Tamara and Melissa are women who remind us of why we do what we do. Our highest aim is to serve humans in love who want to capture a moment in time—beautiful, complicated, whatever they need it to be—and let it be truly just for the two of them.
Has finding an officiant been an afterthought when it comes to wedding planning? Are you developing an incredible elopement and find yourself totally lost as to where to begin with the ceremony itself? Or are you a fellow vendor who doesn’t have any officiants you enthusiastically recommend to your clients? I am sharing the common roadblocks my couples face in finding an officiant, the genesis of my work in this area, and a guide to considering your values and criteria to select your perfect match.
From nonprofit program manager to yoga studio manager to wedding and elopement planner, I am lucky enough to do work that I LOVE and that I truly believe makes an impact for the beautiful people of this world. I love wedding and elopement planning because it is work that allows me to flex my creative muscles behind the scenes while allowing my couples to shine. It is the ultimate act of service (which also “happens” to be my love language). One of the planning challenges I hear about often is finding an officiant that fits my couples’ ceremony and lifestyle.
These are the most common concerns that crop up…
“We want to get married but we know nothing about officiants. We want someone who is down to earth and ‘gets us’ without the religious backdrop or required counseling. We want the ceremony to have a nod to tradition without feeling bogged down by it.”
“We are having a hard time finding someone who is LGBTQ friendly, open to using non-traditional pronouns, and excited to create a script that sounds like us. It matters to us that the person we choose has experience working with different kinds of couples and who understands how the ceremony dynamic is affected by those nuances.”
“We’ve talked to a lot of officiants, but they mostly talked about themselves on the phone and didn’t spend a whole lot of time getting to know us. We want someone who is interested in who we are and what this day means to us, our friends, and our family.”
…and these are EXACTLY the kinds of desires I want to hear from my couples. I work with people who are not only interested in throwing a rad party to celebrate their commitment, but who are also equally invested in co-creating a ceremony ritual that kicks off their marriage legacy. You heard me: joining your lives together is an epic decision worthy of ritual and ceremony. Why not treat it as such and find the humans who support you?!
It’s from planning and consulting with my clients that I saw which humans were not yet being served by officiants and how this ultimate act of service could improve. I believe that officiants, much like planners, should lead with empathic listening and curiosity, be more invested in the couple than in themselves, have a clear road map for creating a custom ceremony experience, and elevate the experience of all who are present. My couples are the inspiration that led me to lean into officiating ceremonies; they are the ones who first asked me to officiate for them and who continue to inspire me with how they want to be uniquely self-expressed on the day of their marriage. I delight in taking our existing relationship into a deeper conversation around values and family. I crave the opportunity to understand why and how couples choose to take on a deeper commitment to one another in this world. I enjoy holding open space for people to love freely and be seen and recognized for who they are and how uniquely they love. And I am lit up by work that allows me to integrate you, me, and we together as one on their special day.
So where the heck do we start?!
Whether it is a friend, a family member, or a professional you are considering to officiate your ceremony, here is my criteria for finding the special human to elevate your marriage commitments:
Who are they to you? Because I work with couples who are heartily invested in co-creating marriage celebrations that reflect their souls, their values, and their joy, I get to know my clients on a deep and meaningful level. In the course of planning their celebration, I ask: “Do you have a well-spoken friend or family member that would bring love and joy as your master of ceremony?” If such a human exists, I would rather that someone of great meaning speak their love with the support of my officiant coaching package. If not, like any planner, I also have a list of wonderful officiants that I recommend to my couples if they are truly a fit. I will never make a blanket recommendation or push a preferred vendor if the creative experience does not align with my couples’ values.
What is their values system? Don’t be afraid to ask point-blank. You want a person who is aligned with and understands the way you see the world and how you want to proceed together. If family is a cornerstone of your identity, you want a person who can speak to that same value from their heart-space (rather than from the Google-space). If you want someone who is fluid in the language of gender identity, you want to ask whether or not they have experience performing ceremonies for LGTBQ couples. Before you enter the conversation, take time with your partner to create a list of the top 3-5 values you share and want present in your ceremony ritual.
