Tip #4 — What Price You Pay

Alaina and Colby chose me as their wedding officiant

Many of the couples whose Northern Michigan wedding ceremony I have conducted consider themselves more spiritual than religious. A majority of them are dog lovers, just like I am. Generally my couples don’t have deeply-conditioned beliefs about a minister’s role. Even so, I’m sometimes confronted with a more old fashioned notion which believes that because the minister trusts in God for his or her support, they should do their work for a very low fee, if any at all.

So here are some considerations as you prepare to hire the Officiant who is right for you.

My journey into ministry started with three years of classes at my local Unity centers. After two very intensive years of study, I graduated from Unity’s Ministerial Education Program. After ordination in 1989, I worked full-time at various lovely churches as a pulpit minister. Yep, twenty-three years of service.

Pulpit Minister

From the pulpit I had an opportunity to teach people about the spiritual principles I believed and experienced as life-changing and life-enhancing. I counseled, taught classes and workshops, christened and hugged children and babies, organized, comforted, married, buried, sang to, wrote about, and challenged people in good times and in bad.

My Learning Curve

As I started to get my footing in ministry, I also gained experience as a wedding officiant. At first, I didn’t really have the confidence to realize I was there for anything other than to make the marriage legal. As the learning curve swung upward, it was because I had to learn the simple things like where to stand, and how to move gracefully from aisle to altar, using the chalice or how to facilitate a sand ceremony. Should I speak up or lower my voice? I didn’t yet understand that my words could affect friends and family, as well as the couple. The wedding address I used was given to me while in MEP. I read the text from a little white three-ringed book.

More Than an Officiant

I was willing to counsel people as part of my duties as a wedding officiant/minister, but I found out that not many couples wanted counseling before they got married. For the times I was asked to counsel, I found many couples gave the right answers to questions (yes we are best friends, yes we can talk about anything, yes we agree on how to raise our children, yes, we will get help if we run into snags in our relationship, no we won’t ever get enough sex). In other words, don’t try to point out anything we might do differently, or think about our decision to get married in a another light. I decided I would ask what I could, but for the most part, life together would have to teach them their lessons. There were no guarantees other than it would take them on a path only time would illuminate.

Everyone deserved their chance to make their relationship last until death did them part.

Is there a guarantee of success?

Since those first years, I now realize there’s no way to tell which couples will make it and which ones won’t. Some that I thought wouldn’t handle the demands of combining households and decision-making and power, indeed made great partners. People who’d dated for five years didn’t necessarily stay married longer. Sometimes couples who knew each other less than a year were going strong years later when we reconnected on Facebook or email. Some thought living together was a trial run before committing to a marriage. The live-in situation should have given people a good idea if they were compatible. But it too was no guarantee they could navigate the changes that happen in life.

These men and women I’ve joined in marriage have given back to me by unknowingly tweaking my ceremonies through their smiles and comments, and their curious glances. They’ve shared their personally written vows, which in some cases, I’ve adapted for others to use. Consequently I can offer a variety of vows from the traditional to some that are more contemporary.

My couples

Heartwarmingly, I’ve been honored to work with people who have overcome great odds, like cancer, PTSD, war wounds, recent deaths, losses of jobs and status. My couples have brought families of all sizes, species, ages, lifestyles and persuasions together.  What a blessing everyone has been to me!

Experience Tweaking

Over time I’ve created a ceremony I love to deliver. I’ve found blessings I love to speak or sing, and inspirational readings I can suggest to couples. And I keep offering new ceremonies and readings. Now I feel so comfortable delivering the wedding address that I know most of it by heart. This means I can focus on the intimate connection I share with the two before me, a connection that will make a difference in the rest of their lives together.

Over the years I have received so much joy conducting weddings that I truly see them as a ministry that can inspire people to a greater experience of Love. And this is not just for the two I am marrying together, but for all who attend the ceremony. This realization prompted me to adopt a mission statement:  Uniting Two, Inspiring All.

After all these years I’ve come to value the richness of content and consciousness that I offer to a couple. I take a stand for their commitment to Love that underlies their legal commitment. Time and experience has polished this once rough stone in to a valuable “holy” gem.

My Calling

It’s been a gift discovering that being a wedding officiant is one of my callings. I feel more alive by officiating a wedding. A wedding reaches beyond my personal self and into the great cosmic Presence. A big plus is that I get to visit beautiful sites because people get married in their home, on beaches I didn’t know existed, in rivers, on tops of mountains, on balconies and living rooms of some beautiful hotels . In Northern Michigan, how could anyone go wrong?

Because I value and love what I do, I do not feel guilty asking to be paid a decent amount of money to do it. I bring a wealth of experience and love with me to my weddings. I want them to be fun as well as meaningful. I know where to stand, how to move, how to loosen tense moments, what questions to ask and when to say no. And a portion of my fee also goes to an animal rescue organization that focuses on ending the horrors of puppy mills, dog-fighting, abuse and neglect.

What you pay for when you hire a wedding officiant

I may be the most expensive wedding officiant in the area. The price you pay is for my experience. You get the best of what I have learned, what I have refined through years of talking with couples and their guests. When I lead you in your wedding vows, you are joining the ranks of almost 500 couples I have pronounced husband, wife or a unique combination of the two.

While those who have come before you may not know it, they effectively wrap their cosmic arms around you and love you onward because they are in my heart when I stand with you on your wedding day. What I know blesses and multiplies your joy and connection with other human beings. I trust what we share together is well worth the price. The light I see moving in your Love for each other, and my following my calling, well, that’s free.

The Price You Love to Pay

The price you pay for your wedding officiant is a reflection of her or his experience. While the two of you are making a commitment to enjoy and tend to the growth of love in each other, I also make a commitment to stand in that tender place with you where Love is palatable and It reaches out to make the world a better place.