Strange Holiday Traditions

Last week I wrote about infusing your holiday with your own personal rituals, and the potential to create new traditions for yourself or your family. Another recent offering was about unusual wedding traditions around the world. So I now present the mash-up: unusual holiday traditions from around the world.

I did find one specific connection between the holiday and the wedding weirdness: single woman in Czechoslovakia can predict if they will be married in the coming year by throwing a shoe over their shoulder at Christmas time. To insure the accuracy of this, because obviously this will work, she must stand with her back to the door of her house, if the shoe lands with the heel towards the door, there will be no marriage in the coming year!

This would be pretty frightening for young children!

Old image of Krampus.

We know that Santa Claus, or Saint Nick, goes by many names and takes many forms around the world. Perhaps the strangest variation is Krampus! Krampus is a beast-like creature who punishes or rewards children at Christmas time (apparently he, too, knows if you’ve been bad or good). This demon-like creature has roots in Germanic folklore and is still somewhat popular in that region. While in Norway it is very common to have a family-member dress as Julenissen (Santa Claus) and visit the home on Christmas Eve to deliver gifts, so to, do people dress up as Krampus!  By the way, gifts are delivered and opened on Christmas eve in Norway because obviously Santa starts his journey there and must get a good early start to get to us here before morning.

I had to check and re-check this one because it just seems so wrong, but in Japan the fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken is a traditional Christmas feast. Because some Asian countries have a fascination with western traditions, KFC managed to capitalize on that by claiming that fried chicken is the traditional Christmas meal. Yum?

Merry Christmas in Japan.

In the Ukraine spider webs are used to decorate the Christmas tree. The legend behind this tells of a poor family, unable to decorate their tree, came home to find that spiders, hearing the family’s cries, decorated the tree with their webs. The legend continues that on Christmas morning the webs turned to gold and silver, and the family was saved.  Spider web decorations are not real either, in case you were wondering.

In Venezuela when people attend mass at Christmas time, they do so on roller skates! The streets in Caracas are closed off between December 16 and 24 for roller skaters on their way to church!

In the interest of inclusion I tried to find strange Hanukkah traditions, but came up with nothing. Perhaps the latkes and derides are strange enough on their own. But don’t forget the humorous faux holiday ‘festivus’ or last year’s moniker: ‘Thanksgivukkah,’ used when Hanukkah fell on Thanksgiving.

There are, of course, many more odd traditions around the world. We have one of our own here in the USA – the yule log on television! You don’t have to admit it, but perhaps you have had your tv tuned to the yule log, too. Kind of strange, but fun.







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Create your Own Rituals of the Holiday Season

With the holiday season upon us – I’m taking a break this week from the wedding part of wedding talk, but today’s column still includes something I write about often: ritual. And what could be more ritualistic than Christmas or Hanukkah (or Kwanzaa, or Solstice, or New Years)?  From the more secular parts such as the Christmas tree and gift exchanging to the most holy and sacred acts of worship – the holiday season is replete with customs, traditions and rituals. Lighting candles, decorating trees, even wrapping gifts becomes meaningful when it is done every year, just as your parents did, and their parents before them.

A beautiful winter photograph by Rob Lettieri

I look at it this way: old or ancient customs connect us to the continuity of life, to our faith or cultural past. New traditions bring closeness within our own families and communities right here and now. After all, sometimes those same traditions over and over can get boring. While wrapping gifts may be joyful to some people, it may be a dreaded chore to others.

Wouldn’t it be great to have your very own ritual to develop and pass down through generations? Some families do have their very own traditions, but if you don’t, you have the opportunity to start your own. Here are a few ideas that might inspire!

Explore world customs and make ornaments, food, or craft projects that reflect another culture. How about eating latkes for a special Christmas meal. Or expand your cultural awareness with the Fest of the Seven Fishes, if you’re not Italian and already doing this, that is. You don’t have to be Latino to enjoy tostones (fried plantains) or a coquito, which is similar to eggnog with rum. You get the idea!

Giving to others is always important. Have your family conduct a food or coat drive, or buy gifts to donate to a local shelter. Before donating anything, be sure to check first to see exactly what they need. Remember, it’s not what you want to donate, its what they truly need. Gift cards are often perfect because they offer people the opportunity purchase what is truly needed. Adopt any cause that resonates for you, and do something relevant every year.

