So you live 300 miles away from the Outer Banks and you have to somehow choose an officiant who you can trust. Someone who will take good care of you in one of the biggest moments in your life. “Wow, where do I start? What do I ask?” Of course, you’ve already done some online recon with websites and reviews, but there is still nothing like actually talking with a potential wedding officiant in person, or at least on the phone. Here are 5 questions (among others you will think of) that you should ask in order to put yourself in a good position to make a smart choice.

Question #1: “What is your background?”

Don’t just assume this has been their life career or something they’ve been doing for 10 years. With the advent of online certifications, pretty much anyone can become a wedding officiant and slap a website up for all to see. Finding out more about their journey to where they are now on the Outer Banks will help you know quite a bit. You’ll find out about their professional training and career experiences. Another thing to tie into this question would be “What else do you do for a living on the Outer Banks?” Do you want someone who has 4 jobs, or someone who places all their focus on one thing – Creating beautiful beach weddings!

Photo Credit: Lori Douglas Photography

Question #2: “How would you personalize our ceremony?”

Over the thousands of couples I have talked with, I’ve never heard one say, “We just want you to read a ceremony script where our names are plugged in.” No surprise, right? But that’s exactly what a lot of officiants do, so definitely ask how they would make your wedding fit you from start to finish. You’ll find out what their plan is to get to know your likes, dislikes, choices, story, etc. You don’t want an officiant who doesn’t have history with you to pretend like they do, but there are very professional ways to make the ceremony scream personality and reflect YOU. Make this a huge priority and you’ll be so happy you did. So will all your guests.

Photo Credit: Basnight Photography

Question #3: “What packages do you offer?”

This is just another way of saying, “How much are your fees?”, but you’ll get more information on this officiant by asking about packages. Do they offer ceremony designs that include chairs and arches, etc. You’ll find out if they offer discounts or promotions, or make it appealing to those who serve in the military. It’s important to know what is included in each package, as well as what is not (for example, a rehearsal!). If the officiant you are talking with tries to avoid the question of fees, it very likely is a sign to look somewhere else. The officiant should be proud of his/her services and not apologetic or embarrassed about their fee structure. You want the best!

Photo Credit: Coleman Shots Photography

Question #4: “What makes you unique from other Outer Banks officiants?”

This could be the most revealing question of all 5. It will tell you a lot of how the officiant sees himself/herself in the roll of performing a wedding ceremony. In many ways, the personality of the officiant is going to impact the feel and texture of your ceremony. There is just no getting around that. If the officiant is stiff and unsure, your wedding will be stiff and unsure. If the officiant is unprofessional, your ceremony will be the same. But if your officiant is authentic, fun, and totally committed to a ceremony that fits you, your wedding is going to be a homerun. Yes, it’s good to watch some videos of officiants in action, but definitely ask this question.

Photo Credit: Matt Lusk Photography

Question $5: “What is the last minute plan in case of an emergency!”

I’m so surprised that I don’t get asked this question more often. What would happen if your officiant is too sick, or gets in a car wreck, or is just unable to attend because they had a family emergency? I’ve been very fortunate in the last 15 years to have never had this come up, but it’s always a possiblity, and your officiant should have a “plan” just in case. In my case, I have 3 or 4 officiant friends who I know I could call the day before (or even the day of) if an emergency where to happen. I would then have all my prep work for the ceremony sent to them, as well as the payment that particular couple had given me. I’m not sure what other officiants would do, but you should explore this topic whith whoever you choose. The chances are very slim, but why not ask. Peace of mind is good!

Photo Credit: Neil GT Photography

Outer Banks Beach Weddings

It was a very warm June afternoon on the Corolla beaches of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Not super hot, just a nice touch of summer. Chelsea, Ethan, and their one year old son Lincoln, had made the trip from Pennsylvania to get married with their toes in the sand. Destination weddings can be so fun and really don’t have to be stressful once you find a vendor or two that you can trust. They originally booked to be married at 7:00 pm, but later changed the time to 2:30 pm, which actually turned out great.


