begins. If the delay is more than 30 minutes, I will offer you a simple exchange of vows and sign your license before I WILL leave. I will NOT stay to accommodate an inconsiderately and poorly planned wedding day.
Can the officiant/celebrant help you deal with family conflicts connected to the ceremony? YOU are the parties contracting my services and I am prepared to consult with YOU and YOUR BRIDE/GROOM ONLY. No exceptions! NO changes to your ceremony or plans we have discussed will be made without the express permission of the wedding couple. I don’t care who asks or demands it of me…it’s simply not happening unless the bride or groom okays it and it is reasonable!
Should I bring our marriage license to the ceremony, or will you sign it before the wedding? I am legally bound to sign it on the day on which the ceremony is performed. Usually we will sign it a little while before the ceremony so that you may get on with your festivities, pictures, etc. One it is signed, it is mailed and/or delivered. No exceptions!
Can you have a videographer and photographer in the ceremony room? Is flash photography allowed? That’s up to you. I don’t mind it at all. My only rule is that they do not disturb you and your partner during the ceremony so much that it detracts from your enjoyment of the day. I WILL discuss parameters with the photographers prior to the ceremony and will proceed only after I am certain he/she is clear on what is acceptable. After2,000+ ceremonies, I have an idea of what enhances or ruins a wedding day and I’ll share that with him/her.
My friend wants to marry us. Is that legal? If your friend gets an online ordination then, yes, in Maryland and in many other jurisdictions, they can perform the ceremony. But a word of caution: Many couples have called me in tears a week before the wedding because their friend realized they weren’t up to the task. While it might sound like a fun idea, I encourage you to hire a professional to perform your ceremony. Remember that your officiant/celebrant sets the tone for your entire event. There is much more to it than simply saying “I do’s”. I am highly experienced in cues, etiquette, and timing, and working with vendors. And remember this, too: You get what you pay for!
Would you like to come to the reception and rehearsal dinner? I do not generally attend rehearsal dinners and receptions. However, if it is important to you, it can most certainly be arranged if my schedule is open. But there is no need to pay for a vendor meal for me or stick me at the “single cousins” table to entertain me. I am ALWAYS available to stay for a short while to offer a meal blessing for you and your guests if I don’t have another commitment—BUT---PLEASE plan this in advance and don’t spring it on me at the last moment…