The Complex Story of ‘Who Pays for the Wedding’

Recently a friend asked me why, traditionally, the bride’s family paid for the wedding, knowing that in our modern world there are any number of ways that can go. I have worked with many couples who were paying for their own wedding, which I is pretty common these days. Historically, however, the bride’s family paid for the wedding, and I’m old enough to remember when that was a pretty clear rule, yes, even in my own lifetime.

Why? Because until modern times (and still in many places in the world) women were (and are) simply chattel – that is: property, and girl child was considered a burden on the family. Girls could not contribute in labor or produce wealth for the family.  From this arose the dowry– a payment to take the girl off the family’s hands. Marry her off. At its worst, dowries are linked to child brides. Sometimes the girl was used by her husband’s family as a domestic worker, adding insult to injury. Through this history we can draw a straight line – from the bride’s family paying the dowry, to the bride’s family paying for the wedding. In medieval Europe a large dowry enhanced the parent’s chances of making a good match for their daughter.  But sometimes it wasn’t completely heartless.

But we should not make too many assumptions, because although there are many places and examples of women simply viewed in this way, there is also some research indicating that the dowry protected women, giving them value, so they would be treated better. The dowry would even sometimes be returned to the wife if there was ill treatment by her husband and his family.

This poses an obvious age-old question: why is that women were seen as vulnerable, in need of protection? A lot of it is simply biology – women get pregnant, women bear children, and women raise children. This was risky business, and still is today for many women, in fact, our maternal mortality rate is rising here in the United States

Recently a friend asked my why, traditionally, the bride’s family paid for the wedding, knowing that in our modern world there are any number of ways that can go. I have worked with many couples who were paying for their own wedding, which I is pretty common these days. Historically, however, the bride’s family paid for the wedding, and I’m old enough to remember when that was a pretty clear rule, yes, even in my own lifetime.\

Why? Because until modern times (and still in many places in the world) women were (and are) simply chattel – that is: property, and girl child was considered a burden on the family. Girls could not contribute in labor or produce wealth for the family.  From this arose the dowry– a payment to take the girl off the family’s hands. Marry her off. At its worst, dowries are linked to child brides. Sometimes the girl was used by her husband’s family as a domestic worker, adding insult to injury. Through this history we can draw a straight line – from the bride’s family paying the dowry, to the bride’s family paying for the wedding. In medieval Europe a large dowry enhanced the parent’s chances of making a good match for their daughter.  But sometimes it wasn’t completely heartless.

But we should not make too many assumptions, because although there are many places and examples of women simply viewed in this way, there is also some research indicating that the dowry protected women, giving them value, so they would be treated better. The dowry would even sometimes be returned to the wife if there was ill treatment by her husband and his family.

This poses an obvious age-old question: why is that women were seen as vulnerable, in need of protection? A lot of it is simply biology – women get pregnant, women bear children, and women raise children. This was risky business, and still is today for many women, in fact, our maternal mortality rate is rising here in the United States!

The dowry continued in Western culture until around the dawn of the Industrial Age. It is featured prominently in the novels of Jane Austen.

After the dowry faded away, women still had a trousseau, which consisted of the bride’s dress and accouterments for the wedding, in addition to household linens, and other belongings collected for her marriage.  She was still bringing something, not a dowry, but something with her to the marriage. When these possessions were put into a trunk – we have a hope chest. A hope chest or a trousseau can be quite charming and does not have to be seen as a payment but rather as a sentimental and loving collection of items. A girl’s hope chest today can include many things, but especially items handed down from the family.

And now for a curve ball. There is another payment, we don’t hear about as much, and that is the bride-price, or sometimes referred to asbridewealth– which is the money, or other valuables, paid by the groom to the bride’s family. The exact opposite of the dowry. French anthropologist Philippe Rospabé, reports that the payment does not entail the purchase of a woman, as was thought in the early twentieth century. Instead, it is a symbolic gesture acknowledging the husband’s debt to the wife’s parents.  Is buying an expensive diamond ring really all that different?