Outer Banks Wedding Magazine Couple


A large percentage of couples do a ‘first look’ these days, and so Chelsea and Ethan took their wedding party out on the beach for some pre-ceremony photos to expedite the time after so they could all enjoy the reception. Katie (Katiedid Photography), a local wedding photographer and long time friend of mine, was the one capturing memories that day, and I had an idea. Chelsea and Ethan were very fun and laid back, so I asked them if it would be ok to stage a photo or two during the pre-ceremony pics. They readily said yes, and Katie was game, too, and the outcome was awesome!


rev. jay bowman obx wedding officiant


It’s hard to come up with magazine ads that really speak to what you want to provide for couples as a wedding officiant. But this one hit the mark for me, and I couldn’t thank Chelsea, Ethan, and Katie enough. It’s fun! It’s active! It’s authentic! It ended up being the full page ad on the very first page of this year’s 2018 Outer Banks Weddings magazine. Yes!!!!!


Corolla Beach Wedding


Well, the 30 or so family and friends gathered on the beach at 2:30, and Chelsea was escorted across the sand to meet up with her best friend, Ethan. The wedding was very special and totally them from start to finish. Smiles everywhere. Even people down the beach were clapping and smiling as the couple made their first walk down the aisle as husband and wife. The OBX Package turned out to be all they needed, and I will forever be honored to have been their officiant. #lovemyjob


Rev Jay Selfie

My close friend (nuthead), Rich Coleman, started this thing a couple years ago called #revjayselfie. I barely knew what those hashtag things were back then, but we’ve had fun with it and now it’s going to be BIG. Like National (well, maybe to the border of Virginia). I’m looking forward to getting a ton of #revjayselfie shots this weekend at the Outer Banks Wedding Expo, and bringing some fun props for icing on the proverbial cake.



Come by my booth (#11 in the Cafeteria) and let’s get a selfie together. Your name will go in a hat for a drawing. There will be a $50 Starbucks Gift Card Winner each day.

Rev Jay Selfie ContestCheck out all the #revjayselfie posts on Facebook and Instagram. My Facebook link is and my Instagram is revjaybowman.

Looking forward to an amazing year. Keep it real. Keep it fun!

Wedding Expo

So you’re getting married and in the excitement you plan to attend a Wedding Show. Great idea, right? Well, yes, as long as you take a little time to prepare and make the most of the experience. I can’t tell you how many brides I’ve witnessed over the many years who walk the aisle’s of a wedding expo with the proverbial ‘deer in the headlights’ look. I mean, it really can be overwhelming! So don’t let that happen to you. Take to heart the following 4 keys to making your wedding show experience a Big Win, and keep it fun and productive at the same time.

Key #1: Do Your Homework Recon

Going in blind to a show with hundreds of wedding vendors is like trying to drink from a fire hyndrant. Where do you start? How do I find my way through rows and rows of vendors wanting my attention? Here are some suggestions:

  • Study the Expo/Show map before you attend the event. Get a good feel of how it’s laid out and know the important details.
  • Make a list of the vendors you are especially interested in and circle their booth number on the Expo/Show map.
  • Check out key vendor’s websites and reviews ‘before’ you attend the event. This will help you narrow down your list, and also help you know what questions to ask.

Outer Banks Wedding Expo

Key #2: Use Your Team to Build Your Team

Getting married at a destination other than your home town can be daunting, especially when it comes to ‘Who can I trust’. I always tell brides, “The very first vendor I will hire when my daughter gets married someday is a Wedding Planner.” No doubt! A good wedding planner will make everyone’s life better, and you’ll enjoy the journey. Once you find a vendor (like a wedding planner, photographer, officiant, or whatever) that you genuinely feel you can trust and has your best interest in mind, lean on that team member to help you find the rest of your needed team. Caring vendors like Amanda Buchanan (Simple Day) and Taylor & Samantha (Coastyle Weddings) will never guide you toward a team that they would not want for their best friend. I’m just picking on those two planners, but there are other great ones on the Outer Banks as well. If you’re choosing to not hire a Planner, you can still lean on photographers like Rich Coleman (Coleman Shots) and Neil & Lisa (Neil GT Photography), or hair stylists like Esther & Forest (Salty Hair Salon) and Alicia (Lovie’s Salon and Spa). Some are even like a onestop shop for ceremony designs, like the one that Tony, Mary, & I own together called “I Do OBX Chairs”. These are all top notch professionals who will help you find a great wedding Team that fits you.

