By Azurae Shults

The invites are in the mail, the responses are trickling in, You’ve sent out invitations, hired the best vendors around, tirelessly organized Pinterest boards for every second of the day… what’s left? The ceremony! It’s the reason “we’re gathered here today,” right?

Surprisingly, the ceremony is usually one of the large details that gets put on the back burner while couples furiously plan out every detail of their wedding reception, welcome party, and honeymoon. The ceremony can play out in so many ways. There are church weddings where often times the priest or pastor will help organize the ceremony based on the religious guidelines of the church. In those situations, there are set areas where you can insert personal preferences such as readings and hymns. The church coordinator typically handles the couple’s communication with the church and organizes meetings and the rehearsal.

Other options for your ceremony could include a non-denominational, outdoor setting. This has become increasingly popular, especially in this area. With the many picturesque settings such as the vineyards, live oak trees, the beach, golden hillsides or serene meadows, couples are drawn to the idea of being married in the sunshine. Since some church officials will not perform ceremonies outside of the church, couples are leaning on the help of local officiants or ordained friends and family members to perform their ceremony.

To become ordained a person can go online to sites such as ulc.org (Universal Life Church), register, pay a small fee and become ordained instantly. This is a huge convenience for couples who do not have an affiliation with a church or who have a special person in their life who does a great job speaking in front of crowds. The problem with this scenario is not that the person who became ordained won’t do a great job but that there is now a ceremony to write. This is where a lot of couples get a bit overwhelmed. The ceremony is such a crucial part of the day, it’s the official part before all the fun and it puts a lot of pressure on couples when they choose to pen their own ceremony.

We are fortunate to have several amazing professionals in this area who offer services for couples of all backgrounds and beliefs. Retired pastors, poetic wordsmiths and edgy surfers are some of the many personalities that couples can choose from. The most important part of your day, the “starting line of your marriage,” as Rick Comstock says, should rest in the hands of a seasoned professional. If you have a judge or an attorney or a news anchor relative willing to take on the responsibility of this very special ritual then please do not pass up that opportunity to personalize your commitment. However, if you’re struggling to find the right fit and don’t want to risk stumbling through your ceremony, take my advice and hire a pro! Here are a few local officiants to consider!

• Steve Lieberman, Smiling Vows
• Rick Comstock, A Vow
• Andy Morris Entertainment
• Tom Allen, Something True
• Olive Tree Officiating
• Father Jerry Bellamy
• Paul Howell, Marriage With Meaning
• Marlene Morris