FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What are your fees?
Since each wedding is different, I prefer to discuss your wedding ceremony needs before providing a quote. Please contact me for pricing information.

How much advance notice do you need?
This issue really comes down to availability.  If I'm available, I'll perform your wedding the same day you call, so I really don't need too much notice.  However, my availability changes very frequently as I book new weddings.  Many couples hire me a year in advance, while others do it only a week before the wedding.  Friday evenings and Saturdays fill up pretty fast.  Sundays are moderate.  The only way to guarantee that I'll be available on your wedding day is to book my services as soon as you make up your mind.

How do I reserve your services?
To check my availability or to schedule an appointment, you may call me at 408-547-7342 or submit a completed questionaire.  After the appointment, if you choose to book my services, I will reserve your date with a $100 deposit after we sign a contract.

How long is our first meeting with you?
The first meeting is usually about an hour and a half.  During this meeting, we will get to know each other and we will discuss the entire ceremony, from the processional, through the ceremony, to the processional. You will have a very clear idea of the wording and everything that will occur during the ceremony.


Photo courtesy of
Tinywater Photography


I am currently out of state or too far to meet with you before the wedding.
If we cannot meet in person, we can do a telephone conference.  We will discuss all aspects of the ceremony and I will provide some visual samples over the internet.


How long is the ceremony?

Since the entire ceremony is created by you and I together at our first appointment, the length really depends on your preference.  Most ceremonies are between 20 to 30 minutes long.  Anything less than 10 minutes will leave your guests wondering if they missed something, while anything longer than 45 minutes might be too taxing on your guests.  However, the decision ultimately lies with you and the choices that you make.  Keep in mind that a ceremony done entirely in English and Spanish will be twice as long, so a ceremony that would normally take 20 minutes will now take 40 minutes.

May I write my own vows?
You may write any part of the ceremony, including your wedding vows.  I offer assistance in writing your vows.  You may review the guide on my website on How to Write Your Own Vows or I will help you brainstorm for ideas and guide you over the phone.  If you prefer to use prewritten vows, you may select them from my catalog, or you may also provide your own if you find vows that you like from a different source.

Do you require premarital counseling?
I do not offer counseling and, consequently, do not require premarital counseling. However, I highly recommend it. If you are interested in receiving premarital counseling, please refer to the Premarital Counseling section of my website for information about Sheela Hirao.


Photo courtesy of
Casanova Photography



What's the difference between a marriage license and a marriage certificate?
The marriage license is obtained from the county clerk and must be obtained before your wedding.  Having a marriage license does not mean that your are married.  It is a license to get married.  The marriage certificate is obtained after the wedding from the county registrar (usually the same office as the county clerk).  The marriage certificate is the legal proof of your married status.

Where do I obtain the marriage license?
The marriage license is available at the county clerk's office.  Click here to find the County Recorder for your county.

Do we need witnesses at the wedding?  Who can we pick as witnesses?  Do they need to go with us when we pick up the marriage license?
Whoa!  Hold on!  Let's tackle this one question at a time.  First of all, only the bride and groom need to be present at the County Clerk's office when picking up the marriage license.  The witnesses do not need to be present.  Second, there are two types of marriage licenses:  public and confidential.  If you purchase a confidential marriage license, no witnesses are needed. Only the bride, groom, and the officiant need to be present.  If you purchase a public license, you must select at least one, but no more than two people to sign the license as witnesses of your marriage ceremony.  Just about any of your guests can sign as witnesses, even children.  There is no age requirement.  As long as the witness can sign his or her own name and is old enough to understand what he or she is signing, anyone can sign as your witness.

What happens in case of an emergency and you cannot perform the ceremony?
I fully realize the time and money invested into planning your wedding.  I have never missed a wedding and like any wedding professional, it would take something very serious to keep me away.  I can promise the world, but realistically, I must plan for the worst because the unexpected can happen at any moment. Let's assume, for example, that I lose my voice right before the ceremony.  Even with the best intentions, it will not do to have me stand in front of you and all your guests mouthing words than no one can hear.  What's my back-up plan?

I have several ministers who work for me and are very experienced and professional who do not perform weddings on a full-time basis.  If for some reason I am unable to officiate your ceremony, one of them will be able to step in at a moment's notice and take my place.