Key #3: Keep Time on Your Side

There are very few things in life that are done well in a rush. Having a great Expo/Show experience is not one of them. Ha! So don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just bop into the event for a quick hour and be done. Give yourself all the time you can in order to meet, talk, eat, drink, watch, and have fun. If the event is from 9:00 – 2:00, get there when the doors open if at all possible. The vendors are fresh, the food hasn’t run out, and time will be on your side. Give yourself time to stand and observe how vendors interact with people. Have time to purposefully introduce yourself to other brides attending and find out what treasures they’ve found. In other words, take time to smell the roses (there will be plenty of those present).

OBX Wedding Expo Vendors

Key #4: Well, Isn’t That Special

Ok, so this one is simple, but can sometimes get past people because it is ‘time sensitive’. Lots of vendors will be offering ‘Special’ rates and offers during the event. Key words….’during’. If you like what you see, take advantage of it. Just think, if you save $25 here, and 20% over there, and another 10% over here, pretty soon you’ve saved hundreds of dollars off the budget (so you can buy more wine!). Most likely there will be give-away drawings you can enter, so go for it. Don’t hire a vendor just because they have a ‘special’, but let this event element work for you if possible. Oh, and by the way, it never hurts to ask if they are offering a ‘special’ for the event, or because you are in the military, etc. Heck, they may make up a ‘special’ on the fly.

The Outer Banks is one of the most popular wedding destinations in the United States for good reasons. I’m so proud and honored to be a part of the scene here, and I’m hoping your Wedding Show experiences will be fun and productive, no matter if you attend one of ours here on the barrier islands, or somewhere in D.C., New York, or Pittsburgh. Make it a Win!

Outer Banks Wedding Expo Officiant


A Pop-Up What? I had never heard of it, and that’s hard to believe since I live, eat, and breath the wedding world every day. My good friend, Wedding Planner, Amanda Buchanan, brought the Pop-Up Wedding to me and I said “Huh?”. Come to find out, Amanda is the front-running go-to Planner for this kind of wedding in the Outer Banks area, so I was in good hands to be educated. You will find her insight helpful, too, even if this style of wedding is not your own.

For the Bridechilla or Groomchilla (ya know, the bride and groom who are totally “Keep Calm and Get Married”), the following motto is all too appealing….”Screw the stress, have a pop-up wedding!”

I’ve known that there are a lot of couples who feel that way, and the traditional route seems so stressful and laborious, but Amanda brought to light there is a very real option for those couples. An option that has been brewing in Australia and has recently made it’s way to America. The pop-up wedding is perfect for the couple who are not interested in the traditional planning route, but also don’t want to get married in a sterile magistrate’s office. That middle ground option is where the Pop-Up thrives.

So what is it? Very simply stated, it’s a wedding where a couple hire’s someone like Amanda at Simple Day to plan and pull off the whole event without having to make even one decision. I know, you’re saying “No Way!”. But listen, for lots of couples it makes sense. They don’t want to plan a wedding, they just want to celebrate! So they hire a Pop-Up Wedding specialist like Amanda, who gets to know the couple (their likes, dislikes, personalities, etc.) and then takes care of EVERY decision from there on. I mean everything: florals, colors, venue, music, cake, drinks, and on and on. There are no weekends full of potential vendor meetings to choose from. No late nights deciding on shades of blues for the table settings. No stressful weeks putting together playlists. The Pop-Up Planner takes care of every detail for a flat fee, and the couple just shows up to the party. Wow, maybe I need to make a place for Pop-Ups in my Packages.

These weddings are typically small, usually 25 guests or fewer, but can be as large as 50. The concept is very intriguing to me because I know there are tons of couples this would fit. Not just the meliinials, but older couples who have already been there and done that, and now just want to come and celebrate. Again, it’s not for everyone, but I’ll bet we are going to see this hybrid grow in the years to come. Like Amanda says, the benefits of a Pop-Up are “Save Money. Avoid Stress. Be Awesome.”

