couple standing with wedding officiant after ceremony

Vendor Spotlight – Wedding Officiant, Leora Willis When planning your wedding, you may ask yourself: how do I find a wedding officiant? To help you out, I’m excited to feature an amazing Wedding Officiant serving the Washington, DC area, Leora Willis of With This Ring I Thee Wedd. Leora and I have had the pleasure […]

How to Find a Wedding Officiant


Vendor Spotlight – Wedding Officiant, Leora Willis

Courtesy of Leora Willis

When planning your wedding, you may ask yourself: how do I find a wedding officiant?

To help you out, I’m excited to feature an amazing Wedding Officiant serving the Washington, DC area, Leora Willis of With This Ring I Thee Wedd.

Leora and I have had the pleasure of working together numerous times, and I just love her style as an officiant. She is also a verifiable expert – having officiated more than 2900 weddings! Many couples are not sure where to start when it comes to choosing someone to officiate their wedding. So today, Leora and I have a Q&A chat to help couples find the perfect wedding officiant!

Let’s start with the basics! What is the role of a wedding officiant, and why should couples prioritize finding a good fit?

Leora: Great question, thanks Michelle. First, it’s a delight to work with you. I like the creativity you bring and offer the couples you photograph.

The wedding officiant ensures that the couple is legally wed. The first thing I ask for and check before the ceremony starts is the marriage license. I verify the license is valid based on the date of issuance and confirm it is issued by the appropriate court. Finally, I take responsibility for mailing it back to the court. 

It’s important that the couple feels comfortable with the person sharing their personal space on their wedding day. The rapport is reflected in the words spoken by the officiant and the couple’s expressions captured by the photographer. It doesn’t take long to determine if the officiant is interested in you as individuals and as a couple.

wedding officiant at elopement ceremony in Old Town Alexandria

How do you personalize your approach for each of your couples?

Leora: Before I send a contract, I engage the couple in a conversation. I want to learn about them…what do they value in their partner, what do they do in their spare time together. If there’s a pet, who is the disciplinarian and who’s the nurturer? Our initial conversation is informal and hopefully relaxed. The goal is twofold, I want to learn about them and hear their vision for their ceremony. At the same time, the couple learns about me as a person.  Then, I use the information gathered from our conversation to draft a ceremony script that reflects their preferences. Together, we work on the script until it resonates with them.

What is your favorite part of the wedding ceremony?

Leora: The initial conversation! We really are connected as a people. If the time is taken, there’s something you have in common with a stranger. Today, I spoke with a couple and learned her parents are New Yorkers as am I, her mother is a para in special education as was my mom and the bride and I both attended the University of Maryland although I graduated before she was born! During that conversation, either we “click” or we don’t. Sometimes, it’s instantaneous. 

wedding officiant at ceremony with couple getting married

How do you coordinate with other wedding day vendors?

Leora: Generally, the event planner will reach out to me a week or two before the wedding. If there’s a timeline, I ask for a copy to review. On the day of the wedding, I arrive about 35 minutes before the announced start time to check in with the other vendors to ensure we are all on the same page.

If there are musicians or a DJ, we discuss cues. If there’s a special element in the ceremony or there is a reader, I like the photographer to know so s/he is aware of the moment if s/he decides to capture it on film. Also, I greet the couple and if there are young children involved, I like to say “hi.” I also determine who has the rings and ask to see them before the ceremony begins. Many, many years ago, I asked for the rings. The groom placed the ring on the bride’s finger with ease. The bride jammed the groom’s ring on his finger. Later, I learned that although the rings were identical in style, the sizes were not. Oops!!

I know we share inclusion and marriage equality as an important value for our businesses. How do you ensure that all couples feel respected and cherished when working with you?

Leora: As a minority, inclusion and marriage equality are important to me. I was fortunate to officiate a same-sex wedding on June 26, 2015. Minutes after the ceremony, we all learned the U.S. Supreme Court had stuck down all state bans on same-sex marriages. What a great moment in my life! It was quite powerful to be with like-minded individuals.

I take an interest in all the couples I’m honored to stand with on their wedding day. I believe couples feel my authenticity and enthusiasm. I’m genuinely thrilled that each of them has found the person who brings out the best in them. 

wedding officiant at winter elopement  at the Carlyle House

What advice do you have for couples looking for their perfect wedding officiant?

Leora: Take your time. Make sure the officiant is interested in you as a person and is flexible. Ask the officiant how many weddings s/he will schedule on your wedding day. You want to know the officiant is invested in you and the outcome of your wedding ceremony rather than checking a box and scurrying to the next wedding. 


If you are working to find a wedding officiant, Leora would love to hear from you! Learn more about her and her services here

Be sure to check out this elopement that I photographed and Leora officiated:
Sweet Elopement at Carlyle House in Old Town, Alexandria

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