Wedding Officiant and License Coordinator in Northeast Florida

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Dr. Spencer L. Gaines is a wedding officiant and writer eager to turn your wedding ceremony into the perfect love story instead of ordinary wedding vows. Dr. Gaines offers assistance with every aspect of your wedding, not just the ceremony.
You can contact FloridaCountyClerk.com directly at (954) 822-0359 or Info@FloridaCountyClerk.com

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Being an officiant has become a passion and I am blessed to be each couple as they celebrate one of the most critical events of their lives.

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Greetings my name is Dr Spencer L. Gaines. I am a writer, Life Coach, and wedding officiant that services the Northeast Florida – Southern Georgia region of the United States. For over thirty-five years I have been involved with the wedding industry, first from the event planning and catering arena and for the past twelve years have focused on being a wedding officiant. In addition, three ago, I was approved by the state of Florida as what is referred to as a marriage License coordinator. This area of the wedding industry finds me charged with procuring marriage licenses for couples who are unable to obtain their license in person. I enjoy officiating marriage ceremonies because it is a happy business. You may find it interesting to know, is that it was my other life and career skills such as being a professional writer that opened the door for me to officiate weddings. As a writer, I have created a niche market in that I tell the couple’s love story within their exclusively written ceremony script. On average, I perform as many as twenty-five ceremonies per month and unlike my peers in the north, my officiant practice is active all year, however; in this market, our busiest times of the year are late February through the end of May and September through the beginning of the new year. Being an officiant has become a passion and I am blessed to be each couple as they celebrate one of the most critical events of their lives. I strive for delivering the highest level of client service and experience and the fruits of my labor have resulted in the huge following and number of recommendations from previous clients I enjoy. The result my efforts have been the ongoing recognition of my peers and most importantly former clients that have resulted in numerous awards and an A rating from the Better Business Bureau. I did not get into this end of the wedding industry for the money but rather because the level of happiness it brings me making other people happy continues to drive my passion to serve.

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About six years ago I had an epiphany that I could take my writing ability in a new direction and one that resulted in creating a unique niche in the wedding industry of telling the couple’s love story during the wedding ceremony and it has been quite successful.

How did you become a wedding officiant? What do you like the most about your job?

The path that led me to become a wedding officiant was one that began as a professional writer, motivational speaker, educator, and entertainer. When I left teaching to focus on my writing career I removed a critical and enjoyable aspect of my career, that is the enjoyment I experienced empowering both young people and adult learners. I spent many years alone writing for my clients and although this path fulfilled my commitment to being a life-long learner it was often void of human contact. About six years ago I had an epiphany that I could take my writing ability in a new direction and one that resulted in creating a unique niche in the wedding industry of telling the couple’s love story during the wedding ceremony and it has been quite successful. Within just a short period, the void was filled and the level of joy I now experience is driven by the opportunity to be back in front of people, entertaining the audience, and delivering words that are exclusive to the couple. I also enjoy meeting and getting to know the couple and building a relationship that in many instances has lasted well after the wedding day.

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In the end, it about being prepared in order to ensure that nothing – and mean nothing hinders or destroys this special moment for the couple.

How does one officiate a wedding ceremony?

This is a good question and to be honest, every officiant delivers the ceremony differently. Some are religious based, spiritual based, entertainment based, or a combination of each. It is also important to note, that it is as much about the process both pre and post as it is about the actual delivery of the words. The professional officiant is almost like a cruise director. He or she must understand the process of the stages that the ceremony unfolds, the professional officiant must be prepared for the unexpected which in Florida can range from rain to windy conditions when it is a beach ceremony or, the bride or groom getting cold feet. Being prepared is where a great reputation emanates from. For example, I always ask the couple to give me the music that will be played before, during, and after the ceremony because there has been more than one occasion where the DJ was late or he or she had equipment failure and because I was mindful enough to have the music on my phone and travel with a Bluetooth speaker the moment was not lost because of such issues. I also carry a good camera and for the couples who could not afford a photographer I give the pictures taken to the couple and there have been instances where the photographer’s equipment failed but I had at least some pictures to give to the couple. In the end, it about being prepared in order to ensure that nothing – and mean nothing hinders or destroys this special moment for the couple.

What are the most common questions that couples ask you at the first introductory appointment?

At the forefront, the couple wants to know how I delivery the ceremony. The introductory meeting is critical and it is sad to say, that many people conduct wedding ceremonies do not meet with their couples or simply rely on a questionnaire when in fact, there is so much accomplished meeting with the couple in person when possible or even on video conference.

I have found that in terms of parameters:

  • The couples want a ceremony that is heartfelt, spiritual rather than religious, with some funny or cute moments.
  • Couples want to see reviews, recommendations, and want to leave the first meeting knowing that they have hired the right person for their special moment.
  • They also want to know that they can reach out to me at any time they have any questions. To be honest, I have been known to baby (spoil) my clients in that from the first meeting until the wedding I pay close to any concerns the couple has, their vision, and expectation and seek to help them through the marriage process even when the need focuses on a non-ceremony element.

What are some things you can do for inexpensive weddings?