If you want to know more about Pop-Up Weddings, contact Amanda via email at, or on FaceBook at I’ve know Amanda for many years and very impressed with her planning knowledge, but even more so by her passion for taking care of couples. She and I have our first Outer Banks Pop-Up wedding planned for 2018 and I can’t wait to see it first hand.

Photo Credits:
photo on beach with birds: Natalie Heim Photography
photo of couple on the stairs: Chris Bickford Photography

Missouri is a long way from the Outer Banks, but that’s exactly where Ashlee’s parents loaded the truck with chairs, food, and decorations for the long journey. It would be one of the biggest days in their family’s life. Destination: Kill Devil Hills. Maybe an appropriately named town to be married in for two Marine soldiers. It was a wedding I will never forget.

It’s unlikely I’ll ever perform another wedding for two marine soldiers while standing in the middle of the two most wonderful flags in the whole world. But there we were, celebrating an amazing moment next to the Atlantic ocean with powerful rain clouds on all sides of us. It was Awesome!

Ashlee and Shane met over in Okinawa, Japan, while serving our nation. They actually met on the very first day Ashlee arrived on base there in Japan. After their first get-together/date at a local Subway, Shane says they were inseparable.

Somehow I was the lucky guy who got to stand with them on July 4th and guide them through their vows of marriage. It was a nice intimate wedding with about 20 guests, and some very happy and proud tears. I especially hit it off great with Ashlee’s parents and her uncles. They welcomed me into this huge life moment as if I were truly family.

Ashlee and Shane had a big celebration back home a week or two after their beach wedding for all the family and friends that couldn’t be at the wedding. I love this shot of them holding a special OBX blanket that someone made for them. How cool?!

I have a very special place in my heart for those who have served in the military. My one big regret in life is that I didn’t inlist as a Marine. So to stand with two who did, and love them through their wedding day was Very special to me. Oorah!

*** All photos were taken by Ashlee’s Uncle Brian: “On Scene Photography” ***

They knew right from the start! That’s exactly what Marley and Chad told me. They knew from the very beginning that ‘This Was It’. I love hearing stories like that. We all have a romantic side to us that wants to believe in that magical destiny that draws us to our soulmate.

So, of course, Marley and Chad decided to have a destination wedding on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was a very warm summer afternoon when I arrived in Duck to meet up with them and their families. Chad was so cool about wanting to make everything just right and special for Marley. After some last minute details, we all made our way down to the beach, got in place, and there on the dune appeared Marley with her bouquet in one hand and her father in the other. She’s just a natural beauty and the whole beach stopped what they were doing to watch her make her way down to where Chad and I were standing with their kids.

The ceremony was going really well with a good mix of honor and laughter. One of the elements of the ceremony was the following note they wrote:

“Our relationship has been unconventional from the start. We both had kids already and our dates included the three of them. But something just felt right. From Day 1 we started making plans to be a family together. We truly have become a family. I love how safe and taken care of he makes me feel everyday. We both had some pretty rough roads until we met each other and just vowed to always laugh and love no matter what. We will continue to do that as husband and wife!”

They shared their vows, exchanged some beautiful rings, and then enjoyed the Sand Ceremony along with their children. It’s one of the most meaningful ways to include kids in a wedding ceremony, and what a wonderful keepsake from the big day.

Well, here’s where we get to the part of this story that caused me to want to blog it. No one knew! Not one person! I pronounced them “Husband and Wife” and then they kissed like I have seen so many times. As they are kissing, I’m getting ready to make the transition to the Presentation, and just as I am…wait….what….are you kidding!!! As soon as they kissed, they stared at each other for a split second and then bolted for the ocean; and I mean BOLTED!

We were all in awe as Marley and Chad took the plunge, literally, into the Atlantic ocean. Needless to say there was no recessional in the ceremony that day. Everyone was laughing and snapping pics with their cell phones. I just remember being stunned, thinking, “They really did it!” Everyone has their own style, but my hat is off to Marley and Chad. They will forever laugh and smile when they think about The Plunge they took on their wedding day. Amazing!!!