What does the ceremony creation process look like? Most officiants have a creative process for putting together the content of your ceremony. Be sure to ask what their process is and what you are expected to contribute throughout so that the terms of your relationship are clear, leaving more time and space for creativity and ease. For example, my process looks like this…
Conduct a 45 minute meet-up or video call with the couple to get to know one another on a human level and see if we are a match for one another in the ceremony realm;
Deliver the proposal and finalize the who, what, when, and where of their date, including any travel fees, add-on packages, or other accommodations;
Send my questionnaires for the couple to complete, both of which reflect my values as an officiant and their values as a couple and family;
Produce a first draft script no later than one month prior to their date (unless otherwise specified) to review together in person or via video chat for feedback;
Create a final draft for written approval from the couple no later than two weeks prior to their date; and,
Show up with a managed state and all the soul shine on their special day to share their crafted ritual and articulate their marriage legacy.
How do you move forward together? Chances are you aren’t reading this piece because you’re price shopping officiants (and if you are in that boat, my advice is to pay $50 to ordain your Uncle Steve to do the deed for you). All joking aside, you’re likely reading this post to the very end because you’re a little stuck finding the balance between making sure you have an officiant to make your marriage official AND finding someone who will make your day a true reflection of the two of you. When you find your person, make sure you are empowered to move forward! Ask about how to sign the contract, create a payment plan (if offered), place your deposit, and get started on the pieces you provide throughout the process.
Are you inspired and want to explore working together?
I would love to meet the two of you. I want to hear your values and vision for life together. Select your celebration style, tell me a little bit about you two, and you’ll hear from me in the next 48 hours to schedule our first face-to-face hang. Thanks for taking the time, beautiful humans!
With the rise of platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, there is a wealth of ideas and innovation when it comes to creating a marriage extravaganza. You can search for “all inclusive wedding planners” and find an incredible number of vendors in your area, instantly. We believe that the same opportunity to co-create your marriage ceremony and celebration should exist for the elopers of the world, too. But what is the difference between wedding and elopement vendors? How do finances differ? And what does an all-inclusive elopement entail? We’re here to tell you.
Why do couples choose to elope instead of having a wedding?
Our couples decide to elope for a variety of reasons. Some of our couples are clear and rooted in their financial goals to save money for a house or other investments. Other couples have adventure as a hallmark of their relationship and want to honor their love of the outdoors as part of their commitment. Some couples prefer the intimacy of a private ceremony, whether to avoid a big crowd or to get back to when it was “just them” before kids. And other couples have a diversity of family dynamics that make the wedding planning process challenging, especially when trying to hold space for a variety of ideas and opinions. Whatever your reason for eloping, know that it is the right reason and that we are here to encourage you to listen to your intuition.
Are elopements one-size-fits-all?
While we have a few different packages or buckets that most elopement couples start with, no elopement is the same. First, there is the consideration of location. You are free to venture forth to any location you choose! That often determines which vendors will be a good fit to execute your vision at the destination that strikes your fancy. Second, we add on the layers of “who” and “how many”. Different couples may want any number of people present, from just the two of them to a party of 50 (what we would call an “intimate wedding”). The human(s) you want to share the day with will determine how much support you will need and from which vendors. Third, we take a look at the elements that make the experience pop. What details make your ritual a custom experience? And what does your team of elopement artists look like? A planner can help you navigate and select the team that is equal parts creative, adventurous, and genuine to bring your vision to life.
How much money will I save by eloping?
Such a great question! Everyone has different expectations when it comes to a wedding budget; elopements are no different. If saving as much money as possible is your #1 priority, then an all-inclusive elopement may not be for you. Our mission is to create a custom ceremony and experience that reflects your soul signatures and kicks off the next epic chapter of your love story and legacy. Each of the contributing artists make the effort to connect with you, our couple, and each other to create a custom, seamless experience. An elopement planner start at $1,200 and does not include the expenses for any vendors or artists on the project. All-inclusive packages that include planning, photography, florals, and an officiant start at $3,750. Read on for a breakdown of the beauty that includes.
What do your starting packages entail?
Because every location is different, we create our packages around the size of your elopement guest list. While every elopement is different, we find that the number of people present is correlated with a higher number of vendors and artists co-creating your day. So here is where we start the conversation with our clients to craft a custom experience.
