Dawn Halstead, M.Div.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How important is it to choose the right minister or officiant? Aren’t they all pretty much the same?

Not necessarily. You are looking for someone who is experienced, reliable, timely and dependable. That is exactly what you receive when booking with Ceremonies of Celebration. I believe that your ceremony is the main event, but without the officiant, there can be no wedding. The officiant sets the tone and leadership for the rehearsal and ceremony, and the ceremony sets the tone for the rest of the celebration. You will want to choose a wedding officiant who will honor your desires so that you will have a beautiful and stress-free day. Whether you choose to have a ceremony that is serious and solemn, or upbeat and celebrative, formal or informal, I will help you create the atmosphere and mood that you desire for your special day. Please remember to reserve the date of your wedding with me as early as possible! Dates can fill up quickly.

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Are you a real minister, or did you just get a certificate on the Internet?

Yes, I am a real minister. I earned my BA in Religious Studies from Iowa State University and Master of Divinity from United Theological Seminary and was subsequently ordained in the United Church of Christ. I have several years of both training and internships in churches and hospital/hospice settings, offering pastoral guidance and direction to people in their relationships and in crisis situations.

I do not limit my ministry to Christianity. People of all faith/spiritual traditions (including those who profess no tradition) and all expressions of sexual/gender orientation (e.g., LGBT) are welcome to contact me for their ministerial needs.

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Is it really necessary to have you attend the rehearsal if the wedding coordinator will be there?

Yes! The coordinator and the minister are each experts in their own fields. They collaborate together, drawing on their individual experience and expertise, working together as a team to assure your ceremony flows smoothly. The rehearsal is the time to work out any problems, make any changes and practice the ceremony so everyone knows who does what, when, where and how. The officiant, above all, is the one who needs to be aware of all the ceremony details since she is the one who conducts the ceremony. If she is not at the rehearsal and changes are made without being communicated, well...you can imagine the glitches that can occur. As the ceremony sets the stage for the rest of the celebration, the rehearsal sets the stage for the ceremony itself.

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Can we choose the kind of ceremony we want with special wording, traditions or creative ideas?

Of course! It wouldn’t be your wedding if you didn’t. If you choose my services, I will send samples and ideas to get you started in the planning process. You may choose to use some, all or none of these. You can write the entire service, if you so choose. Services may include, but are not limited to, traditions and rituals such as the unity candle, sand ceremony, rose presentation, handfasting, family vows, jumping the broom, salt ceremony, or any other traditions or special touches you wish to include in your ceremony. I see my role as guide and advisor through the process. I will make suggestions, sharing my ideas and experiences with you. My goal is to assist you in creating the wedding you envision—the wedding that reflects who you are as individuals and as a couple.

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What types of weddings do you perform?

I perform religious, non-religious, spiritual, same-sex, and inter-faith wedding and commitment ceremonies. I also officiate at vow renewals. I honor your desire to include rituals and traditions from your own religious, social and cultural heritages (see above).

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Do you perform same-sex weddings?

Yes, I perform wedding ceremonies for all couples allowed to marry under Iowa law, including same-sex couples.

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How do you charge for these services or is payment by honorarium?

Though I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, I am not employed by a church. As other vendors do, I charge a set fee for my services. A non-refundable deposit is required to secure my services with the balance due 2 weeks before the day of the event. See Fees page.

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What if someone requests the date and time I want before I submit my deposit?

Upon receiving your initial request, we will schedule an in-person, phone, or Skype appointment and I will "pencil" your ceremony on my calendar. Once I receive your non-refundable deposit and signed contract, your date is secured. If another couple requests the same date and time and you have not yet sent in your non-refundable deposit and contract, I will contact you first to see if you still need my services. If, after 24 hours, I have not heard from you by phone or email, your date and time will be given to the other couple. If you want to reserve your wedding date, it is important to send in the non-refundable deposit and contract as soon as possible to secure your date and time.

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Do you give discounts?

I do — to all active-duty military personnel, as a special thanks to those of you who are serving our country. See Discounts for details.

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What are your fees?

The initial consultation is free. Please see my Fees page for all services and fees. My fees vary depending on the level of services and the dates you require. The average fee for a Wedding Minister / Officiant in the Des Moines, IA metro area is $200–$500. The charges for my weddings fall in the middle. I want to give you the best, most complete service at a fair price. The officiant's fee is probably the smallest percentage of your wedding expenses. But it is one of the most important, as without the officiant there can be no wedding.

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Why do wedding fees seem so high for “just a 20 minute” ceremony?

There is no such thing as “just a 20 minute” ceremony. Regardless of the length of your ceremony, many, many hours go into making your ceremony as perfect as it can be. You are paying for the expertise, experience and education that the officiant brings to planning your ceremony. Each wedding requires hours of meetings, unlimited communications with the couple and/or vendors as needed, planning, writing and rewriting of your service, transportation to and from the rehearsal and the wedding and much, much more.

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What are the requirements to get a marriage license?

Please see my Resources page for a link to Iowa licensing requirements. I recommend you obtain it sooner rather than later. I require that you present it to me at your wedding BEFORE the ceremony begins.

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Do you require premarital counseling?

I do not require it. However, I encourage you to either work with me (additional fees apply) or to seek out someone else that specializes in counseling or guidance to help you prepare for your future life together.

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How do we reserve your services for our wedding?

You can reserve my services by calling me at 515-249-9663 or using my contact form. Please provide the date, time and location of your wedding along with your name and telephone number. I will respond promptly to your call or email. Please remember to reserve the date of your wedding with me as early as possible! Dates can fill up quickly.

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