Photo Credits to Artz Photography

Last week I performed a wedding up in the 4×4 area north of Corolla. The only road up there is the sand on the beach! It’s very beautiful and famous for the horses that roam free up there on the beach. The wedding was about to start and a Sheriff rolls up just behind the ceremony arch, calling me over to find out how long the ceremony will be. I told him about 20 minutes and he was ok with that, concerned about the upcoming tide. I walked back to my spot next to the groom under the arch who immediately said loud enough for everyone to hear, “Are they going to arrest me?”

The wedding went great with a lot of laughter, smiles, and happy tears. It was almost over with just one more element to do; The Sand Ceremony. The Bride and Groom took sand from the beach where they stood, and poured that sand representing their individual lives into the main glass vessel they had brought. All those grains of sand mixed and became one. They literally become inseparable once poured, just like the couple who had just moments before vowed everything to each other. So that’s exactly what happened with this bride and groom, and then it got even better from there. They had all five of their children come up, and one at a time, each poured colored sand into the main vessel. The first one poured blue. The next one poured orange. The next one poured green, and so forth. After they had all poured, it was very beautiful, and made an amazing pattern.

I held it up for all to see, eloquently going on and on about what an impressive keepsake it was and how it would have a special place in their home and help them tell the story about their amazing wedding day on the beach. As I’m finishing the statement about how gorgeous it was …. the vessel broke into a hundred pieces.

Oh no!

The colored sand was now painting the beach floor where I stood. If there had been a crab hole big enough, I think I would have crawled in it. I hadn’t done anything wrong, but it was still in my hands when it exploded. Dumbfounded, I looked up at the bride and groom with big puppy dog eyes that were screaming “I’m so sorry!” The very awkward moment was saved when the gracious groom turned to the photographer and said “Did you get a picture of it before?” Everyone laughed and we finished strong with them kissing and a nice hug-fest at the back of the aisle. Come to find out, the weight of all that sand was too much for the vessel that was made from very thin glass. In well over a thousand times performing the sand ceremony, I’ve never seen anything like that happen before. The newlyweds were very
kind about the whole thing, but I still felt like a dog.

To all the future couples out there that will be planning to have the sand ceremony element as part of your wedding, here’s the moral of the story: “Choose a strong vessel that will out-live your wedding day.

That was one for the books.

Sand Happens.

“Let’s see, what time do we want to have our wedding on the beach?” There are many factors that go into making this decision, and many of those factors land on personal preferences, but here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing a ‘time’ for an Outer Banks Wedding.

Time of Year

There are pros and cons of every time of year, but I’ve found living here over the last 14 years that the most beautiful and comfortable months are May, June, September, and October. No surprise then that the biggest wedding months of the year are those four. We have many nice days throughout the winter, and my fist wedding this year is on March 11th. If you choose something like March or April, you’ll want to have a plan B in case the weather is a little too cold with the northeast wind. Some of the beauties of March, April, October, and November, are that beach house rentals are much cheaper, and there are less people.

Time of Day

I get asked this one all the time. What time of day is the very best for a beach wedding? Well, some of it depends on what time of year you chose. If you have a July or August wedding, don’t kill your guests out in the intense summer sun at 1:00pm. Not only will your guests be uncomfortable, but the sand gets so hot that no one (including you) can go barefoot. On the other hand, having a 1:00pm ceremony in April is a great idea because it’s probably going to be the most comfortable time of the day. I’ve seen guests at an evening April wedding freezing while they wait on the processional to start. Sunrise can be a beautiful experience for a beach wedding on the Atlantic, but keep in mind how early your guests will have to get up. All in all, probably the most prime time I’ve seen for weddings during the regular season is 4pm or 6pm.

Time for Travel

Much of the time, travel is not a big deal here because destination weddings tend to be on the smaller size with family & friends staying together. But many weddings require that guest arrive on a weekend, and the highway coming across the bridge can turn into a parking lot, not to mention Highway 12 which flows up through Duck to Corolla. Be sure to tell your guests about this so they won’t be steamed by the time they reach your wedding.


