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As a wedding minister or wedding officiant in the greater Chicago area, I want to help you in starting to plan your wedding, and in getting the most out of this web site. Many couples getting married have asked me, “Where should we begin?” Here are some general guidelines and advice that should help you.

Right after you get engaged, you need to coordinate several things all at the same time. You need to get several choices from each category below, and then pick the single best date and time that satisfies everyone.

  1. Picking dates and times that are acceptable to all the important people who must be at your wedding ceremony. This can include parents, bridesmaids, groomsmen, children, and others
  2. Picking dates and times that your wedding officiant is available to perform your wedding ceremony.
  3. Picking dates and times that your location for the wedding ceremony is available.

You can “plot” it as a time line, with 3 rows stacked on top of each other. Put an “X” in each of the date/time slots that is acceptable to each party. For example:

People/DatesMay 3June 2July 7August 4September 3October 6
1. Family & Bridal PartyXX  XX 
2. Wedding Officiant XXXXXX
3. Ceremony LocationX  XXX 
4. Reception Site (if different from ceremony) XX XX 

The “X’s” all have to line up, like “tic-tack-toe”, in order for you to have the wedding ceremony take place. As you can see in the above example, only September 3rd is good for everybody. If you have other requirements for your wedding, you can simply add another row below the others. Prioritize them, with the most important consideration as the top row, etc. Obviously you must coordinate the times as well as the dates.

“Get It In Writing”

Almost every reputable vendor in the wedding “industry” uses a contract for their services: banquet halls and reception sites, photographers, DJ’s, limousine services, etc. If you don’t have a contract with them, you have no recourse if they don’t provide exactly the services you thought you were paying for. Make sure you also get a commitment in writing from the person who will perform your wedding. Unfortunately, that includes churches, too. “Trust me” isn’t good enough. I always use an “agreement” with each couple, specifying place, date and time.

The Importance of a “Wedding Script”

I don’t know any Bride who would go to a wedding dress shop, give them a check, tell them to “pick out a nice dress” for her, and deliver it on her wedding day at a certain place and time. And I don’t know any Groom who would go to a jeweler, give them a check, tell them to “pick out a couple of nice rings” for them, and deliver them on the wedding day. However, that is what 99% of the couples who get married do in one crucial aspect of their wedding: they tell the wedding officiant to in effect “say something nice” at their wedding ceremony. They have very little “warning” in advance as to what will actually be said at their ceremony, other than maybe the vows and ring exchange.

I have heard quite a few stories about things that have been said at weddings by other wedding officiants that the couple did not want said. Maybe you’ve heard some odd things yourself at a friend’s wedding. Your wedding ceremony should say all the right things, the way you want them said, and nothing else. The only way to ensure this is to have the officiant provide you a written transcript of the planned ceremony in advance of your wedding. (You may consider writing up the ceremony yourself, but it’s a lot of work, and not easy to do!)

I have performed over 1,400 weddings in more than 200 locations, and no two weddings have been exactly the same. That is because after meeting with each couple, I write up a completely customized and personalized wedding “script” just for them. And they have the whole script in their hands in advance of their wedding, so they can make any changes they wish. Yours can and should be a “perfect” wedding ceremony, which says the things you want in a beautiful and meaningful way.

Getting the Most out of This Wedding Planning Advice

In using this web site, I recommend that you visit each page and link. Be sure to read the “FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions” page. You will also like the photographs and testimonials (“thank-you” notes). Feel free to send me any suggestions by email. This site is the result of the input of many couples like yourselves who wanted help in planning a “perfect” wedding day. I hope yours will be “perfect” too. Please call me or send me an email so we can meet to discuss your wedding. There is no cost for our first meeting.

As Featured on The Knot

Chicago Wedding Minister Officiant:

Click here to ask about Rev. Harris’ availability to perform your wedding, or to send him a message.