By Patrice Davis
We’ve spoken with a number of industry experts on all things related to weddings: coordinators, florists, chefs, bakers, and more. But one person who sometimes is overlooked is the officiant. This integral figure in your day isn’t just someone to help you repeat your vows. This person walks you through the actual steps of becoming a married couple, from creating your vows to marital counseling and beyond. You will want to entrust your wedding to the right officiant. So, what questions should you ask when seeking the best of the best? We connected with Lori Gersh, a wedding officiant and spiritual minister from the Main Line who recently relocated … to the shore!
Gersh isn’t just a qualified officiant; she also is a co-author of “Good Manners are Contagious.” With her career and book publishing, Gersh has traveled the nation to speak on professional development, child care, and even life coaching, and along with all of that, she managed to integrate her secular career with the spiritual side.
“As an ordained interfaith spiritual minister, my work is concerned with guiding couples to help co-create a wedding ceremony as individual and unique as they are,” Gersh says. “I embrace and respect each and every religious or spiritual tradition, and I believe that at the heart of all is ‘love.’”
How do you create a ceremony, and how much input does a couple have to personalize their day?
Your ceremony is the most important part of your wedding day. It should be a reflection of who you are as a couple, and as your officiant, it is my pleasure to make that happen. Creating your wedding ceremony can and should be the most enjoyable and memorable aspect of your wedding planning as it offers a time for you to reflect and contemplate on each other and your relationship.
If a couple wants to write their own vows, do you have any helpful insight on getting started?
My advice is to “speak what your hearts feel.” Think about what makes you want to spend the rest of your life with that special person, some favorite past memories or what you are most looking forward to – and put some of that into words. Vows can be spiritual, fun, silly, serious – and most important, they should express intent and commitment.
How long of a timeline do you need to meet the couple, plan the ceremony and have everything finalized?
Personally, my calendar gets pretty full six months out, so it’s never too soon to book your wedding officiant! I prefer to work with clients two-three months out to get detailed information, submit a first draft and have my clients review and amend, if necessary.
What have you seen at weddings that you love… and on the other end, what have you seen that you do not like?
I like working with a wedding planner or wedding adviser at a venue. They tend to keep the timing on track and know exactly where everyone needs to be for the processional. I like ushers at weddings so guests are not milling around past the time of the start of the wedding. I like, and advise, clients to be sensitive to guests’ needs – starting on time, being under cover if possible for an outside wedding in the summer, water or champagne given when guests arrive, and most importantly, I love brides that are relaxed on their wedding day because all the vendors are doing their job!
What I dislike: After attending many traditional wedding ceremonies, I began to notice a huge emotional gap between how couples wanted to feel on their wedding day (happy, present, connected) and how they actually felt on their wedding day (stressed, overwhelmed, anxious). My goal became a desire to create and present a ceremony where the ceremony “speaks what your hearts feel.”
What questions should a couple ask an officiant before booking?
1. How long have you been a wedding officiant and how many weddings have you done?
2. Do you have my date available?
3. Can you sign my marriage license and have my license filed?
4. How do you write your ceremonies and would we have input?
5. Do you have a backup minister if you cannot make it on our wedding day?
6. How long will my ceremony be?
7. What will you wear to the wedding ceremony?
8. Will you help with writing our vows?
9. What are your fees?
Are there any ceremony trends that you have noticed gaining popularity recently?
Wedding rings being replaced by tattoos, and clients who really want to personalize their ceremony. While it’s not new, couples want to take the chuppah out of the synagogue and put it into the backyard by the pool or on the beach.
Do you have any advice for newly engaged couples embarking on planning a shore wedding?
Call me! Creating sacred and unique ceremonies is my passion. It is a deep honor to serve as your officiant as you step into a new life together. Your wedding ceremony should be as special and unique as the love you have for each other. I am fully committed to making that a reality.