Placing a monetary value on women sounds terrible today but given context maybe it’s not all that bad. As I’ve noted before, the Jewish tradition of a ketubah, a marriage contract, also served to protect the women’s rights. It substituted for the bride price, that a young man might have had trouble raising. He would have to pay that bride price back to the family if the wife had legitimate grounds for divorce. She was protected, he was penalized.

So, the dowry and the bride-price are two different things, but amazingly, both were attempts to improve the success of the marriage, if only in a very dated and limited way. I’m no historian, but a little research reveals a lot of complex history, but it all comes down to labor versus wealth.

The next time you hear that the bride’s family pays for the wedding, you’ll understand there is a long, long history that got us here.

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Adults Only

Inviting or not inviting children to your wedding

Last week I wrote about the wedding guest list and how to deal with excluding people, adults you may not want to invite for a variety of reasons. Today let’s talk about the kids!

I’ve often written about including children in the wedding, if the couple marrying has children. In my view, it’s really important to include your own children in your ceremony – it’s a big day for them as well. They are more than witnesses to this moment, they are a part of it, and should be included in meaningful ways.

But for couples without children, how do they decide if their wedding should include kids as guests, or should they have an adults-only affair?

Both choices are fine, there is no right or wrong way to do this. Here are some pros and cons to consider.

(Rhinehart Photography)

Yes to children at wedding 

  • You love the idea of flower girls and ring bearers and always imaged that would be a part of your big day
  • Your best friends have kids and you kind of like them, too.
  • The children are close family members
  • They are old enough to behave and are probably excited to be there

If you are leaning towards a kid-friendly wedding, ask yourself: can you provide some child care, maybe get a babysitter at your venue.? If you are at a hotel, the little ones can be put to bed before the night is over – if parents feel safe leaving them in their room and returning to the party. Parents can check on their children frequently – but for some it will be a deal-breaker. It depends on their age, of course.

Can you provide activities for children to enjoy? At a bare minimum even crayons and paper at the reception would help, but you can go all out on this as well with games, toys and activities.

Older children can play other roles, such as handing out programs, escorting people to their seats, and taking care of younger children.

If you plan well, a child-friendly reception can be fun and memorable! And if you plan well, you can even get little ones through the ceremony without a fuss.

The lollipop trick didn't work (Rhinehart Photography)

No to inviting the children 

  • If you are having a formal dinner reception, a black-tie affair, or something very fancy, it is totally appropriate not to invite children. For a more relaxed style affair, a luncheon for example, it may seem a bit harsh to not include your nieces, nephews, or friend’s children.
  • Your friends and relatives with kids would love a night or weekend out without the kids. Talk to them about it and find out.
  • You’re just not that into kids at this time in your life.
  • You are having a late-night affair, too late for children to stay up.

What ages are we talking about anyway? What about teenagers? Are they old enough to be included, and will they enjoy the festivities? Be sensitive to the feelings of teens, they don’t like being thought of as children. You can create your own age limit of sixteen or even twelve or thirteen and draw a line that helps ease your guilt. 

I’ve seen little kids crying and being disruptive during the ceremony and I’ve seen them be angels. You never know for sure how young children will react, they may feel very stressed being in a new situation.

If there will be little ones at your ceremony or reception, there are a few things you can do to mitigate potential problems. I suggest giving lollipops (if ok with parents of course) which will keep talking and  squawking at bay. Small toys or stuffed animals might help occupy a young child. I sometimes make a brief announcement to assure parents that its perfectly ok to get up and walk out with your child if need be. We will all understand and don’t want anyone to feel stuck or embarrassed. What a relief to hear that for the parents who may feeling uneasy or embarrassed. No one needs to feel bad – kids will be kids. But will they be the kids at your wedding?

How cute is this? (Rhinehart Photography)


thank you Lisa Rhinehart for your beautiful photography!



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To invite or not to invite – that is the question.

Taking the Guess Out of the Guest List

One of the trickiest decisions in wedding planning is the guest list. Almost every couple I speak with expresses that they want the people they love the most to share their special day.

