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THE WEDDING OFFICIANT AND THE WEDDING COORDINATOR

Wedding Planners, Wedding Coordinators, and Wedding Officiants are all necessary for medium to large weddings. Quite often a wedding planner may also be the wedding coordinator for small and medium size weddings, but that doesn't always work out so well. When this is first realized by a wedding planner, they usually hire a "day-of wedding coordinator" to take care of all the coordinating needed for the wedding rehearsal and the day of the wedding. Then, after they find that didn't work out so well for the wedding officiant and the couple, the wedding planner decides to hire the coordinator to basically take over all coordination duties for their weddings. Big Mistake!!!

 

First a few words about what wedding coordinators really do. Here are the basics: For most weddings there is a schedule that has been worked down to the minute. This is necessary for planning things such as the bridal walk, the catering, music, venue schedules, limos, etc. Everyone hired for the wedding is on a schedule and they need to know what time to be in specific places and/or to begin a specific job. The wedding coordinator is given the authority to ensure that everyone knows their schedule and then ensuring that the schedule is followed. Also, the wedding coordinator helps the entire wedding party with when to walk, where to stand, who does what, and how they will walk out, and "coordinates" the rehearsal and the wedding ceremony.

 

Now a few words about wedding officiants and what they really do. The wedding officiant is the "Master of Ceremonies". They actually run the show (your wedding ceremony) and they can make or break your entire wedding. The Wedding Officiant directs the ceremony. Literally (like an orchestra conductor), they can cue the music people, nod for a lighting change if indoors, give a small stare or slight pause to get someone's attention (photographers in the way, cell phone users, etc). At the same time, they will whisper or nod to the bride and groom when to do the next step, ask for the rings, catch a sand unity vase as it is getting knocked over, grab a feinting groom, and . . . well as you know, a lot can happen during a ceremony. All eyes are on the bride and groom (and the wedding officiant) and it's their job to make the bride's and the groom's ceremony works out perfect. Oh, let's not forget, they also have to perform the wedding vows for the couple (that's why we are here right?).

 

That leads me to wonder, how in the world can the wedding coordinator, coordinate and be responsible for all of the things expected of the wedding officiant? Hmmm... maybe we should re-think what the wedding coordinator's duties really should be.

 

Let's first begin with the wedding planner. The wedding planner has been hired by the couple to "plan" the entire wedding for them. That puts all responsibility on the planner, so they put everything into a "wedding contract" for the couple. This keeps it all on paper and makes it a legal document. After everything has been laid out, the wedding schedule is then designed by the wedding planner and the wedding couple. The wedding planner cannot accomplish everything by themselves, so they hire a coordinator to take care of the rehearsal schedule and the wedding schedule. The coordinator is now given authority to follow the schedule and ensure all others do as well. Now someone needs to officiate the wedding. This has already been planned out by the wedding planner and the wedding officiant is part of the schedule.

 

As a professional and experienced wedding officiant, I have worked for many couples as their officiant. I have also worked with a few different wedding planners and coordinators too. One day while discussing with the wedding coordinator about the wedding ceremony setup (where everyone stands, who goes where, who walks the bride, etc.) I was told "all you have to do is read your little book and don't worry about the rest of it". My first thought was "this idiot has no clue what they are doing" and I seriously thought about walking off the job right then and there.  After gathering my senses, I decided to have a little chat with the bride and groom. I always do this before a wedding any way. As I spoke with them, it was obvious that neither one of them were happy with the coordinator and that many things had already went wrong. So now it was time to speak with the wedding planner (she hired be for the job). The discussion went as expected And I was told to "read your little book" again. The ceremony was terrible. The music started and stopped at the wrong times, a reading from the bride's mother that I was never told about never happened, the groomsmen had no idea where to stand, and the wedding couple were highly upset by the time they even stood in front of me. The bride's father did walk her down the isle, but just walked away before I could even say a word. The bride looked confused and was shedding tears and the groom was a nervous wreck. My thoughts were, "wow, great job coordinator, you have made us all look unprofessional and the wedding couple is very upset"!

 

This is where things should change. It's now time to coordinate everything. And after looking at the coordinator's and the officiant's duties and expectations, it is obvious that they will need to work together from here on in concerning the entire ceremony portion of the wedding. Every wedding ceremony is a little different and the reasons are many, such as time allotment, inside or outside wedding, weather, the couple's needs, the coordinator's needs, the officiant's needs, the venue's needs, the caterer's needs, the musician's, the ushers, Grandma, Uncle Jack, etc. The wedding coordinator and the wedding officiant will have to deal with every aspect of the ceremony in some way, so both of them must be included in the pre-coordination discussions. If you want your wedding to run smooth, pre-coordination meetings are mandatory. The wedding coordinator is responsible for the schedule and as a result they are usually very controlling with the vendors. They normally come across as controlling with the wedding officiant also. But it should not be that way. The coordinator has a lot on their plate and controlling it all is difficult, but the officiant directs the show. It's hard for the coordinator to give up control of "their wedding". Mutual respect is mandatory between the two and it is usually the coordinator that has to back off the controls. They HAVE to understand that the officiant plays a VERY important part in the ceremony. An experienced wedding officiant knows what works and what does not work in ceremonies and can offer a ton of great advise for the couple and the wedding coordinator as well. Coordinators must also understand that the officiant can help them in many ways and that they don't have to work so hard if they would just give up some of that control. The discussion between the wedding officiant and wedding coordinator should take place early on with the wedding planner present. Those three people together must trust each other, and the wedding planner must ensure that the coordinator is told that the wedding officiant directs the ceremony (not them). They coordinate from the back and the officiant directs (the same as an orchestra director) from the front. This is a show by the way and everyone present gets to see it. Oh, and how many weddings has the wedding coordinator officiated anyhow? Concerning knowledge of what works and what does not, an experienced wedding officiant is WAY ahead of any wedding coordinator.

 

If the wedding coordinator and the wedding officiant work together, you will be guaranteed a smooth ceremony. If they do not work together, a disaster can (and most likely) will occur, and everyone will see it.

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