Start a tradition of reading. Choose a classic such as the wonderful O. Henry story The Gift of the Magi, or poems, chapter books, or really anything, but try to pick something that might take you out of your comfort zone. Everyone will be more open hearing the book when it’s done together as a group activity. Whether it’s after the candles are lit for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, or for the 12 days of Christmas, read a chapter each night.

Reading for the holiday.

Learn to sing songs together. Not everyone is musical but most can still muster up a few tunes with the family. Sing it loud, sing it proud, and sing it every year!

Have computer savvy young people start an on-line holiday remembrance tradition, using photos or video. Mix it up with quotes from the family and the famous. Make note of favorite foods, best moments and even a few, bloopers (but not too many, don’t embarrass anyone).

These are just a few ideas, and ideas are free so I hope you will dream up your own and begin your personal rituals to add depth and tradition to your holiday season.

 The gorgeous christmas tree photo is by Rob Lettieri

and the book photos by our go-to great photographer Lisa Rhinehart

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Weddings and families – it can be complicated

Handling complicated family issues for your wedding

If you are planning a wedding, especially for the first time, you may have already discovered that this big day isn’t just about the two of you! A marriage is about the joining of two families and that can take many shapes and forms. Even in an ideal situation, where everyone gets along, there is still much to consider and conflicts that may arise. Family is inherently complicated.

Couples need to remember how important this day is to their parents and especially mothers. It is a day they, too, may have dreamed of, something they imagined helping with, emotionally and financially.

A big day for both mother and daughter.

On the positive side, a lifetime of support from one’s parents is something that deserves recognition. There are many ways to do this, and whether within the ceremony itself, or at the reception, saying ‘thank you’ is very important. You might include something in a wedding program (and it’s a good reason to have one) – especially if it’s not possible to customize your ceremony. Perhaps consider having both parents walk with you down the aisle, or a rose presentation for your mothers as a symbolic ‘thank you’.

What if your family situation is not healthy or less than ideal? This needs to be carefully navigated, but even with dysfunctional relationships, it can still be powerful to include something, but this is not always possible or even desirable, it really depends on the exact circumstances.

If mom raised you on her own – acknowledge and honor her for that amazing accomplishment, but does an absent dad need to be mentioned? There is a huge continuum, ranging from an uninvolved parent to an abusive parent and everything in between. If a parent was not at all present for your upbringing I can see no reason to mention, let alone honor, that parent.

Is there a parent or stepparent with whom you struggled? Where you a difficult teen? Now as an adult you may see things differently. Take the time to say this as well. I know this it isn’t an easy topic, but I do believe it warrants examination.

The big moment with dad.

When parents are paying for everything they sometimes feel entitled to control everything. Before taking one single step in wedding planning, if your parents are paying – sit down and have an honest conversation with them. And conversely, parents – step back and take a good look at yourselves and your expectations. All parties must figure out what they can let go of, whether it’s the menu or even the choice of venue, and what you can’t. Guest lists can be a sticking point. Be flexible.

Sort out your roles right from the start. Don’t jump in too quickly, which is easy to do. With something as important as a wedding, having those conversations first will make a big difference.

I often hear that wedding planning was much more difficult than anticipated. Be prepared, have good boundaries, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Let your family help and honor them for it. A wedding is a time to say the things that often go unsaid. It is an important transition in life. Honor it accordingly, and give thanks.

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart  for your gorgeous photos!

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Wedding Traditions from Around the World.

Regular readers of ‘wedding talk’ know my interest, even fascination, with all kinds of rituals and traditions. Today I thought I’d take a quick trip around the world and look at just some of the more obscure wedding customs.

Friends Danielle & Raj with their change of clothes (Photo credit: Bill Cardoni)

In South Asian weddings, the bridesmaids steal the groom’s shoes and hide them on the day of the wedding, forcing him to be shoeless at the reception. The younger guests then negotiate with him (for money!) for the shoes return. Kind of fun, don’t you think?

Also South Asian is a custom I simply love. The two family sides enter into an intense sing-off. They sit gathered around a drum and take turns singing songs. I’m not entirely clear about the criteria, but apparently the side that sings loudest usually wins.

In Danish weddings, if the bride or groom leaves the other’s side, the remaining partner gets swarmed with kisses from the wedding party until their better half returns.

An old Scottish tradition involves dumping flour, tar, spoiled food (and whatever else you can get their hands on) on the bride and groom. The ritual is meant to ward off evil spirits. Yuk! There are several other traditions with the same intent. Some say the same thing about the ‘breaking of the glass’ in a Jewish wedding. The wearing of a veil is meant to protect the bride.

Photographic evidence of this strange tradition.

In Korea, married friends of the groom carve wooden ducks for the married couple, meant to symbolize marital harmony. Sweet. Another Korean custom is that after the ceremony friends of the groom take off his socks, tie a rope around his ankles and beat the soles of his feet with dried fish. This is meant to make the groom stronger before the wedding night. Not so sweet. I’m not sure about the effectiveness of this custom, but it’s an unusual one for sure. Koreans also say that smiling a lot at the wedding brings a daughter for your firstborn.

An example of the ducks.

In Yemen, the groom’s father throws raisins on the ground for guests to pick up. Raisins are meant to symbolize happiness for the happy couple. Ok.

Japanese brides are sometimes painted pure white from head to toe, declaring she is a maiden (i.e. virgin). While the painting part is not as popular anymore, wearing a white kimono and an elaborate headpiece is still common. During the ceremony, the bride puts on a white hood to hide her ‘horns of jealousy’  - the jealousy that she feels toward her mother-in-law, and to show her resolve to become a gentle, obedient wife. I hope that one is going out of fashion. To symbolize their union, the couple drinks sake together, becoming husband and wife once they take the first sip. I would love to incorporate that one into anyone’s ceremony. And brides have quite a few changes of clothing during the reception, first changing into a red kimono and then later into a Western-style dress.

Changing outfits is popular in many cultures and especially when couples are honoring two different cultures (see photo of my friends Danielle & Raj)  I see wardrobe changes becoming even more  popular.

Traditional Japanese bride.

In Italy the bride is supposed to wear green the night before the wedding for good luck. Wearing purple is to be avoided. In southern Italy there are no weddings in May, because that brings bad luck.

As symbol of being married people in India wear toe rings. During the wedding ceremony the groom puts the toe ring on the second toe of bride’s foot while she holds her foot on a ceremonial grinding stone. I’m not clear about the meaning of the stone, but I love the toe ring part.

These are just a few unusual customs, but remember, they are only strange to us. They may be odd or fun or even taken with a grain of salt (that’s another custom, of course) but not strange to for those within that culture. I probably cannot incorporate most of these into my western style ceremonies, but I find it fun to learn about them. There are many, many more strange wedding traditions around the world.


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How to have a cozy wedding

When you walk into a movie theater, you figure out where you want to sit, and the same is usually true at a restaurant or bar. But when you walk into a wedding reception you are assigned a seat.

Conversely when you walk into the ceremony you usually expect to sit on one side or the other, but still get to pick your exact spot, and how close to the front you wish to be.

Photo: Lisa Rhinehart Photography

Changing that up can make a huge difference!  This is one way to make your wedding cozy – and by that I mean warm and welcoming with a feeling of togetherness. Cozy isn’t just about candles or a fireplace – its about people.

One trend that is catching on is the use of long tables for the reception.  My friend and event coordinator extraordinaire Danielle Pasternak and I were discussing this – we agree it brings everyone together, and it feels more intimate. No one likes being assigned to a less desirable location. Conversations across and large round table are difficult. A narrow long table allows for conversation with people on both sides of you and across from you. And I must say, I think it looks fabulous. The long tables also may provide a better use of space, if that is an issue. It is an especially great style for smaller weddings, gathering everyone at one table.

photo credit: Michael Pangilinan Photography

For ceremony seating have ushers bring guests forward and fill up the seats from the front to back – not counting the reserved for immediately family first row, of course. It feels so supportive to have people up close. This isn’t middle school, so don’t be afraid to sit at the front.

Table games!

If you are doing the round tables, get the ‘cozy’ rolling with interactive activities at each table. A blank book with a title such as: Date Night Ideas for the Newlyweds, or Marriage Advice. Give each table a question (just type it up, and put it in a frame) and then ask the guests to discuss the question and come up with a group answer. Later in the evening – go around and have them announce their question and answer. Give each table a song – and have them sing it together, to the delight of the other guests.

share your advice - a great way to engage folks!

Getting people together is the key. We tend to talk to the people we know at the reception, any way we can create an experience where we meet and enjoy new friends, is a positive thing.

When I talk about a couple’s journey in their wedding ceremony, everyone is put on equal footing. Everyone recalls who they are and how they got to their big day – even a ‘plus one’ who may even not know the couple. The storytelling creates connection, and when we are guests at a wedding we are there to share their joy and support them in the journey forward.

So go ahead – sit close, get cozy, and enjoy the wedding to the fullest – the couple will love it and so will the guests.

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Outside the Mainstream

I’ve written about Christian and Jewish wedding traditions, I’ve written about Irish and Polish customs, I’ve written about Buddhism and Zen. Today I’m going further out of the mainstream.

Throughout my career as a celebrant I have found that there are many interesting practices and ideas from Paganism, Wicca, New Age, and Native American beliefs. These non-traditional views share some common ground, most importantly, a reverence for nature. But they are quite different in other ways.

Handfasting - or Tying-the-Knot is an ancient Celtic tradition.

The term ‘pagan’ refers to holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions. For some it has a negative connotation, but it shouldn’t.

Wicca focuses on the polarity of the Divine, meaning both male and female deities are honored – god and goddess. In this belief system there is a desire to connect with the spirit world, but Wicca is not about Satanism, or anything like that whatsoever. Basically they find spirituality in nature and believe nature should be honored and respected. This is similar to what the people of the Celtic lands also believed before Christianity arrived.

Native American spirituality, which they do not consider religion, is ancestor oriented, and includes creation stories, rituals and practices integrated into everyday life. Many Native people hold their traditional beliefs along with Christian faith. Native Americans, like Wiccans, find deep meaning in nature.

The New Age movement is a Western spiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. It draws on Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and infuses them with influences from anything from crystals, yoga, Reiki, to self-help and motivational psychology.

Many who are interested in these ideas or even actively practicing them, may simultaneously respect and also practice mainstream religion.  Some would find that heretical, but thankfully, we are a county founded on the right to practice your faith, whatever it may (or may not) be.

Jumping the Oak Branch - a nature oriented ritual.

I’ve discovered that some rituals from pagan sources work well in wedding ceremonies, and I have customized, re-created and even invented some. Let’s say they are ‘inspired’ by those traditions. Some examples are: Blessing the Elements, Invoking the Four Directions, Jumping the Oak Branch, The Oathing Stone, tree plantings and water rituals – all are beautiful in a wedding. Most popular is the Handfasting ritual, or ‘tying the knot’ (which I’ve written about).

Another way to infuse the ceremony with these ideas is to include readings.  One of my favorites sources is the book Black Elk Speaks and the Apache Wedding Prayer is very popular. Readings add beauty, character and meaning to a ceremony, and may be used in conjunction with traditional faith traditions, but it might be important to consider if close family members have any objection.

Clearly, this is not for most people, but for some couples it’s just perfect.

Tossing pebbles as a symbol of connection.

Thank you Garth Woods for the beautiful photos!

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Choosing Music for Your Wedding Ceremony

Aldous Huxley wrote that  ‘after silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ And Leonard Bernstein said that ‘music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.’ Perhaps that’s why choosing music for your wedding feels so important.

I am in a somewhat unique position to address the topic of music in the wedding ceremony. Not only have I officiated hundreds of wedding, which has given me the opportunity to experience a wide variety of music choices, but in an earlier time in my life I was a professional musician and composer.

So, here are some tips when considering who to hire and what to choose for your wedding ceremony music.

If you are using a DJ for your reception, he or she may be able to provide music for your ceremony for a reasonable additional fee. Often DJ’s have a smaller set-up just for ceremonies, and that is perfect when the ceremony and reception are at the same location.

Similarly, if you have a live band playing your reception, one or more from that group may be able to play the ceremony. If you want a specific style of music, be sure the musicians are versed in the genre.

With live music, amplification and volume issues are crucial. When we think about bands and volume, we usually think about them being too loud, but at a large, outdoor wedding ceremony, the opposite could occur. Music dissipates outside, without reflective surfaces (walls), and quieter instruments may not be heard. I’m sure you would like your guests actually hear the music, so let the musicians know the situation. Most times they can amplify.

Putting the ceremony musicians towards the front, near the bridal party can be effective. It provides a nice visual as well as having the music coming from the same direction as everything else makes sense to me. Without a covering or shade, however, many musicians cannot do this. It takes too much of a toll on their instruments, but with a pop-up tent or under a tree, can make it do-able.


Notice the cello there?

If you are going for something a little more adventurous, why not have a sax player or fiddler lead you down the aisle? Ethnic music, such as Klezmer for a Jewish wedding, Celtic for Irish heritage, or Gypsy music, evocative of Eastern European backgrounds, can be terrific. And I do truly love bagpipes in a wedding!

World music is more popular than ever, and the possibilities abound. African, Latin, Middle Eastern – it’s all accessible, because with recorded music comes unlimited choices. You might even use different styles for your processional and recessional – classical for the processional and a pop tune for the recessional, for example.

Lyrics (even in an instrumental version) can express something humorous or personal. Think of your guests having that ‘ah-ha’ moment when they figure out the words to the song they’re hearing!

I often request music to be played quietly during a ritual. It adds a wonderful feeling to a wine sharing, handfasting, or unity candle. It creates ambience, and fills in those quiet parts helping everyone feel more relaxed.

Should you feature a song?

Featuring a live performance in the ceremony can be tricky. Unless they are undeniably talented, I don’t recommend it. When a friend or family member volunteers, and you don’t think their skills are up to it, it can become very awkward. Try to graciously decline a well-intended offer if you feel hesitant. Trust yourself. Tell them, perhaps, that you wouldn’t dream of having them to miss the ceremony by ‘working’ at your wedding. Consider asking if they would perform at the reception instead. Remember, there is so much intense focus and quiet attention at the ceremony – the pressure can be too much for an amateur.

On the other hand, if you want a friend or relative to perform you should ask them. Maybe the new American Idol is your cousin!  It is an honor to be asked to participate in someone’s wedding.  While a musician may have achieved a high level of proficiency, don’t ask them to play something out of their area of expertise.

Your ceremony music selections can add beauty, personality and joy to your wedding day.

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart  for your gorgeous photos!

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When Children Attend Weddings

I love involving children in wedding ceremonies – the couple’s children, whether from previous relationships or their children together. They are an important part of the marriage and including them in the ceremony itself is very meaningful. I have created many special ways to be sure kids know this big day is also about them, and the strengthening of family.

But today I’m not writing about all that.  I’m writing about children as guests.

Kids can be a ton of fun at a wedding!

What happens at the wedding when children cry or carry-on, as they sometimes do?  It is extremely distracting, especially during a meaningful time in the ceremony. It distracts not only the guests but the couple, and takes them away from the importance of the moment. Of course this happens every day in every way, for example in the supermarket or on an airplane. I always strive to be understanding and my sympathies go out to the frustrated parent. It’s best to be gracious and kind when other’s people’s children are misbehaving. But during the ceremony, it’s especially difficult. This is a once in a lifetime event, and it can be not only embarrassing, but disruptive. So what can you do?

So here are a few tricks, tips and advice I have to offer about children attending weddings.

For the really little ones, if at all humanly possible, work out nap times for those still indulging in them (oh, the lucky babes). Make sure they are well rested. Plan ahead for this, a few days ahead, to get the schedule right.

Of course you want your own children at your wedding!

Have the toys that they will truly be interested in holding in their little hands and or mouth! Lollipops can shut down crying in a heartbeat.

If the couple has really young children attending, they should be sure at least one person the child knows well, who will be responsible for them during the ceremony. Their task is to keep them occupied. I know, I know, you can’t control it all, but you can at least try. Children’s natural instinct will be to want to run to mommy or daddy. More than once I’ve officiated with a child running around or clinging to a parent’s leg. No one knew what to do, and ultimately the bride or groom picked up the child, and held the child throughout the ceremony. This is certainly not an ideal way to tie the knot.

For ceremonies where lots of children will be attending I like to announce something to the effect: ‘I know there are a lot of children with us today, and the couple is so happy they are here – parents, please know if you need to get up and walk around with you child or if you have to leave the area to quiet them down – it is quite alright. We truly understand,’ or, something to that effect. It really helps parents relax and do what needs to be done.

If you are not clear that your children are invited, please ask. Couples, please specify on the invitation. It’s ok to have a kid-free wedding. What age is the cut-off? Who decides? You can make your own rules – remember: just because you want your niece at your wedding doesn’t mean you must have everyone else’s. Don’t get caught up in the drama of “Why wasn’t my child invited?” You can’t win that one! And let families know as soon as possible, so they can make child care arrangements, especially for destination weddings or even those that may take a full day including travel to your venue.

If kids are attending the reception, please have a children’s table. It will enable your guests to enjoy themselves more, as well and the kids! Child-free, a few kids, or lots of children – its up to you – but children are as unpredictable as the weather, best to be prepared for rain or shine.

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart  for your gorgeous photos!

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Zen and the Art of Weddings

All the careful planning that goes into one big day – from choosing the best location, the tastiest food, the perfect clothing, beautiful flowers, the right music – the list goes on and on. How do you keep your cool? How do you stay calm? Where can you find your zen?

The word zen actually refers to a sect or school of Buddhism, and its history and meaning is quite complicated. But when used in pop culture we generally mean a state of mind that is at peace, with a focus on the unity of mind and body.  Zen involves dropping illusions and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts.  Meditation might be involved, but now always.

Zen is a good state to aspire to when all the wedding stress kicks in and you just can’t stop thinking about all those details, You may want to develop your own personal ‘mantra’, which is a phrase you can say over and over to yourself, like a prayer of sorts, that helps one focus. Wedding planning isn’t going anywhere, so when you can’t stop the wheels from spinning, you know its time to take a break and find your zen.

Relaxing outdoors.

Remember what is meaningful: your marriage. Planning a wedding is planning for one day of your life, but you are really planning for a lifetime together. So why not sit down and imagine that future? Of course you’ve talked about it all before, but what better time than before the nuptials? Instead of talking about cake, talk about your lives. Write letters to each other to save for the future. Get out some family photo albums and review them together. Gather up some family history and ask about your parents or grandparents about their weddings.

Take some time together.

One obvious piece of pop culture advice also holds true: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Be the gracious person you aspire to be. You’ve chosen your vendors, now let them do their thing. If they’re good, you don’t need to micro-managed.

Try some exercise or do something outdoors the morning of your wedding. Take a walk. Look at the sky. Take some deep breaths. Get a massage. You get the idea. Eat breakfast. Don’t drink alcohol until the reception, and even then, do so in moderation.

Being nervous and being stressed are two different things. It’s normal to be nervous, and when you feel those nerves remind yourself that you are feeling excited because it is important, and that’s a good thing.

Get centered.

If you feel like having a good cry, that’s ok too.  And lean on your loved ones because a wedding is indeed a huge milestone in life and a time when we need our closest family and friends. And a wedding is something we are never truly prepared for. After all, it is a unique and very special day. So remember, there’s nothing wrong with you, this is just one of those moments in life. It will all be over before you know it, so try to enjoy it and be ‘in’ the moment. Find your ‘mantra’ and, you know, the zen of the wedding.


Thank you Lisa Rhinehart  for your gorgeous photos!

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The Walk Down the Aisle

It is traditional for a bride to walk down the aisle to meet her groom, most often escorted by her father. When a young woman is leaving her parents home to begin a new life, as was common in the past, that makes complete sense. While this is often no longer the case, many women still chose to walk with their dad for sentimental reasons. And that’s fine. In fact, it’s downright beautiful. And many are choosing to walk with both parents or just their mother. Circumstances vary widely and appropriate adjustments should always be welcome. But there are actually even more choices than you might imagine.

A father escorting his daughter is always beautiful (photo: Garth Woods)

For some couples, especially if they have had a long and challenging road to find love and happiness, there are ways to express that journey, in words and in actions. One way is in the processional itself. When you think about it, the entrance offers the perfect symbolism.

I recently officiated a wedding where the couple used that opportunity in a creative way. Let me explain. As the ceremony began the couple entered from the sides and stood at the front, they then separated, walked around the outside of their guests’ chairs and joined again and walked together down the center aisle. I had some nice words to accompany that, of course! It was a clear visualization of their journey, and an interesting way to begin their ceremony. It was really great!

This is interesting!

Another option is to have a parent or parents accompany the bride or groom half way down the aisle. The other partner then comes forward (perhaps even with their parent or parents). They all meet in the middle with hugs all around and then the couple joins hands and walks to the front, while the parents follow and take their seats. Also pretty cool!

The processional choreography can be as diverse as you are. We often don’t take advantage of this opportunity – perhaps because most couples have never heard about or seen anything other that the standard entrance.

How about no center aisle at all? For smaller weddings that works beautifully, especially in keep all the guests cozy and together.

No aisle at all for a small wedding. Photo by Garth Woods

Another interesting idea is to have the seating set up in a spiral so that when the couple enters, they pass each and every guest on the way to the alter. Clearly this is not for everyone. It is not even for most. But for some it may be perfect.

The Rascal Flatts song “Bless the Broken Road” expresses it beautifully when they sing:


Every long lost dream led me to where you are

Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars

Pointing me on my way into your loving arms

This much I know is true

That God blessed the broken road

That led me straight to you.


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    Lois Heckman

    Lois Heckman is a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant who officiates at weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies in the Poconos and beyond. She has performed hundreds of ceremonies and brings a wealth of knowledge to her work. Follow her on Pinterest, ... Read Full
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