But how do you handle it when there is someone you don’t want to be there yet, superficially, seems a natural for an invite. This could apply to a friend or co-worker but is the most difficult when it’s a family member. Then there is the question of whether or not to have children attend, but I’ll save that for another day!

Who will fill these seats?

First let’s think about the reasons you may not want someone at your wedding. It could be a past grievance, or the person in question may have a drug or alcohol problem that you feel would be disruptive. Maybe they are a loud and divisive person and you feel no love for them, or to a lesser extent – you just don’t feel close to them. Your parents say yes, but your gut says no.

There is also the real possibility that the person abused you. I know it’s hard to bring up this sensitive topic – but child sexual assault survivors may not have disclosed to their family. If the abusive person (sometimes a beloved uncle, or other close relative) seems like a natural for the guest list (given no one knows about this) you have every right NOT to invite him. Just be aware that this could force you to disclose, even if you don’t want to do that. I clearly believe any molester or abuser should NEVER be invited. Survivors, please seek counselling on this. From here on I’m not speaking about perpetrators, but just family disagreements or the other issues I mentioned.

Assuming you did some real soul-searching and you feel strongly about it, is there any wiggle room? Maybe it’s an opportunity to mend some fences? Maybe it is a compromise, especially for your parents. Can you live with it? If you simply can’t, what do you do?

The choice can be made even more complex if parents are paying for the wedding. A long and honest conversation must be had, and that in itself is hard. You may be creating a new family drama, one that goes on for years. But if you feel strongly about this, you have to find your way through it.

If you find you have to explain to the uninvited why they are not invited – try to not exaggerate. Don’t say you’re having a very small wedding, if you are not, because it will come back to bite you. Oh, they’ll hear about it! Simply tell them it was a difficult decision, and you’re sorry that it upset them. Most likely you won’t have to speak with them directly, but your parents or other family members will hear about it… maybe forever!

For friends you have fallen out of touch with, such as college friends, sorority or fraternity people, former co-workers, and even some who invited you to their weddings, it is a bit easier. If you start hearing from people who are, for example, suddenly commenting on your engagement pictures on Facebook or reaching out to you, they may be fishing for an invite. For this situation the answer is – keep it real. Just explain that the wedding list is getting out of hand, and your budget won’t allow for invites other than the very closest relatives and friends. If they truly value the relationship, they will take it well, and if you value the relationship, try to make an effort to catch up in other ways in the future.

Waiting for the guests (photo by Lois)

I don’t advocate going overboard with the excuses. Remember that sometimes less is more. Again, just express that you’re sorry and understand it may have surprised them or hurt their feelings. It’s always a good idea to validate feelings. Tell them it was a hard decision. Be as compassionate and gracious as possible, but in the end, don’t let family talk you into inviting people you truly don’t want at your celebration.

Think forward five or ten years from now. Will you regret not having them at your wedding? Will it matter? This will also help guide you.

If you are talking about your wedding at work, you may find that suddenly your boss or coworkers are dropping hints about being invited. This one is easy. You are under no obligation what-so-ever to invite them.

One final thought: you may be thinking people are hurt because they are not invited, but they may be relieved! Maybe just as you don’t want them there, they may not want to be there. You could be doing them a favor.

This is why people elope!

thank you Lisa Rhinehart for your beautiful photography!

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The ‘Adventure’ of Love

The Power of Myth and the Meaning of Ceremony

As I have noted many times, the variations of wedding ceremonies, regardless of time and place, share strong common threads.

Joseph Campbell, known for his study of mythology, comparative religion and just his great understanding of life, is best known for defining the ‘hero’s journey.’ This concept permeates many aspects of our lives, from Star Wars movies (George Lucas was inspired by Campbell) to weddings. The power of myth, the hero’s journey, and the role of symbols – all inform my understanding of ceremony.

