A seasoned officiant shares advice for finding the right person to preside over your big day—and how to stay together long after “I do.”
For some couples, choosing an officiant is as simple as calling the family pastor or rabbi. But for those who hail from out of town or aren’t tied to any particular faith organization, it can be tricky to find someone who brings the right sense of gravitas while still making a ceremony feel personal. So how do you find the right man or woman for the job? Marty Younkin, pictured at left, says the key is finding someone who loves love. “I was a singles pastor for quite a few years, and when I left the church, my wife asked me what I had enjoyed about it,” he remembers. “And I said, ‘Watching people fall in love and get married.’ ” For more than 30 years since then, Younkin and his wife, Carol, have offered music and officiant services to North Texas brides and grooms through their company, LoveNotes. Since the company’s founding in 1990, it has performed more than 16,000 weddings and staffs 21 ordained, licensed, and seminary-trained ministers from all different Christian denominations (though the organization also performs non-religious ceremonies). The reason for their success, Younkin says, is simple: “We love what we do, and I think it shows.” We asked Younkin what couples should look for in an officiant, how to keep their cool on the big day, and his advice for a happily ever after.
What makes a good officiant?
Younkin cites the three E’s—experience, expertise, and education—as the backbone of his business. But above all else, he says, an officiant must be genuine. “We go through the training process to get [our officiants] prepared for any and all situations, but the love and care you have for people must be real,” he says. You also want someone who takes time to get to know you and your significant other. After meeting with each client in person, Younkin tailors his words to the couple—a detail that hasn’t gone unnoticed by planner Whitney Bailey of Engaged Events, who has worked with Younkin on at least 20 weddings. “He customizes each script so it’s not a cookie-cutter ceremony,” she says.
What does he love most about weddings?
“For me, it’s all about relationships,” Younkin says. To him, the couple are not just clients he’ll only interact with a few times; in some cases, he says, they’ve become lifelong friends. “There’s nothing better than to see people fall in love and want to get married,” he adds.
What should couples keep in mind on their big day?
Younkin says maintaining a sense of humor is crucial to enjoying the day. “Every bride wants her wedding to be perfect, but there will always be something that’s not,” he says. Younkin is known for sprinkling in some humor to the day—with the couple’s go-ahead—especially when the unexpected happens mid-ceremony, like a fainting groom or a donkey braying in the background (both of which have happened at weddings Younkin has performed). “Humor can help people relax,” he says.
Any favorite moments?
Younkin has presided over a number of memorable weddings, including the union of actors at the Majestic Theatre, where the bride and groom sang their vows; a ceremony in which the groom ziplined down the aisle; a “Beauty and the Beast”–themed wedding with the couple and attendants in costume; and even a Robin Hood–themed wedding set in a forest. But one of the most sentimental moments came when a groom who had been injured in an accident and was recovering in a wheelchair stood to say his vows and sing his bride a song. “It was just a very sweet moment,” he says.
Advice for a lasting marriage?
In a book that Younkin co-wrote with his wife entitled 101 Ways to Keep the Love Knot Tied, they include this bit of advice: “To keep your love brimming in the marriage cup, whenever you are wrong, admit it. Whenever you are right, shut up.” It’s a humorous way of saying that communication is key, which is one of the key elements Younkin stresses to his couples. “Love is the commitment; marriage is the covenant,” he says. “Life is all about change. It’s an adventure, so enjoy the journey.”