Step by Step Logistics
This is the process for setting up your wedding ceremony with Jim Burch, the step-by-step logistics.
If you are interested in meeting with me to see if I might be right for you, the first step is this: first give me a call and let's chat (no obligation at all) – 703-818-8080. Or email me through the Contact page (calling is faster). You DO want to make sure that whomever you get to officiate your wedding feels like a good match for you.
Please note: Most of my weddings take place in Virginia, Washington, DC or Maryland. But I have gone all over the United States and other parts of the world to officiate, so feel free to ask about that if you wish. Because many people seem to want the same date, to ensure you get who you want (the pick of the litter) for your wedding date and time, book early, whomever you select!
If the phone conversation with me is satisfactory, you should then set a time for us to meet. If we cannot meet in person for one reason or another, we can meet by Skype or by Face Time (Apple) ... or by phone if you are far away and not enamored of technology. When you do set a time for us to meet in one of these ways, I “pencil” you into my calendar, so that your day is reserved.
At this meeting, which lasts about an hour or so, we get acquainted. We talk about things such as how you met and how you feel about each other, about the place of love in the world today, the importance of job and family, some of the overlooked but marvelous workings of marriage in our lives, etc. I will give you a workbook, from which you select the components of your wedding, and we will go over it, so you see how it works. This workbook is designed with an array of choices, so that you can go through and pick the selections you like, and discard the selections you do not like. When you are done, you will be able to say to each other, "Now this sounds like us!" What I have done is to create a process that allows you to come up with the wedding of your choice, without my having to write a new ceremony from scratch each time ... which would not result in as confident an outcome. You have time to go over the options, and then you send your selections back to me by fax, scan or mail (see below).
Unless you have specifically said to me at your first meeting that you want me to officiate at your ceremony, you will not be securely "booked" until you confirm that you do want me. I like couples to go back home and take the time to read the ceremony over and to be certain that it fits them. So ... if you want certainty that you have me for your wedding, be sure to call back within a week after your first meeting and confirm. After you have confirmed and I have then "penned" you into my calendar, I ask that you send a non-refundable deposit which tells me you mean it (!), and I can then turn away other couples for your date.
4 to 6 Weeks Before The Wedding
Mail, fax, or email me your selections for the wedding ceremony. I then put together your own unique ceremony on paper, checking to ensure that the ceremony flows smoothly throughout. After the ceremony itself, I will give you that same copy of the ceremony used at your wedding, as a keepsake. I will also create an electronic "draft" program, which I will email you. You can use this as it is, make any changes you want (it is in a Word format), toss it and use nothing, or use something completely different.
You should remember to select family or friends to do the readings. Far better that your friends do this than your officiant (he or she will have enough speaking parts). However, try to get people who are at least moderately good at public reading; readers who mumble and cannot be understood detract from your wedding ceremony. You need at least one reading; most couples have two; and three are fine if you keep them short. Four or more readings and your guests will drop like flies.
Sometime before your wedding, after you have gotten your marriage license, call me and set your second appointment of about 30 minutes, to take place within a week or so prior to the wedding. You will then leave the license with me (if you have it; if not, be sure to bring it to the wedding!), and I will fill it out after the ceremony. I will also be responsible for mailing the signed version back to the court for recordation, if that is the practice in your state. Some jurisdictions have an official certificate that becomes your official certificate when I sign it. I would give this to you at the ceremony, if that is the custom in your jurisdiction, and mail the court its copy.
At this meeting we will all go over the logistics of your ceremony. The ceremony directions will be self-evident, but I will go over them with you at that time. The purpose of going over the ceremony is so that you will see if it is what you want, can make any changes, and have a level of comfort. You will not have to remember any of the cues, because at the ceremony itself, I will quietly tell you what to do next and when to move, where to stand, etc. No one will hear these prompts to you, and you will appear to your guests to have practiced for a week! Most couples also prefer to pay their final amount at this second meeting, because it would otherwise be a distraction on your wedding day (and also because most couples forget their checkbooks on their wedding day, or get to busy doing all the things that weddings are there for).
Most officiants do not attend rehearsals simply because they are not needed. I am one of them. At a rehearsal, if you have one (many do not), you only practice where you come from, how you get there, and where you stand when you do get there. You do NOT practice the ceremony itself. And why would you? You will not remember each step of a 20-30 minute ceremony anyway. However, you actually have very few cues, I know them all, and I will very discreetly whisper them to you. You ONLY job for your ceremony is to get up there and then just float through and ENJOY it. It will be perfect!
Day of The Wedding
Unless other arrangements are made, I will arrive at the wedding site approximately a half hour before the ceremony, so that I can run through highlights of what to do with the couple beforehand, either together or separately. I will also meet with your readers, wedding party, photographer, musicians and any others who need last minute reminders of the few cues they each will have. If you did not leave the license with me earlier, be sure to bring it with you to the wedding. I usually do attend the cocktail hour after the wedding (if you have one and if it is at the same location as the ceremony) so that I can talk with your guests a bit, but usually not the meal that follows, and never unless specifically asked.
My usual fee/donation, like most in the DC area, is $500. On Saturday afternoons, April through October, I ask a higher amount, because I get a great many requests to officiate, and Saturday afternoons/ evenings from about 3 pm onward are by far the most popular requested times.
On the other hand, a wedding ceremony where just the couple comes to my home (A couple of guests are okay too.) when I am available is $195. If I have to go somewhere nearby to meet just the couple at a non-busy time, the fee is $295 on weekdays and $325 on weekends or holidays. So please check with me on your individual circumstances.
I am sometimes asked to go out of the area to celebrate a wedding (e.g., Miami, Gatlinburg, Bermuda, Cape Cod are a few examples of out-of-area weddings I have conducted). Since this kind of travel usually takes two to three days and limits my usual number of weekend weddings, it carries a higher fee and travel costs. if interested, please call me.
I have years of scholastic studies and training, and am a bona fide minister/priest. Many officiants you may find on line got their "ordination" on line by simply paying a fee. You could ask where they went to the seminary, as all "real" ministers or priests go to a seminary. As a general rule, you might be careful about how deeply and thoughtfully people who "buy" their ordination on line may be able to express all the important elements that go toward giving YOUR ceremony the beauty, the depth and the results you want. Almost anybody can read out of a book. I suspect that you want you and your guests to come away from your ceremony with a feeling that they just went to the best wedding they had ever been to.