Speaking of myth in this context does not mean an absence of reality, but refers to ancient tales that share the themes of setting out on a journey, overcoming challenges and returning home with greater clarity. This goes all the way back to ancient Greece. Think: Homer’s Odyssey.  In the context of weddings, the ‘call to adventure,’ the beginning of the journey, is the call of love.

Campbell actually also wrote about love and marriage along with his exploration of the meaning of ritual and its place in our consciousness. I agree that rituals give deeper meaning to ceremony. It doesn’t have to be a specific ‘unity’ rituals such as the use of candles, handfasting, jumping the broom, breaking the glass or any other cultural or religious customs. Do not underestimate the importance of the wedding ceremony. Marking this moment in time, in a way that connects you to the past while moving into the future, is one of life’s most momentous occasions.

photo: Big Stock

A wedding ceremony is certainly an age-old, time-tested ritual. We take comfort in this ritual; this event puts our intention out in the world for all to see. Even an elopement carries much of the same power. The entire ceremony, from processional to recessional is ritualist in itself. Think of how each partner enters the ceremony space separately but leaves together. That is a power thing.

Campbell famously said: ‘Follow your bliss.’ And love challenges us to do just that. He continues ‘If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.’

Many couples have expressed this idea to me, although not in those exact words, but shared that they feel they are meant to be together and look forward to their future, wherever it leads them.

But we all know that marriage is not a bed of roses. Challenges will come, so will sadness and struggle. Overcoming obstacles is part of the journey. Campbell is very clear that once a couple discovers that love is not perfect, they have a choice. And choosing to stay together is the whole point.  To stay together and make marriage work you need compassion, not perfection.

Nikki Giovanni wrote: ‘We love because it’s the only true adventure’ – just ask any couple that has been together for decades!  And each partner, regardless of gender, is a hero. To quote Campbell again: ‘by participating in a ritual occasion you are in a magical field, a field that is putting you in touch with your own great depth.’

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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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What Can Yoga Teach Us About Weddings?

Today, I write in honor of the famous Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, who taught so many about mindfulness. His teachings are very accessible, you can find out lots about him, even on Facebook. As of this writing he is quietly awaiting his death in Vietnam.

I’m no yogi, that’s for sure, but I’ve been thinking about yoga and weddings. Don’t worry, I’m not advocating twisting up like a pretzel at the altar, so keep reading! Yoga is a term that embraces many things. It includes religion, philosophy and physical, mental and spiritual practices. It’s a tradition that comes from ancient India; it is over 5,000 years old and has spread around the world in many forms. So with all of that history there is a lot to draw upon.

The most popular form of yoga here in the United States is Hatha yoga – the kind where you do a series of exercises and postures (including some twisting) with attention to breathing. But for my purpose today I’m thinking of how yoga practice helps with what is sometimes called ‘mindfulness,’ or living in the present moment, a concept shared with Buddhist thought.

When we are anxious or excited our thinking can become clouded. Most of us can recall a stressful event when our minds went blank, if only for a moment. Concentration is difficult when we are nervous, and weddings certainly bring out a lot of nervous excitement. Even though you are happy, you are in a state that is similar to fear. Adrenaline will do that. You may even be experiencing some fear, if only because everyone is looking at you!

Many couples report they don’t remember much of their wedding. They say it flew by in a blur. In my practice as an officiant, ‘my’ couples have the opportunity to review their ceremony script, including editing parts, if needed. This helps them understand and appreciate its meaning when the time comes. In other words – they can be more in the moment. Mindfullness.

For those who’d like to take the yoga influence a bit further, consider incorporating a meditative moment, or other yoga inspired aspect to your ceremony. I have included a group “Om” at a ceremony, a breathing ritual in one, and a chant at another. I’ve read poems inspired by yoga and have included variations of the explanation of the popular word ‘namaste.’

I honor the place in you,

Where the entire universe resides,

I honor the place in you,

of love, of light, of peace.

I honor the place within you, where

If you are in that place in you,

And I am in that place in me,

There is only one of us.

That’s a pretty cool thing to express about joining together in marriage.

