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Category: Wedding Plans

Future brides and grooms often aren’t certain who can — and who cannot — perform their marriage ceremony. If you attend church, it’s easy enough to ask your pastor, minister, priest or rabbi to handle the task. But what if you want your favorite uncle or aunt, sister or brother, cousin or best friend to serve as your Officiant? How does he or she become ordained? Does he or she have to register with any governmental agency before performing the ceremony? How long does the process take? What does he or she have to do before, during and after the ceremony? We take the stress and worry away from this part of your wedding plans with comprehensive information so that you can focus on making your wedding day perfect!

First Nation Minister Kim Kirkley Celebrates Salik-Riffat Nuptials

Salik-Riffat Wedding

The entire First Nation family extends its congratulations and warmest wishes for a lifetime of joy and love to Dr. Irim Salik and Mahmud Riffat, who were married last weekend at Park Savoy Estate, with Kim Kirkley serving as their Celebrant.

Kim Kirkley, an ordained and licensed First Nation ceremonial minister, is one of the leading life-cycle Celebrants in the New York and New Jersey area. In addition to her service as a Celebrant, she serves on the faculty of the Celebrant Foundation and Institute, focusing on Fundamentals of Celebrancy, Weddings, Ceremony Across the Life Cycle Certifications, and Advanced Marketing Courses. She is the author of several books, including “Love Stories: A Celebrant’s Work,” which is considered essential reading for anyone aspiring to serve as a life-cycle celebrant.

Read the full story of Dr. Salik and Mr. Riffat’s wedding in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times.

Have you performed a ceremony recently? If so, please send us the details and a photograph (or two!) so that we may feature it here.

Thinking about becoming a Life Celebrant and ordained ceremonial minister? Stop thinking and start doing! Click here to begin the quick, simple process.

What To Wear: Proper Attire For Officiants

We recently received an inquiry from Robert Marsh, a First Nation ceremonial minister in Texas, who asked:

What type of clerical garments are we able to use?

This is a great question, and a great subject for us to discuss in detail.

For most ceremonies, including weddings and funerals, Officiants will generally wear what is commonly regarded as “business attire,” such as a standard suit and tie for men, or a dress or pants outfit for women. Black or dark blue is recommended, with a white shirt or blouse, although a tasteful blue shirt or blouse is also acceptable.

Women's Long Sleeve Tab Collar Clergy Shirt by Murphy Robes

Women’s Long Sleeve Tab Collar Clergy Shirt by Murphy Robes

In such situations, the attire should not be too bright or flashy — especially at weddings, you do not want to attract attention away from the bridal couple. I wouldn’t want to be the Officiant who is pulling focus away from a bride in her beautiful gown on her special day!

As far as clerical garments go, you may wear “the collar” — the basic, standard clergy shirt. Over the years, we have always recommended Artneedle’s shirts, which can be worn with or without a coat.

Mercy Robes also offers very nice clergy shirts. Basic black is nice, but many of our Officiants prefer the burgundy, which nearly matches the Knights of St. Valentine crest color.

Of course, you should discuss your attire in advance with the bridal couple. Usually, the wedding will be fairly formal, but we’ve seen Hawaiian shirts, Disney character costumes and even football jerseys worn at ceremonies — it’s all up to the couple, and how they’ve planned the event.

The “Standard” Format For Marriage Ceremonies

One of the most-asked questions we receive — right up there with “what the heck am I supposed to do next?” — is actually fairly important:

What is the standard structure of a wedding ceremony?

Most weddings follow basically the same format, with minor adjustments here and there depending upon the desires of the bridal couple. Keep in mind that the bridal couple usually comes up with their own format for the ceremony, but many times you’ll show up and they’ll be looking at you for guidance every step of the way — and you had better be ready with a plan!

Keep in mind that, aside from traditional ceremonies in certain churches (such as in the Catholic, Jewish and Muslim faiths), there is no step-by-step standard format. The bridal couple is free to choose the elements they want to include or exclude, and to customize it any way they want.

