Preacher. No one’s perfect…. #WeddingRescue

This past Saturday I had a #WeddingRescue!

At 6:15pm a Savannah Police officer called me, while I was having a quick break between weddings, at Leopold’s Ice Cream which is a Savannah staple!

He said “This is Captain so and so with the Savannah Police Department.”  My first thought was something had happened to my son.  He continued “Lt. Gunther gave me your number because the preacher for a 6pm wedding didn’t show up and he thought you could help.”

“Yes, I can, where is the ceremony?”

“Greene Square.  Let me give the phone to a person in the bridal party”

“Hello.  The preacher we hired didn’t show up can  you come and perform the ceremony?”

“Yes.  I can be there in 5 minutes.”


“I just so happen to be down the street. I’ll be right there.”

When I arrived everyone was so grateful for me showing up.  I went inside the rented home and spoke to the groom.  While doing so, word came that the “preacher” showed up at 6:30pm.  “It doesn’t matter to me who officiates your ceremony, I can stay or you can have him officiate.”  “You stay.”  So I did.

The “preacher” wasn’t a preacher.  He was an internet ordained wedding officiant.  He wasn’t a pastor of a church, nor had he ever been to seminary to study the Bible or theology.  He is recognized by the State of Georgia as clergy because of his internet ordination.   Basically: he does weddings for the money.

While working out at the local YMCA one day, about a year ago, I heard this “preacher” brag to his friend about how he gets $175 to marry people and that he could hook him up too.  “It’s easy.  You show up, read the words and you get paid.”  The “preacher” didn’t recognize me from when we worked together on a volunteer school resource team in 1995.  I was 30 then, he was about 60.

I take what I do seriously.  Have I ever been late to a wedding?  I believe twice: both times about 5-10 minutes due to traffic.  Have I ever missed a wedding?  No.  Have I ever filled in for an officiant who missed a wedding?  Dozens of times.

Even if you don’t hire myself or my company, find out the reputation of the person/company you hire.  And also see if they have a business license.

I am a pastor of a local Lutheran church, yet I still have a business license for weddings.  For me, a business license separates those who are serious and professional from those who just do it for the money.

Share your stories and your thoughts.

Credentials · Elopements · Marriage LIcense · Minister/Officiant · Vendors · What I don't know

What is a “Non-Denominational Officiant?”

Simple answer: someone who went online and got ordained just to be able to marry people. Not necessarily a pastor of a church.

In the State of Georgia, there are only two types of people who can marry a couple: Judges and Clergy. We do not have “Justice of the Peace” here in the State of Georgia.  If someone claims to be a Justice of the Peace, they are not legally able to marry a couple in the State of Georgia.

Just a silly picture of me standing next to a carriage.  I just love the arrow pointing to me!  Oh wait, it's pointing to the crosswalk!
Just a silly picture of me
standing next to a carriage.
I just love the arrow pointing to me!
Oh wait, it’s pointing to the crosswalk!

“Clergy” can be any religious figure: pastor, chaplain, rabbi, preacher, imam, sangha, priest, bishop, maybe even prophet.  Nearly all the time, a clergy person has had religious training and schooling.  For example, in order to be a Lutheran Pastor, I had to have a Bachelors Degree prior to entering seminary (which is an additional 4 year program).  Making it a total 8 years of educational instruction after high school.

In order to be a “non-denominational officiant” it takes about 20 minutes and some money,  then in the eyes of the State of Georgia it qualifies them to be a person who is considered “clergy.”  Those persons often call themselves Reverend, because technically they are.  I too am a Reverend, yet it took me more than 20 minutes.

I’ve heard of many people going online to get ordained to marry couples, celebrities often do that in order to marry a celebrity couple.  Am I opposed to these non-demoninational wedding officiants?  Only when they pretend to be a pastor or religious leader, maybe wearing clergy collar and attire, or when they don’t even believe in God and only do this for the money (I doubt they go to worship services anywhere).

How do you know if your wedding officiant has a religious educational background, such as myself, or went online?  Simple: ask them.

Share your thoughts!

Awkward Moments · Credentials · Minister/Officiant · Vows

Not all wedding vendor reviews are accurate…

…yes, that is correct.  Whether they be online reviews or just by word of mouth, what people say about your wedding vendor may be inaccurate or skewed.

Why would people do that?  It’s probably easier to answer why bad things happen to good people, than to answer why do people say say inaccurate (or outright lies) words about their (wedding) professional.

I’ll give some possible answers.  These are not listed in any particular way.