The best suggestion I can offer is to check the postings on Pinterest for an inexpensive ceremony and reception ideas. One of the first ceremonies I performed was for a young couple who truly had nothing. I offered some ideas, however; on the day of the wedding, I arrived to find the front lawn of their home decorated (although) simple) in a way that moved me. I have officiated many ceremonies, many costing thousands of dollars but I promise there was more love among the plastic flowers and a white plastic sheet draped over a limb to represent an arbor at this couple’s wedding than at many of the higher end ceremonies I have conducted. I would also recommend that the couple goes to places like Faith Farm to look for staging aspects such as vases, silk flowers, and other aspects. One must also not lose sight of something as simple as typing into Google “Inexpensive Wedding Ideas” or the like, and the couple should see what contributions family and friends can make such as cooking for the wedding, DJing, taking photos, props, the cake and so forth. Finally, Youtube.com is a great resource and there are thousands of wedding videos that can provide great ideas.

  • Postings on Pinterest
  • Places like Faith Farm
  • Google
  • Family contributions
  • Youtube.com

Where can a couple find sample wedding vows?

There are two primary placing to get sample wedding vows:

  • The first is from the officiant who has been hired to conduct the ceremony.
  • However, the internet has thousands of examples of both wedding ceremonies and vows.

How much is the typical officiant cost?

In terms of cost, most officiants fall into three categories:

  • Cheap (very basic – void of originality)
  • Middle of the road (Delivers some level of service and caring)
  • And then the group that I fall into, that being the premium officiant that drowns the clients in service, involvement, and presentation.

Being in Florida, I have the opportunity of having as many weekday ceremonies as I do primetime ceremonies (Friday-Sunday).

In terms of cost, my services (Monday – Thursday) for an indoor ceremony are $150.00 and a beach or outdoor ceremony is $225.00. In contrast, weekends are a bit more with an indoor ceremony costing $225.00 and an outdoor ceremony $295.00. It is also important to mention that most officiants charge extra for conducting the rehearsal (approx. $75.00) and a travel fee if the event is over 30 miles from his or her starting point (.55/mile).

What was the most memorable wedding you officiated?

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I have been fortunate to have married many couples over the years and as I have stated, my niche is in telling the couple’s love story but this niche often comes with even a deeper story one that is as critical as how they met and romantic and/or funny things that occurred during the course of their relationship.

I have been fortunate to have married many couples over the years and as I have stated, my niche is in telling the couple’s love story but this niche often comes with even a deeper story one that is as critical as how they met and romantic and/or funny things that occurred during the course of their relationship. The first story is about a young couple who met and fell in love, however; the story of the bride was much deeper. When the woman was young, her father was tragically killed in a car accident, a few later her mother contracted HIV through a blood transfusion. It was decided that she would be sent to live with relatives but the reality of the offer was that the family members wanted the money promised by the mother to care for her daughter. During the time that she stayed with the family member, she was not treated well and as soon as the future bride was 17, she moved out, got her own apartment, job, and all while completing high school. This was not the deep part of the story what was, was that within just a few months of her meeting her future husband, the young man began to communicate over the phone with his future bride’s mother. He called his future mother-in-law every day. What he could do for her such as sending money or simply being a person she could talk to he was there. Sadly, the bride’s mother died before the two would ever meet. The underscored that the bride was marrying a loving and compassionate person and once I heard this story would move me to ensure that the groom good deeds would be at the forefront of this very special wedding ceremony. The couple has remained together and this past year was blessed with a beautiful baby boy.

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The inherent nature of being a wedding officiant is one that finds improvisation an aspect of being in this type of work.

Was there ever a time you had to improvise?

The inherent nature of being a wedding officiant is one that finds improvisation an aspect of being in this type of work. One story that comes to mind was a small beach wedding for a middle-aged couple. The two were driving in from another state and had waited a long time to have their moment in the sun. So as Murphy’s law would have it rained and I’m not talking are daily half-hour shower but buckets that were not letting up. Although disappointed (bride was in tears), I got a hold of the hotel manager where the couple was staying and once he heard the story offered at no charge, one of the meetings rooms. As Left the office, I noticed a huge picture of the beach hanging in the lobby and was able to persuade the manager to allow me to borrow it and it was hung on the wall in front of where the ceremony was taking place. I then asked the photographer to make sure that every picture of the ceremony would be shot in a way that the top, bottom, or side of the picture could not be seen. The result was a set of pictures that almost looked as though the ceremony occurred on the beach. We made the best of a bad situation 😊

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The one thing I would ask the couple for would be to make sure that the groom is holding the marriage license.

If you could ask one thing of the grooms and brides that would make your job at their wedding easier, what would it be?

The one thing I would ask the couple for would be to make sure that the groom is holding the marriage license. It was a lesson learned when about two years ago, I conducted a wedding at an outdoor venue. Once again, being Florida it poured and by the time the skies cleared the bride was quite upset. Unfortunately, in this instance, she had the license in the bride’s suite and after the wedding, which at this point I fours in the making, I had to then sit through the one-hour post-wedding photo shoot, not one but five first dances, and other related traditions. By the time the couple took their seats we were many hours into the day. At that point, I made my way over to the bride to ask for the license so I could sign it. She “Oh my” and apologized for me having to wait but once she was up, she did not head to the bridal suite but rather the buffet line – it would another hour before the license was handed to me, it was signed, and I was able to leave.

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