No jurisdiction has a law saying what format a marriage ceremony must follow. However, the bridal couple must speak vows declaring their intention to be married to each other (either by repeating vows spoken by the Officiant, or by saying their own vows) and the Officiant must declare them to be married at the conclusion of the ceremony.

After the ceremony, the Officiant must take the couple aside to sign their marriage license, along with the witnesses (if required by local law) to make the marriage official.

A sample “standard” format includes:

Special wedding music begins (this is usually “background” music chosen by the couple, or by the DJ or musicians)
Mothers/parents/VIPs enter and light candles/candelabras
Parents of the Bride and Groom are seated
The Minister/Officiant and Groom enter and proceed to the front
The Bridal Party enters and proceeds to the front
The Ring Bearer and/or Flower Girl enter, proceed to front
Music concludes for Bridal Party
Ushers unroll the aisle runner
The Minister/Officiant asks the audience to rise and welcome the Bride
Music begins for the Bride’s entrance (Processional music)
The Bride and her escort enter, and are met by the Groom
Bride’s music concludes
Opening commentary by Minister/Officiant
Bride and Groom light “family candles” to represent their families
Bride and Groom present flowers to parents and/or VIPs
“Declarations Of Intent” by Bride and Groom
First reading (religious or romantic literature)
Musical interlude (solo, etc.)
Second reading
Special music (musical interlude, or musical and vocal performance)
Exchange of wedding vows (traditional or customized)
Blessing of the rings
Exchange of wedding rings
Minister/Officiant‘s prayer or blessing for the Bride and Groom
Bride and Groom light Unity Candle (music in background)
Final commentary
Bride and Groom kiss
Introduction of the new couple by the Minister/Officiant
Recessional music begins
Bride and Groom exit
Bridal party exits and forms reception line
Minister/Officiant’s instructions to the audience
Audience departs for reception

First Nation Minister Weds NYC Couple

chang kusack nytimes

We extend our best wishes for a lifetime of love and joy to Elise Chang and Alastair Kusack, who were married in Manhattan this weekend, with First Nation ceremonial minister Kim Kirkley officiating.

Their full, wonderful story is detailed in the pages of today’s edition of the New York Times.

Anglican Wedding Ceremony (1662): The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony

We are often asked for sample ceremonies, or guidance on how to perform a specific style of wedding, by members of our clergy. We were recently contacted for assistance on planning an Elizabethan or Olde English ceremony by a minister who was asked to perform a marriage at a Renaissance Faire-style event. In our research, we came across this amazing period piece — an Anglican Wedding Ceremony from more than 350 years ago. Read, and enjoyeth thyself:

First the Banns of all that are to be married together must be published in the Church three several Sundays, during the time of Morning Service, or of Evening Service (if there be no Morning Service), immediately after the second Lesson; the Curate saying after the accustomed manner,

I PUBLISH the Banns of Marriage between M. of _____ and N. of _____. If any of you know cause, or just impediment, why these two persons should not be joined together in holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it.

This is the first [or second, or third] time of asking.

And if the persons that are to be married dwell in divers Parishes, the Banns must be asked in both Parishes; and the Curate of the one Parish shall not solemnize Matrimony betwixt them, without a Certificate of the Banns being thrice asked, from the Curate of the other Parish.

At the day and time appointed for solemnization of Matrimony, the persons to be married shall come into the body of the Church with their friends and neighbours: and there standing together, the Man on the right hand, and the Woman on the left, the Priest shall say,

DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.

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Sage Advice For The First-Time Wedding Officiant

We received an inquiry this week from a minister who was getting ready to perform her very first marriage ceremony this coming weekend.

Getting asked to perform your first wedding progresses very quickly from “Sure, I’ll do it!” to “Yipes, what do I actually do?”

A wedding ceremony is a beautiful but complex thing. As the designated Officiant, you may not have realized it before, but you’re in charge. It’s the bridal couple’s show, but you’re guiding them through the ceremony. Once you arrive at the altar (or the other designated spot where the vows will be spoken) you’re running things.