Should we have a rehearsal?
The answer is yes.  You should have a rehearsal.  The real question is whether you should hire me to direct the rehearsal.  The reason for a rehearsal is to inform your bridesmaids, groomsmen, and anyone else participating in the ceremony of what is expected of them. Some couples have been to many weddings and are so familiar with the wedding ceremony that they feel confident enough to conduct the rehearsal themselves.  In those cases, it makes sense to save the expense of hiring me for the rehearsal. However, in many cases, it helps to have me there, especially if you will have a large bridal court.  What I want to stress is that even if you do not hire me for the rehearsal, you should still have one on your own.  Even if the only other person participating is the father of the bride "giving the bride to the groom," someone should go over that part with him.

Will you stay for the reception?
Although I appreciate the invitation, I normally will not stay for the reception or the rehearsal dinner.  All the rules of wedding etiquette state that you are supposed to invite the officiant.  However, let's analyze this for a minute.  What makes an officiant so important to merit an invitation, but the baker of the wedding cake or the bride's hair and make-up person, who also work very hard, deemed not worthy?  The reason for this is tradition.  Traditionally, the wedding officiant was a religious leader such as a priest or rabbi who had known the couple for many years.  In such a case, it would obviously be considered poor etiquette not to invite the officiant.  However, if you are reading this, you probably have not met me yet and at most, will only see me twice before the big day.  Inviting me makes as little sense as it does to invite the wedding cake baker.

What is a wedding officiant?
A wedding officiant is a general term used to describe someone who performs a wedding.  Other common terms used to describe officiants are wedding minister, wedding pastor, rabi, justice of the peace and wedding celebrant.  Although these terms do not mean the same thing, they are all wedding officiants.  I've also seen officiants described as wedding officials and wedding officiates, but these are just misspellings.

What is a nondenominational wedding ceremony?
A nondenominational ceremony is a wedding ceremony that is spiritual in nature, but does not follow the specific format of any religion.  In a nondenominational wedding, God may be mentioned, you may have some prayers and maybe even religious readings.  The amount of spirituality is left up to you.  This is a popular choice for couples who wish to include God in their wedding, but they come from different religious backgrounds or they have many guests with different religious beliefs and the couple doesn't wish to offend anyone.

Where do you perform your weddings?
Although I am based in San Jose, California, I am willing to travel to other areas. Most of weddings I officiate are in the San Francisco Bay Area or the Monterey Bay Area. This includes Silicon Valley, South Bay, East Bay, North Bay, Peninsula, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey.

This includes the following counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Joaquin, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and Stanislaus.

I will travel to the following cities and surrounding communities: Alameda, Albany, American Canyon, Antioch, Aromas, Atherton, Belmont, Ben Lomond, Benicia, Berkeley, Bolinas, Brentwood, Brisbane, Burlingame, Calistoga, Campbell, Capitola, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Ceres, Clayton, Cloverdale, Colma, Concord, Corte Madera, Cotati, Cupertino, Daly City, Danville, Del Rey Oaks, Dillon Beach, Dixon, Dublin, East Palo Alto, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Escalon , Fairfax, Fairfield, Felton, Foster City, Fremont, Gilroy, Gonzales, Greenfield, Half Moon Bay, Hayward, Healdsburg, Hercules, Hillsborough, Hollister, Hughson, Inverness, Inverness Park, Kentfield, King City, Lafayette, Lagunits-Forest Knolls, Larkspur, Lathrop, Livermore, Lodi, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Manteca, Marina, Marshall, Martinez, Menlo Park, Mill Valley, Millbrae, Milpitas, Modesto, Monte Sereno, Monterey, Moraga, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Muir Beach, Napa, Newark, Newman, Nicasio, Novato, Oakdale, Oakland, Oakley, Olema, Orinda, Pacific Grove, Pacifica, Paicines, Palo Alto, Patterson, Petaluma, Pidemont, Pinole, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, Pleasanton, Point Reyes Station, Portola Valley, Redwood City, Richmond, Ridgemark, Rio Vista, Ripon, Riverbank, Rohnert Park, Ross, Salinas, San Anselmo, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Francisco, San Geronimo, San Jose, San Juan Bautista, San Leandro, San Mateo, San Pablo, San Rafael, San Ramon, Sand City, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Saratoga, Sausalito, Scotts Valley, Seaside, Sebastopol, Soledad, Sonoma, Soquel, South San Francisco, St. Helena, Stinson Beach, Stockton, Suisun City, Sunnyvale, Tiburon, Tomales, Tracy, Tres Pinos, Turlock, Union City, Vacaville, Vallejo, Walnut Creek, Waterford, Watsonville, Windsor, Woodacre, Woodside, and Yountville.