Advice for a better ceremony experience

I don’t alwayswrite about religion, ritual and culture, although I find it so fascinating. This is, after all, a wedding column and in that spirit I have advice to offer. These suggestions are based on officiating countless weddings, and the focus here is on the ceremony, my area of expertise – so here goes:

Guests: don’t be late.Too often I see people rushing in just before the processional begins, and sometimes I see them sneaking in after we’ve started the ceremony, standing in the back afraid to take a seat. Guests should give themselves plenty of time to be sure to arrive before designated start time. Remember, the ceremony is when the couple is getting married, the reception is a party. If you care about the couple, be there on time for their ceremony. Brides – don’t be late either. I know it’s your big day, but the entire day has a schedule – be gracious and be ready on time.

Parasols for shade – at Harmony Gardens (photo: Garth Woods)

Pick an officiant with whom you share values. How to do this? Research them and  meet them when possible to ensure the service will accurately express your beliefs. I often hear stories about things said by clergy that elicited gasps of shock from the couple and guests. Here’s a basic example, if you don’t want the words ‘love, honor and obey,’ be sure to make that clear. Most folks do not say that anymore, but you want to know you’re on the same page. Another custom that is falling out of favor is the line: ‘who givesthis woman.’ Some ministers will automatically do this, if you don’t want this part, you’d better let that be known. Whatever your beliefs or perspective on life, take the time explore that with the person performing your ceremony. Continuing on that topic….

It’s probably best that you not have a friend marry you (unless your friend is a professional officiant.) An untrained person just doesn’t bring it, but sometimes, if that person hasgood presentation skills, and is willing to do the research to make it meaningful, it could work out. But be sure it’s legal. Here in Pennsylvania it usually is not, but in some states you can get a license for a day, and some other states accept internet ordinations. It is the states that have control over marriage law, so check carefully. I have lots of training and background to do this work, does your friend?

Have enough chairs for everyone. Enough said!

A beautiful space in the shade at The Shawnee Inn (photo: Garth Woods)

Don’t have the ceremony in the hot sunwithout providing some shade and/or cold drinks. Parasols are great!

Talk to your photographerto be sure he or she will not be coming in too close during the ceremony. Most photographers will not intrude during the ceremony, and isn’t that why they have those long lenses? But I have experienced one or two who came in way too close during the most poignant moments – and it was really distracting and inappropriate.

Don’t have an aisle runner outdoorson grass– it usually doesn’t work out well. On a bumpy surface a runner doesn’t lay flat and tends to trip you as you walk on it. Check with your florist and make sure you are not paying for an aisle runner that you don’t want.

PLEASE ask people to turn off their phones and cameras. This has been a major problem for a long time, and not getting any better. People spend more time taking pictures and videos and looking at their phones than listening and respecting the moment. Besides, your professional will take way better photos than those phone shots with the tops of guests’ heads in them. Have your DJ, ushers or officiant announce that you are having an ‘unplugged’ ceremony and they need to turn off all their devices. Signage helps but often isn’t enough.

There is no guarantee that things will go perfectly but keeping in mind these simple do’s and don’ts will help your wedding ceremony go smoothly.

find me on facebook – Lois Heckman, Celebrant, and Instagram – Lois Heckman

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