Q: Why should we hire you, versus another officiant?
A: You should hire me if you want your wedding to be something more than just a really big, expensive party.
You should hire me if you feel I can best represent for you what is important to you for your wedding and your subsequent life in marriage.
If you view the ceremony as the pinnacle representation of everything you feel about your soon-to-be-spouse, and want someone who will create a ceremony that speaks specifically to you as a couple, deliver the ceremony impeccably, with a heartfelt finesse and demeanor, and have your guests rave about your ceremony for years to come, then you should hire me.
If you feel your wedding ceremony should be one of the most important, beautiful, precious moments of your entire life, then you should hire me.
If you want someone who goes so far above and beyond the extra mile that the extra mile becomes a distant memory, then you should hire me.
If you want an officiant who believes in frequent communication and is easily accessible, then you should hire me.
If you want an officiant who is flexible and always looking to discover what is important to you, then you should hire me.
If you want to have an experience similar to that which my Happy Couples have written about, then you should hire me.
If you view the ceremony as an unfortunate, necessary “gateway to the party,” and you’re only interested in someone who will just show up, read something with very little heart or personality, and be done without much impact made upon the moment, I’m probably not your guy. (Although if you do want something short and sweet but that’s still sentimental, I do that brilliantly!)
Remember – without me, it’s just a party…
Q: What areas do you serve?
A: All of New Jersey, the New York Metropolitan area, southwestern Connecticut and eastern Pennsylvania.
(Note: Pennsylvania is a very unique state in which every not every county will not recognize marriages by ULC ministers, if the validity of the marriage is challenged. On the other hand, however, they will not actively investigate the validity of your officiant. Bucks and Sullivan Counties will accept me as an officiant. As a loophole, many counties do offer self-uniting marriage licenses, in which an officiant is not required. I suggest you check with your county to see if they offer a self-uniting license if you would like me to officiate.)
Q: How much does it cost to hire you?
A: Well, that’s kind of like asking how much a car costs, or how much a house costs. I cannot give a standard quote without knowing the particulars of what you are looking for. There are many options that go into determining my rates, including complexity of your ceremony, the distance and location of the venue, holiday considerations, etc. The bottom line is the more effort I put into the ceremony, the more I charge. I will be able to give you a quote after we have had a chance to discuss your particular needs.
I offer the following package options:
- Intimate Wedding Ceremony Package (includes my “Short and Sweet Ceremony” without alteration, for small weddings with fewer than 20 guests/witnesses present)
- Basic Wedding Ceremony Package (includes an unedited ceremony template of your choosing or mine, plus my time at your wedding and handling all of the marriage license paperwork afterward)
- Deluxe Wedding Ceremony Package (includes the creation of your ceremony from a variety of “Pick-and-Choose” options of ceremony elements, plus free consultation throughout the writing of your ceremony)
- Premium Wedding Ceremony Package (includes the Deluxe Wedding Ceremony Package, plus the addition of your personal love story, plus unlimited consultation on your ceremony, as well as any other aspect of your wedding which I may be of help, right up to the date and time of the ceremony)
- Completely Customized Wedding Ceremony Package (includes unlimited consultation on a completely custom-made ceremony, ie. special themes or unique cultural elements, etc.)
I also offer the following options, which may impact the overall cost:
- Rehearsal (During which I will coordinate the activity between the Processional and Recessional, or the entire ceremony if need be.)
- Meal Blessing (Usually an original non-denominational blessing, or a religious one if you choose.)
- Decorative Marriage Certificate (This has nothing to do with the valid marriage license, which you must still obtain yourself. See below for details.)
- Bound Copy of Your Ceremony (Hard copy of your ceremony printed in an elegant font on textured paper, bound in a hard cover.)
My fees are about an average price for officiants who custom tailor their ceremonies. Some may charge a little less, some a bit more. Keep in mind, the average cost of the total ceremony, including things like location fees, programs and accessories, marriage license costs, wedding rings, etc. should be about 3%-5% of your wedding budget. If my fees do not fit into that 3%-5% of your budget, I can be flexible if need be.
Q: How long are your ceremonies?
A: My answer to this, and most of my questions regarding ceremonies, is that is up to you! My ceremonies are custom-tailored to best reflect your individuality. (See the link for Ceremonies & Services above.) In general, though, they run an average of 15-20 minutes, including the processional and recessional. Some are much shorter, while others are a little longer.
A: Whatever you’d like me to wear! If you want that “ministerial” look, I have a black ministerial robe, a clerical collar (like the kind a priest wears) and I offer a choice of a stoles. Or I can wear a suit, if you prefer a more secular feel. Or if you’re somewhere in between, I can wear a stole without the robe. Or if it’s a theme wedding, I’ll dress according to your theme! (Note: I do own authentic Jedi robes too!)
Q: Do you do destination weddings?
A: Yes, as long as my ministry is accordance with the local laws. Full travel and lodging expenses would need to be covered, in addition to the ceremony & rehearsal rates.
Q: What time do you arrive?
A: Contractually, I make best efforts to arrive 15 minutes before your ceremony begins. In practice, I aim to arrive at least 30-60 minutes before the ceremony begins, just to make sure everything is running smoothly. I allow even extra travel time for longer distances – I have sat through enough accidents and traffic jams on the Garden State Parkway or the New Jersey Turnpike to know how much that extra time is needed! To be honest, the extra time gives me more peace of mind.
