Many of my friends, clients, and relatives (who don’t already know) are usually surprised to learn that since September 2003, I have been authorized to perform wedding ceremonies (not to mention baptisms and funerals!) in almost all of the contiguous United States.
As a professional wedding planner, in addition to planning weddings, this means I can officiate my client’s wedding ceremony if for some bizarre reason, the minister is a no-show.
But, more importantly, it means I can add another stream of revenue to my wedding business—and so can you!
How it Works
Despite what you might think, not every couple wants a traditional wedding ceremony in a house of worship. Theme weddings, second weddings, civil ceremonies, last-minute-weddings, commitment ceremonies, and vow renewals are perfect opportunities for you to officiate.
As a licensed civil celebrant (which is the title I prefer to use as an officiant), you can perform local ceremonies in your immediate area.
Basically, the couple tells you when and where, and you show up to perform the ceremony! Whether it’s at their home, in a friend’s garden or some other equally special site.
Step #1: Get Ordained
Becoming an officiant is one of the simplest things you could ever accomplish. Just like so many other tasks, the Internet is the place to go to become an ordained minister.
The Universal Life Church (ulc.org) and World Christianship Ministries (ordain.org) are two popular online resources worth checking out.
Neither of these companies require that you have a congregation or anything like that. Basically you provide your name, your address, and a nominal fee to process the application (in 2003 I paid less than $10!).
Within a week or two your certificate of ordination should arrive in the mail and you’re ready to perform wedding ceremonies.
Just be prepared for bouts of heckling. Seeing the title ‘Reverend’ in front of my name on my certificate was–and still is–the source of much humor and one-liners from my family members and friends! (Don’t say I didn’t warn you…)
**In certain states–like Florida for example, public notaries can legally perform ceremonies without being ordained.
Step #2: Be a One-Stop-Shop for Couples Planning a Wedding
The key to making being ordained such an attractive service to area brides and grooms, not to mention a great way to generate revenue, is, of course, how you package and present your officiant status.
In essence, you become a mobile or portable wedding chapel performing ceremonies wherever your clients are located. And, of course if you already have a banquet or commercial facility that can accommodate wedding guests, you can setup your own chapel right there, onsite (a dream of mine, by the way).
Get together with affordable (or talented friends or family members who can serve as) photographers, videographers, florists, etc. and include all-inclusive wedding packages, at varying price points.
All of sudden you become a one-stop-shop for couples planning a low-cost, but, highly-personalized wedding.
Take it a step further and collaborate with a caterer (or your local grocery store or Costco) and order simple food platters and create a basic menu and you’ve got the reception (or at least a portion of it) covered, too.
Be sure to have a collection of vows and readings, ceremony music on an mp3 player or CD, and an assortment of ceremony ideas that you can suggest to your clients–remember, you want to make the planning process as easy as you possibly can for them.
Decide how far you’re willing to travel to officiate and determine your professional fee. You can easily command several hundred dollars for a couple hours of work on a weekend. Easily.
Step #3: Market Your Niche
Marketing this one-of-a-kind niche is easy to do and lots of fun.
Placing small local ads locally and/or using Google Adwords, creating a dedicated page on your existing website, or a building a completely separate mini website is a good place to start.
Keep in mind that this is a no-frills wedding option making it ideal for cash-strapped couples and a brilliant alternative to heading down to City Hall or the Justice of the Peace, so be sure to keep that in mind as you create your brand and your marketing collateral — i.e. business cards, website, your elevator pitch, etc.
And, even though being authorized to officiate a wedding is what we’re talking about, here, you don’t have to market it that way (as every other wedding officiant does):
For example, instead of saying you’re a wedding officiant, why not promote the ‘one-stop-wedding-shop’ angle, instead? Doing this almost certainly guarantees that you’ll stand out from all the other wedding officiants in your town.
Like any other wedding planning specialty, be sure to shine the spotlight on what you do instead of burying under all the other wedding services that you may also be providing. In other words, make your specialty special.
I know you can do this. All you have to do (besides getting ordained) is put on that wonderful creative hat of yours. Keep me posted. 🙂
Confetti Episode #357 – explains how you can use your local marriage laws to find clients. This is a great way to promote your wedding officiant business. Click here to listen to or download the audio replay.