Frequently Asked Wedding Questions

Raleigh Wedding Officiant Gwen Downs

What is a Celebrant?   


Celebrants are trained to officiate personalized ceremonies. If your ceremony is important to you, a Celebrant has the skill and takes the time to understand your beliefs and values and officiate the ceremony with clarity and meaning. A Celebrant also considers all the needs of the family and guests, and most of all, makes sure that your ceremony is a true reflection of who you are, and what it all means to you. Gwen studied at the Celebrant USA Foundation - the international leader in this field. She is certified and an active member of the Foundation.


Can Gwen perform same-gender weddings?   


Yes! Love is love and it's Gwen's privilege to officiate your wedding regardless of who you love. The process is the same for all her weddings. She will work with you to be inclusive and welcoming to all your guests. She is particularly mindful of any areas that might be of a sensitive nature.  


How does the process work?   


After you meet with Gwen for a no-obligation consultation, either by a virtual meeting, phone or in person, and you book her by signing a contract and paying her fee, she will start the process of really getting to know you as a couple. She will learn what is important to you, how you met, and what you want your guests to walk away with after your ceremony. She does this by interviewing you and with a well thought out questionnaire that you both complete as your assignment. She does her best to make the experience fun for you. 


From what Gwen learns, she will create a first draft of your love story and the ritual elements you desire to be included in your ceremony. She has an arsenal of resources to suggest based on your cultural, spiritual, ethnic and life interests. She also spends time researching options for you to consider. The tone of the ceremony is reflected as well. 


Whether you are looking for a light, high-spirited, serious, or all-of-the-above feeling ceremony, you and your guests will be caught up in the mood you want to create. No two ceremonies are the same. Yours is yours alone. You then have full editorial rights. Sometimes Gwen gets it right the first time. Often, she will go back and forth with you until it feels right for your ceremony.     


Gwen will coordinate with your other wedding vendors to help assure that your ceremony goes smoothly and that you enjoy your day. Throughout the process, you have unlimited access to her through emails and phone calls.  


Can we write our own vows?     


Absolutely! Your words from your heart are more than welcomed. If writing scares you and you are interested in trying, Gwen is there to guide you. She has many resources to inspire you. If you don’t want to write your own, she will write vows for you. 


How can we personalize our ceremony?


This is your ceremony and almost anything goes! You can choose your own readings, vows, rituals, music and wedding choreography. You can incorporate traditions and customs from your ethnic or religious heritages, as well as borrow and re-invent traditions that you find meaningful. You can include your guests, your family and even your beloved pet if the venue allows.     


How long is the ceremony?     


A meaningful ceremony that you co-create with Gwen can be as short as 5-10 minutes or as long as 20-25 minutes or even longer depending on the rituals and special elements included. Most venues allow for 30-minute ceremonies. It’s not about the length, it’s about the substance and thought that goes into the ceremony. 


How far in advance should we book Gwen?     


It is best to book six months to a year in advance to assure that your date and time are available. If Gwen has an opening, and there is some flexibility, weddings can be scheduled with short notice. Just ask, she will do her best to be available.   


Should we have a rehearsal prior to the day of the ceremony?     


This is totally optional. If there are multiple rituals, readings and participants involved, it is beneficial to do a walk through prior to the day of. If this is not practical or not needed, Gwen can do an informal rehearsal with the bridal party, minus the bride, if you like, just prior to the guests arriving.    


How do we get our marriage license?   


Getting married in North Carolina is relatively simple. You can obtain a marriage license from the Register of Deeds office in any county. This license is good immediately upon issuance and can be used to get married in ANY county in North Carolina within 60 days. To obtain the license you must: complete the application, appear in person, provide proof of Social Security number and identity, pay the $60 fee in cash and meet the age requirements. Then all you must do is agree to marry each other in front of an ordained minister and two witnesses and have that minister pronounce you married.  


How far will Gwen travel?     


Gwen loves to travel and she believes that all weddings are actually “destination weddings” since it is your destination for your wedding. There may be additional fees for travel beyond her home location. Generally, any location that is within 50 miles from her home is included in her fees. She is based in Holly Springs, North Carolina and serves the surrounding area, including Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Apex, Clayton, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Wake Forest, Lillington, Angier, Morrisville, Rolesville, Wendell, Knightdale, and beyond. 


Is there a contract that we must sign?


Yes. After you meet with Gwen and you decide to book her for your wedding, she will have a simple contract that protects both you and her and spells out the agreement between you. When this is signed and her fee is received, your date is secured and your real planning officially begins.