What things? Every thing. You’re essentially hosting and narrating the program — you are literally the master of ceremonies! Speak in a voice that everyone can hear, even those in the back row — and especially great grandma in the second row. She doesn’t want to miss a word!

The bridal couple will be following your lead, so make sure that every “repeat after me” is followed by short and simple vows for each of them to repeat. Test it out on yourself, because if you can’t remember more than four or five tongue-twisting words to repeat (with your nerves frayed, and a big audience of family and friends staring at you) neither will the couple!

But that’s not everything

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Choosing The Perfect Song For Your First Dance

We had gone through all the prep work — putting together lists, getting a variety of opinions, listening to dozens of songs — on the way to writing an article about the perfect song for the first dance.

We had checked off all the boxes:

It had to be memorable.

It had to be meaningful.

It had to be special.

As I said, we had it all ready to go.

…And then we read this article from our friends at You & Your Wedding, in which they not only list 100 amazing potential first dance songs, but then break it down into categories (“The Sway,” “High-Energy Swing,” “Something Latin,” etc.) and list some notable celebrity first-dance tunes.

The traditional first dance for the bride and groom can be a nerve wracking moment. The key though is to pick a track you both love. You’ll be more relaxed as you take to the floor, and every time you hear it in the years to come you will be reminded of your big day.

So, forget about our article — it ain’t going to happen — and instead check out RachelYYW’s outstanding guide to wedding first dance songs by clicking right here, right now.

State of the Union: Serving As A Wedding Officiant In New York

This article is part of a series for ministers on performing marriage ceremonies in the United States and elsewhere. In this article, we focus on New York State, as well as New York City, which has its own specific set of rules and regulations.

We often hear from ministers and officiants that are concerned about the complexities of performing marriage ceremonies in New York. While it may seem complex on the surface, it’s actually fairly simple and straightforward — as long as you follow the rules.

Becoming ordained as a New York wedding minister

In New York, you’re free to perform marriage ceremonies … if you follow the rules.

Basically, you must be legally ordained before performing a wedding ceremony in New York. If you are currently ordained and in good standing with the church, you are ready to perform the ceremony this very moment. (If you aren’t currently ordained, you may request New York-based ordination by clicking here now.)

With one major exception, you are not required to register with any agency in New York before performing ceremonies in the state, but always keep in mind that you must present your credentials to any legal authority upon their request — which can include the town clerk, county clerk, or any representative of the state — as well as the bridal couple.

That one major exception on registering relates to whether the ceremony is taking place in any of the five boroughs of New York City — Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx. Regardless of where the marriage license is being issued in the state, if the wedding ceremony itself is taking place anywhere in New York City (not just Manhattan, not just Brooklyn) then, as the officiant, you must register with the Marriage Bureau at 141 Worth Street in Manhattan.

Is there a way around this requirement? No, there isn’t. But the wonderful folks at the city’s Marriage Bureau actually try to make it as simple and painless as possible for you. But keep in mind that you should not wait until the last minute to get registered with them!

If you plan to perform ceremonies specifically in New York City, the church will provide you with the documents and forms required by the Marriage Bureau. If you intend to become ordained, you may request the New York City endorsement as part of the process. If you are currently ordained, but want to receive the New York City endorsement from the church, you may request it from us by clicking here.

The Marriage Bureau has a very nice website with very detailed information about their processes and procedures. We recommend that you take at least a few minutes to carefully read through their instructions.

More good news: as long as you are actively ordained, you can begin the registration process online on the Marriage Bureau’s website. Here’s a link to the Bureau’s online minister registration application.

What happens next? As noted on the Marriage Bureau’s website: “Once you have completed the form using the correct option … you must visit the Manhattan office to complete your registration if you are a resident of the City of New York. If you reside outside of the City of New York you may mail the signed and notarized application, a photocopy of your proper identification and your fee of $15 by credit card or money order payable to the City Clerk.”

So easy! Now get out there and perform that ceremony!

Interested in becoming ordained to perform ceremonies in New York? Click here now for more information.

But wait — you knew there’d be other variables to consider

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Can A Ship Captain Perform A Marriage Ceremony?

