Planning your wedding is one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do. It can also be one of the most nerve-wracking. The to-do list can grow like a magic beanstalk. While selecting your officiant is only one of many tasks, please remember that your ceremony is the heart of your wedding.
With that in mind, let me anticipate some questions you might have.
What’s my approach to serving as a wedding officiant?
Couples who come to me are best described as spiritual but not religious. They want a unique experience, a truly personal ceremony that celebrates their love and honors the commitment of marriage without any religious affiliation. I cater to the unchurched.
What if a Couple wants a religious feel to their ceremony?
Some couples want a ceremony that includes religious elements to affirm their own beliefs. Some feel that including religious elements will make their parents and grandparents more comfortable with a ceremony not being held in a church or synagogue.
In my experience, the older generation doesn’t get upset because the younger generation doesn’t share the same beliefs or follow the same spiritual path. The older generation simply wants to know that their ways are respected by the younger generation, that the legacy is valued.
Finding ways to honor that legacy is my job. One of the ways I do that is by incorporating cultural elements into the ceremony. For example, one of my couples was a Catholic groom and a Jewish bride. They were being married under a chuppah. The bride’s mom wanted to be sure the groom’s family would be comfortable. In my welcoming remarks, I spoke about the canopy’s ancient connection to the four Royal Stars of Persia, their connection to the four elements, their evolution into the four archangels, and the point in a Catholic Mass when the priest swings a censer filled with incense to the four directions. We stand on common ground. We share the same sky.
Can I work with you if you don’t follow any religion?:
Absolutely. The world is changing. Your principles by which you live your life might come from science or philosophy or ethics or nature or the simple desire to make the world a better place. The path you’ve forged for yourself should not be subject to judgment. That’s the philosophy behind my approach to officiating: I cater to the unchurched.
LGBTQ – Do you support Marriage Equality?
Absolutely, and not just because marriage equality is the law of the land. I believe that love is love.
What’s the process?
Whether you come to me through a personal referral, reading reviews on various wedding sites, or visiting my website, our first step is a conversation. That first connection is often by phone (860-402-4231) or email – Zita@MoonRiverRituals.com
Next is a face-to-face meeting, whether in person or via FaceTime or Skype. You want to be comfortable with the person who will shape your ceremony. You want an officiant who will respect your views and listen eagerly to your suggestions. You want to be able to laugh with your officiant. I want those same things. The vibration between us needs to be relaxed. I want to feel comfortable picking up the phone or sending a quick, informal email or text. So, that first meeting is important. I look for a location that’s convenient for all of us; usually, that’s a Panera.
At the meeting, I ask a lot of questions. Your answers become the inspiration for the rituals I’ll suggest for your ceremony. If what you want is a unity candle or sand ceremony, that’s what I’ll do. But I can offer you so much more — a ritual involving butterfly blessings, the magical properties of garden herbs, Tibetan prayer flags, the secret language of shells, or a modern adaptation of an ancient Celtic handfasting – the origin of the phrase “tie the knot.” The possibilities are endless.
My goal is to create a ceremony that truly reflects who you are as a Couple and why you fell in love.
The Letter of Agreement:
I use a simple, plain language letter of agreement. It sets out the details of time, place, fee, etc.
What are my fees?
Not all couples want the same kind of ceremony. To reflect those differences, I’ve created four pricing levels.
An elopement refers to a brief, simple ceremony performed on a weekday usually at a town hall or court house.
Traditional Ceremony: $950 / $1250 / $1500
All traditional ceremonies include your personal love story. The difference in fees reflects the time and materials for personalized rituals, such as handfasting, or a ritual incorporating prayer flags, pieces of wood, herbs, seashells, butterflies, keys, etc. Most of my couples choose either the $950 or $1250.
Every couple should have a wedding budget. How you allocate those funds depends on how you prioritize the elements of your wedding day.
“While she is more expensive than your average officiant, what she provides is well worth the money spent. After all, she isn’t your average officiant.”
