Before You Do

Some tips for the newly engaged…

Holidays are a popular time for proposals. Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day all provide a perfect opportunity to surprise someone with a ring. Then the wedding planning begins, along with the confusion and stress. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way.

I often hear statements like: ‘we don’t know what a ceremony can be like, we’ve never done this before.’ And that is exactly why I’m writing this today.

Naturally most couples have little-to-no experience in planning a wedding, and why would they? Even if you were previously married, or participated in other weddings, it doesn’t make you an expert. That is why there are websites, blogs, columns, wedding planners and wedding coordinators. Sometimes it seems there is too much advice out there, and not all of it is good, up-to-date, or relevant.

I want to share some practical tips that I have personally gleaned from my years officiating, because mistakes can be avoided, and the way to avoid them is withinformation. So here goes!

Your guest list is crucial, don’t give in to pressure to invite more and more people. It can get out of control. There is nothing wrong with a smaller wedding, in fact, an intimate wedding can be all the more meaningful.

Beware of getting carried away in all aspects of wedding planning.

Pick a few dates and venues that interest you first. Once you nail that down move on to an officiant. Remember, you can’t get married without having someone to officiate.

If you’re using your own house of worship for your ceremony, take a close look at the time frame between ceremony and reception. Too much down time between the ceremony and the reception is a burden to your guests.

Now let’s get into a few little details, including some of my pet peeves…

I’ll start with an easy one - aisle runners. They really do not work well. Grass or uneven outdoor surfaces make the aisle runner bumpy and lumpy and difficult to traverse. They don’t work all that well indoors either. Those that roll out usually do not stick to the floor, they slide around, and generally cause trouble. Carefully check your floral contract to see if they have ‘thrown that in’ without you even realizing it. Instead use flower petals, or other ornamentations to define the aisle, or skip it all together.

Wedding Planner– if you can afford it, a good one is worth her weight in gold!

Candles outdoors. A unity candle ritual is really lovely, but please don’t try it outdoors. It is almost impossible to light candles outside, and even if you manage to get them lit, they may blow out with the slightest breeze. Bad symbolism! What about those hurricane lanterns you ask? Well, it may improve your chances of success, but it’s still not a sure thing. That’s why the sand ceremony was invented! There are many wonderful unity rituals that work great outdoors, but candles are not one of them.

Outdoor weddings, especially at home, are fantastic, but if you don’t have an adequate weather plan, the celebration of your dreams may become a nightmare. If you are thinking of a tent, please understand that you must pay the rental whether or not you use it, which is only fair from a business perspective. So rent that tent as insurance, or have another alternative that is truly satisfying. Yes, I know I sound like a broken record on this one.

Comfort. Men – you are better off buying a nice pair of dress shoes than renting shoes. When you own the shoes, you can break them in, get them good and comfy, and bonus: you wind up with a nice pair of shoes.

Women, you too should consider comfort and even practicality when choosing both your dress and shoes. I know, I know it’s all about the dress, but remember you’ll be actually wearing it for many hours.  Be sure it doesn’t weight a ton, keep you from eating, or worse yet, using the restroom. Likewise find shoes that are gorgeous that you can walk in and wear all night. Break them in at home and be sure the dress is hemmed with the corresponding shoes – so you can walk without your foot catching on the dress. If you must have a pair of sexy high heeled shoes, perhaps save them for the reception and have a more comfortable pair as well, especially if you are standing throughout the ceremony.

A beautiful shawl for the outdoor ceremony in spring or fall is always good to have handy. Comfort and beauty are not mutually exclusive.

And most importantly – try to keep the big picture in mind. You’re preparing for a wedding, sure, but more importantly, you’re preparing for a marriage. Stay true to your values and don’t lose your mind.

Very grateful to the amazing photographer Lisa Rhinehart. Check her out – she’s amazing!

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  • Blog Author

    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. Visit her website: ... Read Full
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