You don’t have to practice yoga to benefit from the concepts it offers. A little pre-wedding deep breathing can help. Consider having some quiet music as you prepare, or try a meditation or mantra. You can invent your own.

A mantra is a word, phrase or sound that you repeat over and over, like a hymn. It is calming – and that is something you need on your wedding day. Create a personal mantra for yourself, whatever that means for you – not necessarily based on any ideology. Creating a mantra with your partner could be wonderful as well, and to know that you are both thinking of the same phrase before you meet at the altar is uniting in itself. It could be something like: Today is the day I join with my love.   

Your wedding is one of the most important moments in your life, and you want to drink it in and enjoy it because it will be over all too soon. So be in the moment, or try because I know it is easier said than done!

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Take me with you!

Destination: Abroad

I just returned from a vacation in Spain and was so excited to see ‘love locks’ on a bridge in Seville. I’ve reported spotting them in many places on trips over the years. It’s become a habit to look for them, and I seem to find them everywhere!

I’ve also written about wedding traditions in various countries, how do the locals do it? But what if an American couple wants to get married abroad?

I recently spoke with a couple thinking about just that, but they changed their minds when they researched it a bit. I understand both the appeal and the change of heart. If you are dreaming of a destination wedding abroad, it can be a reality, as long as you do your homework. Lots and lots of homework!

While imagining yourself on a tropical beach, in an ancient castle, or the tree-tops of a rainforest, you will definitely need to get practical with the planning process. Every country has their own legal requirements, but the good news is, if done correctly, it will be recognized when you return to the United States.

Once you know what country you’re considering, contact the office of Attorney General in your state to be sure that it will indeed be recognized here. Then you can proceed with your exploration of the that country’s requirements.

Some very exotic places to get married make it relatively easy to tie-the-knot, but are quite far away: Mauritius, the Seychelles or Thailand for example.

I love Europe, but European destinations differ in their requirements. France, for example, has a 3-month residency requirement, but it can be bypassed through obtaining permission from a local church. No easy task. Most other countries in Europe, have no residency requirement at all. Some have laws requiring a translator along with the always required documents such as passports, visas, birth certificates, divorce papers if relevant, and some even require that the copies have be issued within the last three months. England requires that either the bride or the groom be in the country for at least 15 days before the ceremony, but a recent rule change makes it so at least you don’t have to get married in the district where you fulfilled your residency requirement.

Mexico is another great destination, but it can also be a bit complicated with health certificates required in some cities, or sending translated documents to government offices in advance.

The Caribbean is great for U.S. couples. Most of the islands have only a 24-hour waiting period and you can find the exactly requirement for all 32 nations of the Caribbean on the Caribbean Tourism Organization website.

Costa Rica is another good choice. They have no waiting period at all, and very few legal requirements – but you need to hire a lawyer there who will make sure you have all the necessary documents, paperwork and fees. Because their economy is based on tourism, there are many specialists to help guide you through the process. They’ll connect you to that lawyer!

If you are eloping, fine, no problem. But please remember inviting guests to travel to be with you may be a financial burden to them, whether you realize it or not. Be aware of this before embarking on a destination wedding, even one within the country.

Maybe you are marrying someone from another country. International marriages, sometimes called transnational marriages, between people from different countries is a complex issue. A U.S. citizen is free to marry a foreign national or non-citizen immigrant, but you’ll want to take a close look these days when considering immigration when your new spouse is moving to the U.S. permanently. But that is a topic for a lawyer, not me!

One final reminder – we have beaches and even castles (well, grand mansions) right here in America.  As to having your wedding abroad – it can be exciting and a wonderful experience, but it may also be a lot of paperwork. Perhaps your efforts would be better spent on a honeymoon in the destination of your dreams. Elope here in the Poconos (or in your hometown, or anywhere in the U.S.) and then go see the sights. But if you do go abroad for your wedding, can you take me with you, please?

thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the continued use of your  beautiful photography!

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Do you really need a wedding program or booklet?

About every year or so I tweak and repost this column. Why? Because almost everyone planning a wedding eventually comes to this question: should I have a ceremony program?