There are certain questions we receive day in and day out, generally about whether a ceremonial minister who lives in one state (let’s say Texas) can legally perform a wedding in another state (let’s say Hawaii*), but one that pops up occasionally is also one that can be quite perplexing.

So … can a ship’s captain perform a marriage ceremony?

The simple answer is yes, as long as he or she is legally ordained by a church or religious organization. Earning the position of ship’s captain does not automatically give you the right and responsibility to serve as a wedding minister.

Can a ship captain perform marriage ceremonies

The Skipper may be permitted to perform your marriage ceremony on the Minnow. Gilligan? Not so much.

The more complicated answer is maybe, depending on where the ceremony is taking place.

When a wedding ceremony takes place on dry land, the law that takes precedent is that of the country, state or territory that you are standing on. If you’re in Iowa, then Iowa’s marriage laws are in full effect; the local county clerk in Iowa must issue the marriage license, the marriage license must be used (solemnized) within Iowa’s state boundaries, and it must be filed with that same county clerk to be legal and valid. Want to take your Iowa marriage license to Wichita, Kansas, and have your ceremony there? Can’t do it. Not legal.

Meanwhile, back on the boat: let’s say we’re sailing from Bermuda to the Bahamas (come on, pretty mama) and you’ve decided to tie the knot. Cool your jets. It isn’t that simple. Some cruise lines, such as Cunard, do have wedding packages that include a shipboard ceremony. Check with the cruise company or your travel agent (yes, there are still travel agents) for information.

If you’re off the coast of Maine, sailing in the Florida Keys, island hopping in Hawaii or on a bay cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge, and if the captain is legally ordained — and you have a valid locally-issued marriage license — then it’s full steam ahead.

But if you’re taking a three-hour tour out on the high seas, chances are that the Skipper isn’t going to be able to help you get hitched, even if he’s an ordained minister. (Gilligan can’t do it, either, so don’t bother asking.)

Need additional information specific to your shipboard ceremony situation? Tell us where you plan to get married, and we’ll fill in the details for you.

Are you a ship’s captain? Do you want to perform shipboard marriage ceremonies? The process is quick, simple and affordable. Click here to become legally ordained right now! (That link works for land-lubbers, too.)

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* — The answer is actually yes! Hawaii does not restrict non-resident officiants from performing ceremonies anywhere in the state, as long as you are legally ordained and have registered in advance with the Department of Health in Honolulu. It’s a fairly fast and simple process! To find out more, please visit our Hawaii information page.

Making Beautiful Music … and Marriages, Too

We’ve heard and read countless stories over the years about wedding ministers that failed to show up for the ceremony. Not just late, but not at all!

For a bridal couple that has gone through months and months of planning for their perfect ceremony — having chosen the venue, the wedding dress, written their vows — and then not have the officiant show up to perform the ceremony can be tragic.

It’s always good to have a back-up plan in place, just in case. Of course, if the wedding is taking place at a church or chapel, then there is usually an assistant pastor or minister on hand to step in.

However, with more and more ceremonies taking place outside of churches these days, it takes some creativity to build a back-up plan. Remember, nearly every jurisdiction allows you to designate your officiant, whether it’s your favorite uncle, a close family friend or your old high school volleyball coach!

Become ordained as a wedding minister

Can your wedding DJ perform your marriage ceremony? Sure. And so could the wedding singer, if he’s ordained.

A great back-up plan is one that’s fairly obvious, but also often overlooked: your disc jockey. Your wedding DJ is a trained professional who probably has years and years of experience as a master of ceremonies, and has no problem getting up in front of an audience.

In addition to having the perfect mix of music to get your guests up and dancing, many wedding DJs are also ordained to serve as ceremonial ministers, and many of them have performed more marriage ceremonies than some ministers have!

It’s always a smart idea to have a back-up plan — hopefully, you won’t need anyone to step in to perform the ceremony, but now you have a potential pinch-hitter just in case!

By the way, if you are a wedding disc jockey and you aren’t legally ordained to perform marriage ceremonies, the process is quick, easy and affordable. Begin the ordination process right now!

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