Gary Shapiro | Wedding Officiant | Questions

What is the difference between a wedding officiant and a wedding coordinator?

The service a wedding officiant provides is the actual wedding ceremony itself. I write the text of the ceremony (and help you write your own vows if you choose to create original vows), preside over the ceremony and sign your marriage license to make your marriage legal. The wedding coordinator, on the other hand, helps you plan the details of the ceremony including where it will be, choosing flowers and dresses, and designing invitiations.

What does it mean to be a non-denominational officiant?

As a non-denominational officiant, I conduct a non-religious ceremony. I will make no mention of any god or specific religious belief during the service. This does not mean that the service can't be spiritual and intimate in nature.

What is a civil ceremony?

A civil ceremony is a service designed to make a marriage legal but that does not incorporate any Christian, Jewish, or other religious traditions. Couples who choose to have a civil ceremony do so because they do not suscribe to an organized religion, because they come from different religious backgrounds, or because they simply want to have a ceremony that does not fit into the constraints of a religious ceremony (such as wanting to incorporate cultural traditions, to have secular readings, or to play nontraditional music for your processional).

What are the benefits of hiring a non-denominational officiant?

Hiring a non-denominational officiant is a good alternative to using a justice of the peace for a civil ceremony. A civil ceremony does not need to be a bare bones legal service but allows you the freedom to infuse the ceremony with your personalities, your history together as a couple, and your family and friends.

Why are you a wedding officiant?

I began officiating at weddings over 20 years ago. It is still an honor to be part of such an important life event. The most important thing to me is that every couple at whose wedding I officiate has the wedding that they want. I want their wedding day to be as perfect as possible. That is why I meet with the bride and groom at my house, sit down with them and learn their story. In this way I can compose a ceremony that is perfect for them.

How early should we hire an officiant for our ceremony?

You should hire your officiant as early as possible, even up to a year in advance of your ceremony to make sure your chosen date is available. I have done ceremonies on as little as two weeks notice but I do not advise this. The earlier you hire your officiant, the more personalized your ceremony can be.

Can we write our own vows?

Of course, you can write your own vows. In fact, I encourage it. You can say anything you want about your love, your relationship, and your promises to each other. My experience and public speaking skills will be beneficial in helping you to edit your thoughts and clarify what you want to say. This is your wedding and you should always stay focused on having the ceremony that you (not your family or friends) want. Writing your own vows is one of the most significant ways to make your wedding unique.

Do you preside over commitment ceremonies?

I am happy to preside over any lasting union. I can also help lead a vow renewal for couples celebrating their anniversaries or include vows made by the groom or bride to the children of their betrothed when forming a new blended family.

What are the fees for your services?

The cost for my officiant services is $450 plus travel expenses. This includes meeting with the couple, writing the ceremony and editing it until it is exactly what the couple wants, and then performing the ceremony. If you would like me to attend the rehearsal, this can be discussed. Prices are negotiable on a case by case basis.

How far will you travel?

I will travel without charge to any ceremony in Santa Cruz and Watsonville Counties. I often travel further (especially to Monterrey) with my travel expenses being covered. I have traveled as far as Puerto Rico to preside over ceremonies.

Do you have sample ceremonies and readings for us to look at?

Yes, when we initially meet, I will show you ceremonies that I have done before so you can get a feeling for my style and approach.

Can we have a friend or family member say a prayer or read a poem?

Although I do not incorporate any religious ethic to my ceremonies, you are more than welcome to include prayers, blessings, or poems in the ceremony if read by a friend or family member.

Can we work in our cultural traditions?

Incorporating cultural traditions is a beautiful way to begin your journey as a married couple together. I have presided over ceremonies that included Native American, Buddhist, Jewish, Hungarian, and Asian rituals and can help you integrate it into the ceremony and give it the prominence your cultural heritage deserves.

How do you help us make our marriage legal in the State of California?

It is your responsibility to get your marriage license before your wedding ceremony. I am legally ordained by the State of California to perform and solemnize weddings (through the Mother Earth Church of Monterrey). I will sign your marriage license after the ceremony and you then must file the document with the appropriate officials.