Elopement for Two: This package is perfect for the fun couple looking for a low-key elopement with a few beautiful touches to highlight their celebration together. It includes planning, 4 hours of photography, an officiant, a bouquet/flower crown and boutonniere, and hair and make-up services. The starting price is $3,750.
Elopement for a Few: This package is made for the couple who have close friends and family (up to 15 people) with whom they want to share their first steps into married life. It includes planning, 4 hours of photography, 3 hours of videography, an officiant, a bouquet/flower crown and boutonniere, hair and make-up services, a cake, and stationary. The starting price is $7,500.
Elopement for the Crew: This package is made for the couple who want to invite significant friends and family (up to 60 people) to be a part of their elopement or intimate wedding celebration. It includes planning, 4 hours of photography and a second shooter, 3 hours of videography and a second shooter, an officiant, a bouquet/flower crown and boutonniere, hair and make-up services and bridal trial, a cake, and stationary. The starting price is $11,500.
We care deeply about the quality of your experience. All of our elopement services include unlimited email communication, all-in-one customized vendor booking, location and activity recommendations, design board, rental coordination, day-of timeline, and vendor coordination and communication. That means that, as a planner, we offer the same depth of services as we would any wedding client so that your experience is smooth and structured from start to finish. We also have a la carte items and services so that we can create the perfect fit for your ritual.
How do I find the elopement fit for me?
While elopements are becoming more popular among modern couples, the wedding industry has not yet responded in mass. There are very few elopement-specific planners as compared to wedding planners, and trust us, that specialization makes all the difference. We recommend finding an elopement planner whose message matches your values and vision. It is far more challenging to find a planner that will execute the experience you crave than it is to find a location-based planner. Most elopement planners LOVE to travel and are fantastic at researching new locations. If you feel connected with them, it will be worth the travel expense (and then some!) to work with them. If you are looking for an all-inclusive elopement experience, look no further! You already found us. We are one of the first and few to provide this kind of service in the world and we would LOVE to celebrate your love together.
What happens when you get a bunch of creatives together who want to spice up a rainy Seattle season? You get a Friday afternoon spent bonding in a hotel room over coffee and champagne and a whirlwind evening spent stalking architectural beauty in your own backyard.
When we cooked up the original vision for this shoot, we imagined a moody sunset over Seattle’s Discovery Park framed by tall grass and gnarled trees. I put together a mood board full of warm tones and bright pops of floral pizzazz from Angelene at Villanelle Floral Company to offset the soft, subdued hues of the sky and sea. And then the day came to shoot and the rain came with it. What’s a group of girls to do?!
#MakeItWERK! (Tim Gunn forever). We email pow-wowed early in the day and decided the game was afoot! Ashley from Beginning and End Photography and Tara from Tara Nichole Photo were instantly on the hunt for places to seek rainfall coverage. After deep internet diving and location stalking, we came up with Chophouse Row, a space we mutually admired through Instagram research and located thanks to Tara’s expert sleuthing. Holly (Holly Tipp Makeup) linked up with us at the hotel to create the beauty vision for Jenna Johnson (@peanut_butter_jenny), who is triple-threat preschool teacher, model, and amazing human. Together, we sorted through accessories, sipped champagne, and watched Friends before setting off to our photo destination.
For those who are unfamiliar, Chophouse Row is a historic auto row building in Capitol Hill with lofts on top. The main pedestrian alley and courtyard host local businesses focused on morning-into-evening food, beverage, and retail options to residents and visitors. After navigating our way through traffic and up hills, we arrived to city dwellers starting their happy hours in bar windows; gentlemen getting their hair styled under the bridge of our portraits; and a few Friday heroes grabbing an end-of-work-week ice cream cone.
Our Runaway With Me Elopements squad found new angles, light, and opportunities to be inspired around every corner during this portrait session. The wildcard of an unexpected location was an absolute blessing; we were able to drop into creative flow together, adapting to our senses, refreshingly open to what the architecture of our space offered. This shoot may have not gone to plan, and in its defiance, reminded us of the blessing of embracing the unexpected.