1.  Some people are just not happy people and like to share their misery with others.

2.  Some reviews are given in hopes of getting a refund.

3. Other reviews are given to hurt people.

4. Weddings are stressful times and some people will focus on a portion of the day that needs to be let go.

5. Some reviews are given by another wedding vendor to try to ruin someone’s business.

6. I’m sure there are other reasons.

I can give examples, some personal, of all of above.  However, I’d rather give one example this is not accurate  or true- just an example. I give couples the opportunity to choose their own ceremony from my website.  They then can modify it or use it as is.  They can even send me one they created and ask me to use it.  My contract has a place on it for their choice of ceremony.  Imagine if I get a complaint from a couple after the ceremony: we didn’t like the ceremony that you used for our ceremony.    So, please help me understand why this example would be my fault?

Credentials · Minister/Officiant

Savannah Wedding: Which officiant is best for us?

I wrote this for South Magazine‘s Spring 2010 issue.

How to pick the right officiant.

Wedding on Tybee Island

First and foremost, if the officiant has advertising and can’t spell the word officiant, then don’t hire them!!  It is officiant, not officiate.  Officiant is the person.  Officiate is the action.  Officials are the guys in black and white stripes who officiate the football game I’m watching!

Next, there are only two types of wedding officiants in Georgia (all states are not the same): Judges and Clergy.  We don’t have Justice of the Peace.

If you want a judge, then that’s a simple choice.  If you want a clergy, that is not so easy.

There are different types of clergy: those whom are rabbis or ministers of a synagogue/congregation, or those who were internet ordained.  I make that distinction because those of us who are either rabbis or minister/pastors/clergy of a congregation have had formal education.  For example, after college I went and received a 4 year degree from a seminary and became ordained by the larger Lutheran Church.  Internet ordained ministers are those who don’t have to graduate from any place (including high school or college) and get their “license” to wed couples online by going to a website and making a couple promises.  I don’t even know if they ever go to church.

So how do you pick the right officiant? Not all photographers use the same style, not all florists use the same design, and not all clergy have the same approach and personality.  Would any photographer do? Would any florist do?  What any clergy do? Use the same approach.

After all my years experience, this is what I would suggest you consider when finding the right officiant, rather than just settling for any officiant.

  1. Are they flexible in the style of ceremony they offer or perform? Will they do a civil/non-religious ceremony? Will they let you create your own ceremony?
  2. Do they offer different types of vows?
  3. What is their attire? Is it robe, suit and tie, “clergy attire of black with white collar,” or is it shorts and a shirt?   When you envisioned your ceremony what did you see the wedding officiant wearing?  If your ceremony is formal, is casual for the officiant okay with you?
  4. Do you like their personality?  Is personality important for you when it comes to the ceremony?

    Wedding at the Mansion on Forsyth Park
  5. If a real awkward situation arises during or just prior to the ceremony, say the rings are dropped, the father of the bride is so nervous he sits down prior to the question, “who gives their blessings for this bride?” how does the officiant handle it?
  6. Does the person read the ceremony or do they put some heart into it? Do they add their personality to the ceremony?
  7. Are they a rabbi or pastor of a congregation?  Does that matter to you? Or are they internet ordained?
  8. Not that number of ceremonies count for a lot, but do they have the right experience?
  9. Is the clergy a part of the wedding package?  If so, can you meet that person ahead of time? If it isn’t a good match, can you find you own officiant?
  10. How important is the fee?  Are you looking for the least expensive? Most expensive?
  11. Can you meet with them ahead of time? Can you talk on the phone to get a feel for the person?
  12. Do you invite that person to the reception? (I didn’t answer the other ones but this one I will, normally I don’t go to receptions when invited because I only know the bride and groom.)
  13. Do you want a male or female officiant?
  14. Do you want someone who is older or younger?
  15. Is the officiant’s “job” just the 10-25 minutes of their talking or performing the ceremony or do they help orchestrate the ceremony, making sure it flows as smoothly as possible?
  16. Is flash photography okay?
  17. What happens if the officiant gets sick and can’t do the ceremony, are we just stuck without one? Do they find someone (just anybody?) for you? Do they have a backup plan?
  18. Is premarital counseling a requirement?

    Mansion on Forsyth Park
  19. What is their experience in the location you choose? Pros and cons?
  20. When do you start finding an officiant? One week? One month? Six months? One year? If you wait to long to find an officiant, will you have to settle on whomever you can find?
  21. Do they have a contract?
  22. Have they ever forgotten a ceremony?
  23. Have they ever said the wrong name in the ceremony? How do they keep that from happening?
  24. Do they attend the rehearsal?
  25. Should you search for their name on the internet?
  26. Do we have to be a member of your church?
  27. Let’s say you don’t go to church, yet you want a minister because our families go to church, will they still marry you?

Now that you are completely overwhelmed with selecting the right officiant is for you, what’s next?  If you like the person and get good vibes from them, then it is probably a good match, just make sure you have the basics covered.

Let me know your thoughts, here or on