Interview with Janis Houston, a wedding officiant in Florida

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Welcome, Janis! Please introduce yourself to our readers.

My name is Janis Houston, and I own a company called 2heartsbecome1 Officiant Services, LLC. I am very proud and honored to help couples create the perfect ceremony for their wedding, and to be the person who gets to pronounce them man and wife as a wedding officiant! I am a former elementary school teacher, which I find really helps me to communicate with all couples and use my creativity and organizational skills to give couples a very positive and engaging experience.

I started my company in the summer of 2016 and have enjoyed every minute of expanding my business and meeting so many wonderful couples. I have spent countless hours making sure my website is user/mobile friendly for clients and finding new and creative ways to get my name out there. I am very excited to watch my business grow and to see where this journey takes me.

How did you become a wedding officiant?

I have always loved weddings and when my four children all got married, I was privileged to help them plan most of theirs. However, when that was all done, I realized how much fun I had and was sad that I would not have a hand in any more weddings. So, while talking to my daughter-in-law, she suggested that I try myself out as a wedding officiant.

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"There has not been one wedding that I have done where I didn’t get choked up at the very end when I say, 'I now pronounce you husband and wife'!

The idea appealed to me and I was able to perform my first official wedding as a wedding officiant in the summer of 2016, and my business was born! The part of my job I enjoy the most is performing the actual ceremony. There has not been one wedding that I have done where I didn’t get choked up at the very end when I say, 'I now pronounce you husband and wife'! I take my job very seriously and feel happy that I am the person responsible for such an incredible moment in two people’s lives.

What are the most common questions that couples ask you?

The most common question couples ask at first is about the wedding officiant cost? I really do not think that couples have any idea how much time and work goes into writing a wedding officiant script that is perfect for them.

I offer unlimited consultations, usually through email or phone, and I also offer couples the opportunity to take part in writing their ceremony. I do this by interviewing them and giving them a questionnaire to fill out about their likes and dislikes, their relationship, and what they would like to see in a ceremony. I then write it and send drafts to the couple for approval. Some couples choose to choose to write their own vows and others don’t. All this and more takes a great deal of time and I am usually working with a couple for at least a few months before the big day. Oftentimes, it is even longer than that. Having said all this, the wedding officiant cost seems to be the biggest question.

Wedding officiants are certainly one of the cheapest parts of a wedding, but the price should not be the deciding factor when choosing one. Most wedding officiants charge around the same amount for their services, depending, of course, on the details of the requests.

What are the typical services and packages offered by wedding officiants?

I really have not seen a wide variety of cost differences in what wedding officiants charge. However, it can deviate in different parts of the country. Also, if a person is a minister and has had counseling training, some offer pre-marital counseling and some even require it, which can impact the cost. Some wedding officiants are also notaries.

Typical services for a wedding officiant include:

  • writing the wedding officiant script,
  • filling out the license after marriage and returning it to the proper county where it is sent to be filed legally,
  • helping couples write their vows,
  • offering ideas about extra add-ins to the ceremony and doing those special ceremonies within it,
  • and, finally, performing the marriage.

Most couples should expect to pay on average anywhere from $200 to $500 depending on whether an Officiant is needed for a rehearsal and wedding. Each Officiant sets their own prices based on what is involved with their time and efforts.

Most couples should expect to pay on average anywhere from $200 to $500 depending on whether an Officiant is needed for a rehearsal and wedding

Are there things that differentiate wedding officiants?

There are many things to consider when hiring a wedding officiant. I think it is important to look for someone who has had some experience. Everyone has to start somewhere, but you may not want that to be YOUR wedding! The couple should have a connection with this person. After all, they have an important role to play in the wedding and if they are personable and willing to listen to what you want, that is key. You know you are talking to a good one by reading reviews, seeing if they are actually interested in you and your wedding as well as answering your questions and concerns in a timely manner.

As far as what brides should ask when looking at different wedding officiants or maybe deciding if they want to ask a friend to perform their wedding; for me, the biggest turn off is someone who is not really interested in you. They treat you like you are a number. That happened to my daughter when we were interviewing wedding officiants. The person actually said to us, “I won’t remember your wedding or you because I do so many”. I can tell you the interview ended right then. Every bride wants to feel that they are important and memorable.

How do couples come up with their vows?

Some couples know exactly what they want to say in their vows and need no help. However, for some people, vows are very hard to write, and for others, they just need a little help. I have many couples who wish to write their own vows but have no idea where to start. So, if they choose to write their own, I ask them if they would like me to send them some vow examples. I encourage couples to use them as guidelines to help write what they want to say. Sometimes couples will just combine the different examples of what I send them to create their vows. Either way, it helps to get their creative juices flowing!

What was the most memorable wedding you officiated?

I know this sounds cheesy, but all my weddings are memorable. I spend so much time with each couple getting to know them, many times before we meet in person, that by the time we do meet we are friends. Most of the weddings I do as a wedding officiant are destination weddings so much of the planning is done online and couples do not arrive in Naples, or wherever their wedding is until a few days before.

But if I had to choose, I would say that one of my most memorable moments was when I was marrying a couple where the bride had an 8-year-old son. The groom was not his father, but you could tell they had an incredibly close bond. The son walked his mom down the aisle and when they got to the altar the child let go of his mom’s arm and took the groom's hand. Then the boy whispered loud enough for only the three of us to hear, “I promise to share my mommy with you for the rest of my life”. I just about lost it and said, well we are done, I can’t top that! The crowd did not hear what was said but knew it was something special and laughed. It was a beautiful moment and not a dry eye between myself or bride and groom. The child held the groom's hand through the entire ceremony and would not let go! They had to do the ring part with one hand! It was very sweet and I am so happy I got to witness such love between them.

"It was a beautiful moment, and not a dry eye between myself or bride and groom"

Was there ever a time you had to improvise?

I have never had to improvise because I am a huge planner and would never want to do that to myself or the couple, so I make sure I am well prepared and have a detailed wedding officiant. However, if something unexpected were to happen, I know I could handle it due to my elementary school teaching background. That prepares you for anything!

Which portion of the process keeps you busy the most, and what takes the most energy?

The process that keeps me the busiest is probably writing the wedding officiant script. I am a perfectionist and want to make it perfect for my clients. It takes me many hours to write the ceremony because I do it from scratch. I have never done a ceremony that is the same. They are all unique and different just like my clients. A typical day of the wedding will also be different.

It depends on the wedding reception venue. It also depends on whether there is a large wedding party or just a few people on the beach at sunset. I have done weddings at people’s homes, at the beach, at a hotel, and at a country club. They are all different. Some are quicker than others. The longest one I have done was 45 minutes and the shortest was about 10-15 minutes. It depends on what the couple wants in their ceremony, and if they have people doing special readings, etc.

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"I have never done a ceremony that is the same. They are all unique and different just like my clients."

If you could ask one thing of the grooms and brides that would make your job at their wedding easier, what would it be?

I have amazing clients and have not had any issues with any of them. I appreciate when they answer my emails or phone calls in a timely manner because that helps me keep to their timeline as well as communicate any changes back to them. So, I would have to say keeping the lines of communication open is key to any great relationship. Brides and Grooms appreciate when wedding vendors reply in a timely fashion because decisions have to be made that often may impact another vendor or something at the wedding. A wedding officiant also appreciates the same as it helps them keep a positive relationship with their clients.

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