A Short and Sweet Request

From time to time I get an inquiry from a couple who say they are looking for a ‘short and sweet’ wedding ceremony. This raises a few questions, along with a few answers.

First of all, I’m thinking perhaps they have never attended a good ceremony, so they are looking to avoid something long, or something that seems long because it is so boring. And on the flip side, they may not fully realize the importance of taking the time to recognize this milestone.

I’m certainly down with the ‘sweet’ part, but short is a relative term. If you are getting married in some unusual way, let’s say, sky diving or snorkeling, then just a quick ‘I do’ is probably what is needed.  Other than that, I don’t believe 10 minutes is enough. I’m also not a fan of a ceremony that would take morethan 30 – 45 minutes is way too long for people to stay interested, and that includes the couple themselves. If you can’t say all the important things that need to be said in about a ½ hour, the officiant needs an editor.

Every guest should understand what this day means to you –  emphasis on ‘you,’ because it’s your wedding. You should not have to settle for something that doesn’t express who you truly are and what your commitment means. When you and/or your guests neither understand nor care about what’s going on, it certainly isn’t a positive experience. If you’ve ever attended a long ceremony in any context where you didn’t know what the heck was happening, you know what I mean.

In most houses of worship, you really are there for that: to worship – and however long that takes, is what it takes. The wedding part is sometimes simply added in, or there could be a specific litany for weddings, but it will always include lots of praying, which definitely takes some time. I’m not against praying, not at all, and everyone is free to pray or not to pray, whenever they want to. In America we still have freedom of – and from – religion, and this has actually allowed religion to flourish.  We are free to worship as we choose, when we choose, or not. But is a wedding the time for this? Yes and no – it doesn’t have to be. Obviously if a couple is religious, they may well choose a worship service, but for many people, even people of faith, they prefer a celebration of their marriage.

When I explain all this to couples they are often very excited. It’s a good feeling to be able to have a ceremony that recognizes who you are and where you are going. It is especially important for couples of different traditions or world views. Many officiants of all types, understand this. Talk to the person you are thinking about having perform your marriage ceremony and see if they are open to expressing all of that. For me, as a Celebrant, that’s what it’s all about, but I certainly don’t have a monopoly on it.

Telling your personal story in your vows is the only way some people get that customization they are looking for into their ceremony, but I caution you to remember that the vow is really your promise to one another, not your life story. Don’t talk about all how you met as part of your vows.  However, a few little additives can add a lot of flavor.

With a very short ceremony you miss out on some important opportunities. Will you be able to thank family and friends for supporting you, or honor parents, children, siblings or others who have helped you along in your journey? How about remembering those who are deceased? Mentioning a grandparent or grandparents who have passed may not be at the top of your list, it could mean a lot to your parents.  Remembering your own parents is profound. What about including personal details about your personalities, your love story or just simply what you love about one another? These are all things I explore when creating ceremonies. Having charming details about the couple and their community adds so much depth, and is even, sometimes, fun! How about a shout-out to your dog?

Short and sweet is a relative term, and I hope you get all the sweetness you deserve but don’t give it the short shrift.

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