Time for Photography

Once you have decided on a specific date, it’s often times a good idea to speak with you photographer before choosing a time certain for the ceremony. Some photographers are very particular about their preferences for their craft. Most of the Outer Banks professional wedding photographers I know can make it happen know matter what time you choose, but I think they all love those last two hours of the day the most. Lots of couples tell me they want a sunset wedding, but be sure that you have enough light after the ceremony to get the shots you’ll treasure forever.

There is something warm at first when you think about having your friend or family member perform your wedding. They know you. They love you. But is it possible to still have a warm, comfortable, personalized ceremony without putting your friend in an unusual and unfamiliar position? You don’t get that moment back. Of course, I believe that you would benefit from a professional performing your wedding, but you have options. Check out this blog post…

There is a popular trend these days to have a friend or family member go online to receive an ordination certificate in a matter of minutes so they can “legally” officiate at your wedding. While on the surface this might sound like a fun idea, a look below the surface reveals some really good reasons why this is NOT a good idea. As an interfaith minister who has been officiating at weddings for over twenty years now and as author of the bestselling book on wedding ceremony design, here are my top three really good reasons why you should hire a seasoned professional to officiate at your ceremony.

Some states do not recognize some online ordination credentials. The last thing you want to find out after your wedding is that you are not legally married. So, tread with caution. It is the state where your ceremony takes place, not the state where you live that has jurisdiction. Just as state laws about who can get married are changing, so are the laws regarding who can officiate at weddings. Not all online ordinations are equally acceptable, so be very specific in researching what sites are and are not acceptable in your state. Keep yourself informed about any changes that occur in these laws during the course of your wedding preparations.

There are a thousand little details that add up to a great ceremony. Which ones are you willing to have overlooked? Why put someone you love in the position of being responsible for something they know nothing about? Why not let your friend or family member enjoy being a guest at your wedding instead of bearing the burden of doing something so important that they know nothing about? Unless your friend or family member happens to already be a member of the clergy, why put this responsibility on them? Most couples and the friends and/or family member they choose to officiate are clueless about what goes into designing a ceremony, running a wedding rehearsal, or officiating at the ceremony. Think about it – would you hire a band for your reception that had never played together before? Would you want your wedding to be their first gig?

There are better, safer options. A seasoned officiant knows the in’s and out’s of advising you on the logistics of your rehearsal and ceremony as well as the design of the text and the ritual itself. They can be a wealth of information and ideas to help you create the ceremony that is perfect for you. They know what works, and what doesn’t.

If you are worried about not belonging to a religious community, not wanting a stranger to officiate at your ceremony, or wanting to have control over what is said at your ceremony – no problem. There are three fabulous resources for finding the right officiant.

The first is to ask your wedding vendors. Typically, your first wedding decision is going to be your wedding date and location. Ask the wedding coordinator at your venue to share their impressions of the officiants on their preferred vendor list and to recommend the ones they think are a good match for you. Call these recommended officiants and/or make appointments to meet. Trust your instincts about who you are comfortable with, how resourceful and flexible they seem to be, and how they react to your story and wishes for your ceremony.

The second resource is to ask around among your friends. Ask your married friends who they had officiate at their ceremony? Were they pleased or not? Why? Ask friends and family if they attended any weddings where the officiant did a really good job.

Third, use regional wedding websites and major wedding websites that have regional vendor listings. Read the listings and reviews on officiants there. One of the most popular sites is

Your wedding ceremony is what your wedding day is all about. Give it the respect and attention it deserves as an expression of what crossing this threshold together really means to you. The person who officiates at your ceremony will have a lot of influence on what will hopefully become a beautiful memory for you. So, be thoughtful and careful in selecting the officiant who is right for you. Be as honest as possible about who you are and who you aren’t. If someone rejects you because they don’t share your beliefs, be glad you didn’t hire them! Just keep looking for the right match. Find someone who is happy for you, is on your wavelength, and gives you confidence that they will help you create a wedding ceremony that exceeds your biggest dreams. You deserve that!” (by Rev. Judith Johnson)