(Karla and Anthony / Preston Ridge Vineyard, Preston, CT)
The Couple’s Questionnaire:
Once we’ve agreed to work together, I email you a questionnaire. The answers become the building blocks for your love story, a key component of your ceremony. As a romance writer, I can say with certainty—I do know love stories.
“Our love story was the highlight of the evening. Yes…dinner and dancing with family and friends was fun, but the ceremony was magnificent. Not only is Zita an excellent writer…she is a superb storyteller as well. Through Zita’s words, Jorge and I relived our first date, our upbringing, and the struggles one faces in life. She made our ceremony intimate, heartwarming, at times funny, and deeply touching. She captured us so clearly that it took my breath away” — Elizabeth and Jorge, The Lord Jeffrey Inn, Amherst, MA
The First Draft:
About six to eight weeks before the wedding, I email you the first draft of the ceremony. From that point on, we go through as many drafts as needed to ensure the ceremony is what you want. You have full approval of the script. No surprises.
Your Wedding Day — When do I arrive?:
Early. On the day of the ceremony, I show up early anywhere from an hour to ninety minutes or more. I get the license from and set up any items I’ve brought for the ceremony. I coordinate the ceremony logistics with other vendors, as needed. If you’ve chosen to include a handfasting ritual, I want to be sure your photographer and videographer know what to expect and will be positioned in just the right place to see that knot form!
Who handles the Marriage License?:
It’s your responsibility to obtain the license. In Connecticut, you must obtain the license from the town in which the ceremony will take place. The license is my legal permission slip to perform the ceremony so I’ll need to get it from you before the ceremony begins. That’s one of the reasons I arrive early.
Filing the license is my responsibility. As soon as the ceremony is over, I sign the license. Within two business days I mail the license to the office of the town clerk who issued the license. If your ceremony is on a weekday, I usually file the license at the town hall immediately following the ceremony.
Can we write our own vows?
Of course! You can include personal vows in addition to traditional vows, or instead of traditional vows.
Do we have to include readings?
Not at all. If you do include a reading, the words should mean something to you. I have an extensive library and a circle of friends who are poets. If you want a reading, I’d be happy to help you find something appropriate.
How long is the ceremony?
The ceremonies I create usually run between 25-30 minutes. No boring moments!
Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant
In addition to being an ordained, nondenominational minister, I’m also a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant trained in the history and structure of ritual by the Celebrant Foundation and Institute, a nonprofit educational organization. As a Celebrant, I work with couples who describe themselves as secular, religious, spiritual, pagan, nondenominational, atheist, humanist, a couple seeking to blend their cultures, a couple seeking to blend their religious traditions. You might fall into one of those categories, or maybe you simply want to express yourselves your own way.
Don’t all officiants operate the same way?
Sadly, no, they don’t. In making your decision, look for an officiant who:
• Is legally qualified to perform the ceremony
• Will meet with you, no obligation whatsoever
• Is trained in the structure of ritual. You don’t want the energy of your ceremony to fizzle or to peak at the wrong time!
• Who will create a truly personal ceremony, not one that simply changes names on an existing script
• Will respond quickly to any questions you might have during the process
• Who will welcome your suggestions
• Who will give you final approval of the script
• Who is able to run a rehearsal
• Who will provide cue sheets for your vendors – the musicians, DJ, photographer, videographer, venue coordinator, ceremony coordinator, and any guests who might have a role in your ceremony
• Who has a clear, strong voice and can project if needed
• Who uses a contract or letter of agreement
With all these factors to consider, there are also the intangible qualities.
Do you feel comfortable with this officiant?
Does he or she respect you? Your spiritual choices? Your sexual orientation and gender expression?
Can you laugh together?
When it comes time to buy a home, have a baby, blend families, begin a new business venture, retire, renew your vows, or say good-bye to a loved one, can you picture this officiant standing with you, shaping a ceremony to honor these milestones?
To explore what I can do for you, please send an email to Zita@MoonRiverRituals.com or call me at 860-402-4231. Just a friendly conversation. No obligation.