True Cost of a Wedding Officiant

~ when planning your wedding-day budget, don’t be misled by wedding magazines ~

My niece is getting married September 3rd in a Catholic Church. I was taken aback when my brother (Father of the Bride) told me that he just wrote a check for $600 to use the place. This doesn’t include the “tip” for the priest who will be performing a rote ceremony and speaking a time-worn homily, with names of Bride and Groom inserted.

While I charge $600 to custom design and write a personalized, unique ceremony. Then see it through, traveling two days in a row to the wedding venue of your choosing (which means a lot of personal grooming and dress-up clothing) — where the day before, I will actually run the Rehearsal or else co-run it with your Wedding Coordinator. Showing up to perform your Ceremony at least an hour beforehand and liaisoning with your DJ/musicians, Coordinator, Venue Manager, Photographer, Reader, etc., starting in the weeks ahead…. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. (Click here if you’re interested in all that I provide for a flat fee.)

Yet somehow, the antiquated notion that the Wedding Officiant ought to be doing all this out of some sort of selfless service seems to persist…spread by none other than prominent wedding magazines like The Knot in their 2015 study of  “Average Wedding Budget Breakdown.” In fact, it does involve service! My husband points out that a Cleaning Lady makes more per hour than I do…and that’s one who’s cheap.

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Hipster Couple’s Wedding Vows

The Bride and Groom are in their 20s — bought a house downtown in a funky Charlottesville neighborhood where no one else has yet had the foresight or temerity to venture — he on the restaurant start-up scene; she the owner of a hair salon with exposed brick walls on the Downtown Mall — and they had the brilliant idea to hold their wedding at Ix Art Park — the first  to think of it— a cool urban indoor/outdoor space. The Bridal Party simply walked from home in all their splendor to the venue.

The Bride’s arms are covered in tattoos, and the Groom’s attire adopted the Thom-Browneish “Perverse Prepster” look described in Simon Doonan’s recent Slate article, “Getting It Right; A field guide to the five tribes of modern male fashion.”

So — although they may hate this self-referencing term — they are what I’d call hipsters. And very very chill. But that doesn’t mean…. This was a first-class, all-out wedding. Equal parts hip and glamorous. One guest was driving a Tesla. There was an oyster bar and a band immediately following the ceremony.

The dining under the tent was all gold rimmed dishes and utensils, and hanging floral disco-ball decorations — with black accents, like the napkins…while the meat was being grilled on site by a small army of catering folks.

So imagine my delight when the Bride told me afterwards, at my next hair appointment, that the two things she was hearing back the most from guests who’d attended were:. The food and the Vows. The Vows! Are you kidding? For a Wedding Officiant…this is the limit! The ultimate in compliments.

So here are the Wedding Vows that stood out at this hipster couple’s wedding. I wrote them myself, by the way — or at least put my own spin on them. They might seem simple, but if observed will result in a magnificent marriage. [Read more…]


Wedding Cocktail Hour Before The Ceremony; A Stroke of Genius

Barn Ceremony



The Bride had prolonged her engagement by almost a year-and-a-half to be married on the same wedding anniversary date as her parents and maternal grandparents, June 4th. What was another hour as rain poured down? The sky was so black, there looked to be a funnel cloud in the distance at one point. Besides, being a very caring person, she wanted the arbor to be the ceremony backdrop, which she so appreciated the venue owner building just for her wedding (Cross Keys Barn; Harrisonburg, VA). Luckily, the clouds only became truly threatening about the same time guests started arriving, which meant there were pre-wedding photographs of the structure. [Read more…]


Feelings Matter; how to deal with emotions in aftermath of a vicious, cruel remark from your spouse

As I prepare the foundation to offer a mentoring program to talk one-on-one with people who are feeling emotional distress in their relationships and marriages — a natural offshoot of being a Wedding Officiant, I feel, as a quasi love “broker” — this week’s letter to Slate magazine’s weekly advice column, “Dear Prudence,” has made the basis of this new program all the more solid. Please read it below, and then I will tell you what I’d be mentoring “Paying for Everything” to do. In advance of that, though, I’d like to stress that the beauty of the ancient technology that I’m mentoring requires no confrontational conversation to be had. It’s all accomplished in your own mind. Couples therapy this is definitely not. [Read more…]


Wedding Ring Exchange Vows Based on “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien

How to turn dark meaning, The One Ring, into something wedding appropriate? In a google search for ring exchange vows as part of a wedding with a “Lord of the Rings” theme (only in this one element), I found actual vow wording based on a poem, “Ring of Power,” in the book. But as a Wedding Officiant — who never read the trilogy — I needed something more and something more positive in my preamble. Nothing “off the shelf” was to be found…until now. This is what I came up: [Read more…]


Hindu Wedding Vows for the Modern, Professional Couple

The following are modified Wedding Vows based on the Hindu marriage tradition of the Seven Steps, in which the couple walk in a circle. Due to the often voluminous Western wedding dresses, I did not include actual motion in these Wedding Vows, which I wrote for a Bride and Groom — with the Bride being of Indian heritage. Through research, I learned that the main thrusts of a Hindu wedding ceremony are: Harmony, Happiness, Growth and Respect. A marriage is seen as the start of a journey, naturally enough. But I also learned something else of note. Harmony in Hinduism for hundreds if not thousands of years has meant, in euphemistic subtext, that the Wife be obedient to the Husband. That’s how harmony is achieved. Obedience. As this was a modern, professional couple, I changed the language to reflect an equal partnership with more modern notions of marriage, e.g., I cut the word “sacrifice” for one. [Read more…]


General Guidelines for Writing Wedding Vows; Length, Ideas, Originality

Vows get at the essence of what marrying this person means to you — and are meant to be directed solely to the most important person in the room, the one standing opposite you. Put any self-consciousness about your guests out of your mind. They can go three minutes without being entertained — and these may be the only three minutes during your entire wedding day when it’s only the two of you…eyes locked in an eternal free fall. (Honestly, time does not exist when you’re “at the altar” during the ceremony; that’s why the length of the entire ceremony ought to be at least 20 minutes long.) [Read more…]


Step-by-Step Template for Writing Wedding Vows as a Short Love Letter

Think of writing your Wedding Vows as a short love letter. This approach lets you speak from your heart, tapping into something deep within. Try using a pen and paper for the first draft rather than typing on a computer. There’s something more intimate about it. And don’t shy away from including your own unique flourishes; in fact, it’s encouraged.

The ultimate is to make your partner feel like a King or Queen. Pay tribute to them. Gush, in a dignified way, about why you’ve chosen them above all the rest. This means you’ll use the word “You” as much or more than you use the word “I.” [Read more…]


Advice on Writing Wedding Vows and Their Affect on Your Marriage — Floating A Thesis

Wedding Vows are your blueprint for the life you want to create together in marriage. As Madeleine L’Engle writes in The Irrational Season: [Read more…]


#WeddingVows based on “Letters to a Young Poet,” by Rainer Maria Rilke

I wrote these unconditional-love Wedding Vows for a couple who enjoy a good quarrel at least once a week to clear the air. By the way, unconditional love is non-judgement. I borrowed these wedding vows from one of my favorite passages on marriage, “Letters to a Young Poet,” by Rainer Maria Rilke — who gets it exactly right.
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