Choosing the right minister may be more important than you think.
After the Bride and Groom, the Minister plays the next most important role, albeit it only for a short period.
There are 4 important parts to a marriage:
- The Ceremony itself (Spiritual)
- The registration of the Marriage at Home affairs (Legal)
- Signing an Ante Nuptial Contract (Legal)
- Updating your wills (Legal)
Choosing the correct minister can be tricky.
If you are already a member of a congregation, your best option is to get your own Minister to marry you.
This will probably be the most cost effective method as your minister is probably also a Marriage Officer and can register the marriage at home affairs.
Your own Minister also probably knows you and can thus make the ceremony more personal.
The drawback to this would be that the Minister is guided by the church and will most probably deliver a more religious service which may not fully fit you or your guests personal needs.
If you are “Believers” but not necessarily “Church-going” or are from different Christian denominations, you can approach any minister to perform your ceremony.
Although an Inter-Denominational or Non-Denominational Minister may best fit your needs here.
He or She would be more flexible in terms of Religious tempo and content.
If you are not religious at all or are from differing faiths altogether but still require a Ceremony for your family or friends, a Universalist Minister would probably suit your needs best.
Universalists believe that all religions lead to the same God and are thus able to combine different religions into one ceremony.
Most Universalist Ministers would include Pagan, Wiccan and even Atheistic/Agnostic theme’s in their wedding ceremonies when required.
Same-Sex marriages need to be handled in a very forthright manner.
While it is legal in South Africa many Ministers may have personal and/or religious issues with this.
Just be upfront and ask directly. If you detect an issue, find another minister.
Also remember that not all Marriage Officers can register same-sex marriages. It is a newer law and requires a different register.
It is imperative that you should meet with the minister early on in your planning.
Either meet at your or the Minister’s home or at a convenient coffee shop.
Discuss the level of religion you require.
Discuss the level of tradition you require.
Discuss the content.
Discuss the length of the service (I believe 20 minutes is perfect, 30 minutes acceptable, an hour or more will bore you and your guests).
Ask to read some thank you notes, they will give great insight into the type of service the Minister will deliver and what it will be like to work with him.
If you have a Bible reading or poem that you would like read out, discuss that too.
Ask him what his beliefs are. How he feels about marriage. Possibly a little about his life and marriage.
Insist on a dry run a day or two before the service – at the venue. The venue will usually accommodate this.
Ask if you can see a copy of the service before the ceremony and if your input would be accepted.
Remember it is YOUR day. Not an opportunity for the Minister to preach to 100 fresh faces.
Ideally you should feel an emotional or Spiritual connection with the minister.
If not, shop around until you do.
The ceremony will set the tone for the whole day. You really do want your guests to compliment you on the service.
Marriage Counselling or a Relationship Course is always a good idea.
Your Minister is usually able to assist with this.
Just remember that there are two basis for these courses, a Biblical Base and a Human Behavior base, be careful to choose the one that best suits who you both are.
Do this well before your wedding date as you will get progressively more stressed as the big day draws near.
You have some options here.
- If the Minister is also a Marriage Officer then he will register your marriage at Home Affairs.
I suggest that you get 90% of the admin done before the wedding day (Photo’s, fingerprints, copies of ID documents) and the final signatures on the day
You will then need to find a lawyer to prepare an Ante Nuptial Contract and possibly assist you to update your Wills.
- If the Minister is not a registered Marriage Officer:
- You can get married in court a day or two before the wedding itself (this is inexpensive but a logistical nightmare. It is also very cold and impersonal)
- You can get married before a Marriage Officer at their offices a day or two before the wedding itself (this has the benefit of being quick, easy and out of the way. It saves time on the wedding day after the service when you are wanting to get photo’s taken and start the festivities. This is the most popular option)
- You can have a Marriage Officer attend the ceremony and complete the paper work then.
- A combination of (b) and (c) above
Note: It is possible to find a Marriage Officer who is also a lawyer who can thus prepare the Ante Nuptial Contract, register the marriage and update your wills.
Costs for the Minister:
Every minister is different and will charge differently.
Charges can vary from R750 to R3500.
Please be aware that you do generally get what you pay for and also that a minister could put up to 10 hours of work, travel, dry run and actual time on the day into your wedding.
Initial meeting, dry run and wedding day travel could amount to 200 km (at R3/km that’s R600 in costs!!!)
I usually find that the cost of the minister and registration is only 1% of the total cost of a wedding.
My advice is not to cut costs here.
Rev. Stephen van Basten is a specialist Universalist – Non/Inter Denominational Minister who performs weddings and funerals on a full time basis.
He offers a personal development course for couples based on Human Behavior in Love Relationships called The Relationship Experience.
His contact details are: