Because I officiate so many weddings I have come to recognize what to look for in a great ceremony site. The ceremony – you know, the part where you are actually getting married – is the reason for the ‘big day.’ If your ceremony is not in a house of worship, you may want to think through the location details.
The majority of weddings I perform are outdoors – so I’ll address that first. Because modern couples are often looking for unique locations, they may find a spot they love, that isn’t necessary set up for a wedding. The owners of said fabulous locale may not have the experience, or may be stuck in one way of doing things. While many great wedding venues really have it together (and what a relief that is) don’t assume every venue knows what’s best. Think through the details for yourself.
The space should not be vulnerable to interruption – whether street noise, air conditioning unit, or other sources of interruptions. Look beyond the immediate space. Whether at a farm, backyard, hotel or resort, sometimes a neighbor decides to mow the lawn or use a chain-saw during your ceremony. To insure something like this doesn’t happen, give a heads-up and request an hour of quiet from neighbors.
At hotels, where there are guests other than your guests, just accept that there will be other people around – not in the very room or space where you are having the ceremony and reception – but in the vicinity for sure. I like the authenticity of a living, breathing location – but it comes with some lack of privacy. I’m ok with that, are you? Public parks – likewise!
The view behind the couple will be the framework of their photos – so make sure to ‘stage’ the ceremony in the best spot. Keep the light and angle of the sun in mind for both the couple, attendants, and guests. Talk to your photographer about this. No one wants to spend the time squinting or shielding their face from the rays. Just because ‘they always set up the space this way’ doesn’t mean you can’t set up differently, unless the seating is secured to the ground.
Sometimes just standing under a tree is enough. Simple is good.
Sound – will your guests be able to hear? At the beach the ambient sound of the ocean is louder than you’d think. Is there electricity? If you have music for the ceremony, where will a DJ or musicians set up and plug in? Having acoustic music? Make sure to set them up close to the guests so they will be heard.
And then there is the all-important back-up plan in case of rain. Have the best plan possible – one you will feel good about in case of a sprinkle or hurricane.
Is the space good as-is, or will you need to decorate? Sometimes just chairs and perhaps an arbor is enough, but an arbor is an issue in itself. I have seen them blow over in a wind – several times. If you are providing the arch be sure it’s is totally secured to the ground – and I do mean secured.
Please: no aisle runners outdoors, they are nothing but a problem. On an uneven surface, such as grass, they tend to bunch up and trip those walking on it.
Indoors offers opportunities for romantic touches like candles (which blow out outdoors – please don’t try to use real candles outside) but remember in daylight or even a semi well lit room, they just won’t have the effect you’re looking for. Unless you’re willing to dim down the lights the use of candles will be less dramatic that you hope.
Whether indoors or out – if you are setting up chairs make sure the aisle is wide enough, especially if a bride is wearing a big dress and being escorted. Don’t stage your attendants standing behind the couple and the officiant. I don’t like having my back to those I’m speaking to, because when conducting the service, I am speaking to not only the couple, but everyone. Most officiants probably feel the same.
These are just a few tips to insure your ceremony location provides the right feeling, a sacred space, or the best vibe, for one of life’s most important milestones.
Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the gorgeous photos!