A: Absolutely! I have a few samples of same-sex ceremonies that I can share with you upon request. Here’s one sample. (And truth be told, this service can work well for opposite-sex unions too!)
Q: How do I get a marriage license?
A: In New Jersey, you will need to apply for the license with the local registrar where either party lives. If neither party lives in New Jersey, you need to apply in the municipality where the ceremony will take place.
You will need proof of identity, proof of your residency, your social security number, one witness 18 years of age or older to come with you and a $28 application fee. Be prepared to give information (not documentation, just the information) about where you and your parents were born.
The application for the license is valid between 72 hours and six months. Some towns suggest that you apply about two months before the ceremony, since they will issue the license some time within 30 days of your ceremony, as the license itself will only be valid for up to 30 days. There will be four copies, sometimes with carbon paper between them – two white copies, a pink copy and a blue copy.
On the day of the ceremony, I will sign the license, along with two witnesses of your choosing. I will give you the pink copy for your records, retain the blue copy for my records, and mail the two white copies to the local registrar where the ceremony takes place. I usually send the license via Certified Mail so I can track it and see when it arrives.
Afterward, you will need to acquire a Certified Copy of the license from the local registrar where the ceremony takes place in order to change your name on your Driver’s License, Social Security Card, etc. I will give you the contact information for the person with whom you will need to speak about obtaining your Certified Copy.
I usually encourage my clients to call ahead for an appointment with each local registrar, to either apply for the license or to pick up the Certified Copy (if it cannot be mailed to you) just in case there are any issues, but it is usually not necessary.
For more information, please visit http://www.state.nj.us/health/vital/registration-vital/marriage-licenses/
For the entire New Jersey statute on Marriages, please see the 2013 New Jersey Revised Statutes Title 37 – MARRIAGES AND MARRIED PERSONS
For New York marriage licenses, see http://www.health.ny.gov/publications/4210
For Pennsylvania marriage licenses, see http://www.usmarriagelaws.com/search/united_states/pennsylvania/index.shtml
For Connecticut marriage licenses, see http://marriage.about.com/cs/marriagelicenses/p/connecticut.htm
Q: What is your full name and address for the marriage license?
A: Rev. Brian Jude Piatkowski
150 Garfield Ave., Floor 2
Colonia, NJ 07067
Q: Do I need a marriage license?
A: If you would like your union to be recognized by the State, then yes. If, for some reason, you would like me to officiate your union for some other reason – e.g. strictly spiritual/religious reasons, or if your union has already been recognized by the State, I will gladly officiate a ceremony for you. However your union will not be recognized by the State unless you go through the proper process.
A: Sure! And I have a few with whom I have co-officiated previously and would be happy to recommend if need be.
Q: Do you do Renewal Ceremonies?
A: Yep! Here’s a sample.
Q: How about Christening/Baby Naming Ceremonies?
A: You bet! Here’s a sample.
Q: Will you lead a memorial service or funeral?
A: Yes. I would rather not share a sample unless requested, as each memorial service is very particularly crafted to best represent the departed.
Q: What is the process to begin working with you?
A: Generally, once I receive an inquiry, I will ask for the basic details of the wedding – the names of the bride and groom, and the date, time and location of the wedding. Based on that information, I will generate a contract, which I will send to you via e-mail. The contract can be returned to me via regular mail, or scanned and e-mailed, or faxed back to me. I also usually ask for a non-refundable retainer of $200 to secure the date.
Once I receive the signed contract and the deposit, I will send you several sample ceremonies, perhaps a few of my previous ceremonies, along with a large volume of other resources of ceremonies and specific ceremony elements (vows, readings, ring ceremonies, etc.).
Once you have reviewed the materials, I ask that you fill out my Wedding Questionnaire, which will give me a better understanding in more detail what it is you want for your ceremony. Afterward, I prefer to meet with the couple in person, at a local diner or somewhere convenient for all of us, to discuss the ceremony in further detail. I usually begin working on the ceremony at least one month prior to the wedding date.
I ask that the balance of the fee be paid no less than 14 days prior to the wedding date, except for the case of a “last-minute” wedding. Some clients prefer to pay me even a few weeks prior, which is fine as well.
Q: What forms of payment do you accept?
A: I can accept cash, credit cards, electronic payments such as Venmo, Square Cash, Chase QuickPay, PayPal, or cashiers checks, or money orders. You can even pay via my online store. Personal checks will not be accepted for final balances due sent via US mail.
Q. What if I paid in full, and for some reason you are unable to make the wedding?
A: This situation is extremely rare, but we do live in an unpredictable world where emergencies arise. In such case, I have a contingency plan. In most cases, if the onus is on me for not being there, I have a network of at least 20 other officiants in the area whom I can contact to replace me at the last minute. I will also make best efforts for you to approve the officiant when possible so that you can be assured that your ceremony is in trustworthy hands. I will ask that the other officiant will honor whatever rate we have set, and I will forward whatever fees you have paid onto them, as well as a copy of your ceremony which we have put together. Even if I can’t be there, I always ensure that I am creating Another Happy Couple! (Other Force Majeure situations, etc. are covered in my standard contract.)
A: I was ordained on December 7, 2005.
Q: Is it typical to invite the officiant to the reception?
A: That is entirely up to you. When invited, I do not often attend, as I usually have another wedding or some other obligation. But if I can stay, I will. I do love all aspects of weddings, including the joyous celebration at the reception – and I do love to dance!
If I have missed any important questions, please contact me via e-mail or at 917-721-5003.