There's more to your wedding ceremony than simply saying, "I do"

No matter your style of party or wedding location, you'll make your marriage official with the help of an officiant, whether that's a judge, best friend, pastor, or another expert. Here, we asked ceremony gurus (of all walks of life and faiths) for the details you should know before you say "I do."

"Your ceremony needs to reflect your life together. If you aren't religious, don't be pressured to have a church ceremony to please your parents." – JP Reynolds of JPR Weddings in Los Angeles, California

"Think about your vows before you meet with an officiant. Do you want to write your own? Do you want your officiant to write them? Have you found any vows that may work?" – Jessie Blum of Eclectic Unions in Rutherford, New Jersey

"Don't assume your preferred officiant will be available for your wedding. Speak to him or her as soon as you set a date." – Rabbi Sol Goodman

"It's okay to come to the meeting with no ideas! One of the first things I ask my couples is if they have any ideas for the ceremony, and so many people are embarrassed to say no. But a good officiant will ask you the right questions to begin putting the ceremony together for you." –Blum

"Take time to find the officiant who reflects your beliefs and style. Five years after your ceremony, you want to be able to smile when you remember your officiant and not groan." -Reynolds

"Understanding the couple's belief system and that of their families helps the officiant determine what should and should not be included in the ceremony." – Kristin Wintermute of The Humanist Institute

"If you are asking a friend or relative to officiate, ensure they understand you are not looking for a roast or a toast!" –Reynolds

"While some officiants who do secular ceremonies are open to using religious language, others might not be comfortable conducting a ceremony where religious terms are used. It is important that the couple clarifies at the beginning with the officiant just how tolerant he or she is." –Wintermute

"Your officiant will have a wealth of knowledge and experience about weddings-advice and wisdom which can be very helpful in negotiating the sometimes tricky terrain leading up to the wedding. Counseling, readings, parental/in-law issues, and vendor suggestions are just a few of the resources in your officiant's toolbox. Make use of them!" – Rabbi Sol Goodman

"Officiants want to make sure the ceremony reflects the unique nature of the couple's relationship and commitment to each other. A list of what the couple loves about the other, for example, can be very helpful in designing a ceremony that truly highlights the couple's personal relationship." –Wintermute

"Don't be afraid to ask your officiant for assistance in finding readings, a creative way to include your wedding party or parents, or anything else. They are happy to brainstorm and hone your ideas into something beautiful, unique, and cohesive."– Blum

"Your guests are not just spectators, they are there to share the celebration with you. If you can, find a way to somehow include them in the moment." – Rabbi Sol Goodman

"Don't worry, your vows aren't cheesy. Just be sure to write them out, as you won't even remember your name on your wedding day!" –Reynolds

"Family dynamics are the most difficult to manage even in the best of families. Help your officiant make your day the best by being honest and upfront with background information such as who doesn't get along or children involved who may or may not behave." – Wintermute

"Keep in mind that once the ceremony is over, you are married. While mishaps might happen during the reception, nothing matters once you are pronounced. It is your moment, your day, your celebration. Everything else will seem minor in the rear-view mirror." – Rabbi Sol Goodman


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