What to do when you’re left at the altar…by your officiant

It happened again yesterday. A bride called to tell me that her officiant had backed out of her wedding the day before the wedding. When the bride asked for a refund, the officiant blocked her. By the time she called me, she had been unsuccessful in finding a replacement officiant. She was frantic. Fortunately, I was able to reschedule a personal appointment and officiate her ceremony this morning.

While the scenario above may seem extreme, it does happen…and more often than you may realize. I have received numerous calls from brides, grooms, and family members whose officiant had canceled the day of the wedding. I’ve even had a few who were left at the altar by their officiant without warning.

In most situations, when an officiant backs out of an event, there is a legitimate reason. For instance, I once officiated a ceremony for a minister who had cancer and could not attend for medical reasons. I’ve also officiated numerous ceremonies when officiants had other last-minute emergencies.

If this happens, what are your options? How do you find a replacement officiant a week before, a day before, or even the day of your wedding? Firstly, don’t panic. There are resources that can prevent your wedding day from becoming a wedding disaster.

The best defense is a good offense. When you hire your officiant, make sure the contract has a clause that offers a backup officiant in case of an emergency. I have a backup officiant, so that gives me and my couples peace of mind if something unexpected keeps me from officiating the day of the ceremony.

Many officiants are connected with a network of other officiants. For instance, I’m involved in a number of officiant and wedding groups with officiants from all over the United States and Canada. If I cannot officiate an event as a backup, it’s likely I can find someone who can. Your officiant may be able to reach out to his or her network and connect you with another officiant.

However, what do you do when you’re in a bind? How do you find an officiant at the last minute? Here are a few suggestions for finding an officiant at the last minute.

  1. Call your local courthouse. Many courthouses keep a list of officiants that are available in the area. If you have the luxury of time, they can point you in the right direction.
  2. Contact local wedding venues, photographers, or DJs. Officiants work with a variety of vendors. Reach out to wedding vendors and ask for recommendations.
  3. Google is your friend. A simple Google search of “wedding officiants near me” will generate a list of possibilities. You may also use the following keywords with your city and state: wedding officiant, wedding minister, and wedding vendors.
  4. Reach out to local Facebook groups. There are numerous Facebook groups that allow people to connect with each other and make recommendations. This is always a good avenue to take when you need to find a replacement officiant quickly.
  5. Search wedding vendor websites. There are a variety of websites dedicated to matching couples with professional officiants. Here are three that I recommend. Click on the links to be redirected: The Officiant Directory, Wedding Wire, and The Knot.

Most couples experience good relationships with their officiants and don’t have to worry about an officiant who cancels or outright bails on them. However, if you find yourself looking for a last-minute wedding minister, you have options available that will save the day.

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