Probably the best question you can ask any wedding vendor is how they should go about choosing a vendor in their field. This highlights their competence and gives you key insights on how to make the right choice for yourself. Here are the things I would suggest you look at to help make your decision on a wedding officiant.
Create a Short List
So the first thing to do is to create a short list of three to five wedding officiants by searching through sites like Wedding Wire or The Knot. Make sure to search for wedding officiants in your ceremony area and search by your religious preference. As you browse, keep the following things in mind...
Star Ratings If you are trying to use star ratings to separate awesome wedding officiants from good wedding officiants, you are likely going to run into issues. Most people will only interact with one wedding officiant in their entire lifetime, so the star rating is not based on how their particular wedding officiant compared to other wedding officiants they've had. What the star ratings really captures is the experience couples had and how they felt afterward about the service that was provided. So for the most part, five stars = good or passable. In this way, star ratings separate bad wedding officiants from good or better wedding officiants, but do little to help you find the cream of the crop.
Reviews When reading reviews, look for specific details that give you insight as to how well a wedding officiant responds to their client's requests, integrates with other vendors and handles the unexpected. Look for things like, "she helped fix my boutonniere", "our photographer was impressed by how he positioned us when we signed the marriage license" or "when the wind noise really picked up he turned off the mic and did a great job projecting his voice so everyone could hear". These are all indicators that a wedding officiant is responsive, knowledgable and willing to do whatever they can to make sure your wedding day is great.
The number of reviews is an indicator of how much experience a wedding officiant has and how dedicated they are to their craft. A professional wedding pro should always be working to keep their reviews current and positive.
Prices & Options Unless they explicitly explain why, bargain level wedding officiants likely don't feel they have the confidence and experience to charge more and/or are charging less to hopefully attract more clients. So, in general, the more expensive a wedding officiant is, the more likely they feel confident and experienced at their craft and/or are likely to get more leads than they are willing or able to book. While any wedding officiant can perform the task of getting you married, a more confident and experienced wedding officiant will make that process feel easier, more comfortable and you'll have fewer issues during the process.
Photos - The Kiss When you look at photos on a wedding officiant's website or profile, there are a few red flags to watch out for. First off, you should never see a wedding officiant in the background of the kiss. A good wedding officiant will step aside and get out of the photo. This is one of the most important pictures of the entire wedding and there is no reason for a wedding officiant to photo-bomb it. Here is an example of what a good kiss photo should look like...
Kelly Costello Photography
Photos - Ceremony Book Also, a wedding officiant should read the ceremony from something the size of a small book. Digital devices are risky to use as they can fail, are difficult to read in direct sunlight and can cause blinding glare. Letter-size three-ring binders are probably the least photogenic thing on the planet and seem to always look awkward and bulky. Mostly, you just want to make sure that the wedding officiant is holding something that makes them look like a wedding officiant and that will look good in photos. Here is a good example of what you should be looking for...
Winsome & Wright Photography
Photos - Staging A photographer is going to do their best to artistically capture a wedding ceremony as it happens, but a wedding officiant is responsible for making sure that the ceremony is staged for good photo compositions. This includes the placement of ceremony items and letting everyone know where to stand and face in order to get good photos. So if you see a variety of good photos with people in different positions, this is a good sign that the wedding officiant tries to make things visually exciting for your guests and for your photographer.
Meghan Shaw Photography
Kelly Costello Photography
Photos - General Wedding officiants are only going to use the absolute best photos they have. So, look at the photos they put on their website and use on their marketing sites. If you like the pictures they have, that's a good sign, because your ceremony pictures will likely be similar. Videos Other than meeting in person, videos are probably your best gauge for getting a good feel for how a wedding officiant is going to speak and convery their personality on your wedding day. If they show a video of a prior ceremony, mostly look for the same things you were looking out for in the photos, but pay special attention to their mannerisms and personality to see if you think it's a good match for you. If it is a introduction style video, see if their message resonates with you and if you feel like they would be good at speaking in front of you and your guests. Ceremony videos can be expensive, so if they don't have a ceremony video, I wouldn't hold it against them.
Choosing the One from the Short List
Once you have your short list, it's time to reach out and see who on your list is available for your wedding date. When you make your initial contact, ask each of them about their availability and try to set up a consultation. If at all possible try to meet them in-person so you can get a real good feel for who they are and how they're going to communicate with your guests. If that is not possible or otherwise a challenge, try video chat or is that won't work your last result is to chat by phone. Voice and Personality The voice and personality of your wedding officiant can go a long way to helping you feel comfortable and ease your nerves on your wedding day. Most of this is just really your gut feeling that this is the right officiant for you. This is probably the most important factor of all, so if you really connect with a particular wedding officiant, really factor that heavily in your final decision.
Rehearsal Participation The wedding officiant should be responsible for coordinating all of the activities of the ceremony from the first announcements and the processional through to the recessional and post-ceremony announcements. Some wedding planners or venue coordinators step in to fill this need but it really should be the wedding officiant that makes sure the entire ceremony goes well. However, not all wedding officiants feel the same way and may do little other than to speak the words. Ask your wedding officiant how much they participate in the setup and the rehearsal of the processional and recessional to get a feel for the type of service you are going to get.
Going Off-Script Ask your wedding officiant how and when they go off-script during the ceremony. Going off script can be a more engaging style of public speaking, but it is also more prone to awkward moments and doesn't give you the same confidence that seeing the ceremony in advance will provide. There is no universally correct answer, but just make sure that what they say resonates with you and what you want for your ceremony.
Appearance Find out what your wedding officiant wears to weddings. Some will wear religious garb, some simple formal wear and others may express a more creative style. But make sure whatever your wedding officiant wears is in line with your expectations. After all, your wedding officiant will be the focal point of a number of your ceremony photos.