As the big day approaches, I sometimes hear from ‘my’ couples, asking for the ‘order of service.’ I immediately know why. They are creating a program and want to include an outline of what will take place.

from one of 'my' couples! awesome wedding program!

This is a common practice, and in a religious ceremony it can help people get ready to find the page for the next scriptural passage or hymn. That’s ok – to a point. But a program for your ceremony it isn’t always necessary or even desirable. Do I really need to read ‘lighting of candles’ to know that the candles are being lit?

When you think about it, the ‘order of service’ simply encourages people to anticipate what is happening next, distracting them from what is happening in the present. It becomes a checklist to be completed. I believe it is more enjoyable to allow the words and actions to unfold.

Instead, why not approach the booklet as a chance to expand and enhance the ceremony experience for your guests, rather than distract them?

If you have the time and inclination, a wedding program can provide ‘added value.’ For more creative couples it can even become quite the art project!  And it can serve multiple functions.

Here are some suggestions to add content and value to a program:

When listing the wedding party – explain who they are, your relationship with them, or even where they live. People travel far to attend weddings. You can show your appreciation of their time and effort by making mention of it.

A who's who.

Use photos – of yourself, your family and friends. Even your pet who unfortunately, was unable to attend, but sends best wishes!

Get creative – the program can be made to look like a theater playbill, a menu, a newspaper, a fan, a passport, a map, a chalkboard, anything goes!

Explain rituals that are being performed. Give historical, cultural or religious background, and why it is being used. This is true for religious or secular ceremonies. Remember not everyone is versed in your traditions and will appreciate learning about them.Give music credits – details on what songs or selections were played and what they mean to you.

If your ceremony is in a unique location – explain why you chose it.

Readings, poems, lyrics – just as with rituals – explain whyyou are using them in your ceremony, especially if there is particular story to accompany it. Or, include a poem, song lyric, or other writing that you could not fit into the ceremony. But don’t include the work itself if someone is reading it.

Honor family members with a tribute to them by using a meaningful quote with their name – especially poignant for those who couldn’t attend or those deceased.

For multicultural or multilingual families, have translations of some or the entire ceremony.

If children are involved in the wedding party, they can create the cover or write something special. They might also help by assembling or distributing the booklet. Don’t forget to credit children for any role they play in the wedding and thank them for their support of the marriage. They will appreciate the sentiment, and love seeing their names in print.

A big thank you!

If you do decide to create program booklet, I hope you’ll make it special, but if you are stressed, too busy, or simply cannot take on one more task – don’t do it! While your guests may be delighted to find a program full of surprises, truly, no one will be disappointed that there is none at all.

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Spanish Wedding Traditions

As a wedding officiant my busy time is spring, summer and fall, so I take a vacation in winter. As you read this, I’m in Spain, and naturally I wanted to do some research on Spanish weddings.

The region I’m visiting is Andalucía and some call it’s the ‘real’ Spain because the traditions are so deep. They are known, among other things, for bullfighting (which I will skip) and flamenco music and dance. And the tradition for marriage it is most often Catholic.  Naturally there are many customs besides the church service itself, and a civil ceremony is available. It’s good to know that same-sex marriage has been legal in Spain since July 2005.

One of the most popular rituals is the 13 Coins, or Arras, which I’ve written about, and performed many times. Basically, it is simply the exchange of the coins, symbolizing commitment to one another. I can give it many interpretations and it is also done in church.

The 13 Coins from a wedding I officiated.

Here are a few other customs and traditions I’ve discovered so far:

In modern Spain brides usually wear white dresses, but in earlier times a black lace or silk dress was popular. But not matter what color her dress, a bride will wear a lace mantilla – a beautiful veil, secured with combs, to complete her look. In Andalusia, some brides wear flamenco style dresses!

There’s an old tradition in which the bride embroiders the groom’s wedding shirt. I’m thinking modern women have lost the art of embroidering, and it does feel very old school, but it’s still a lovely idea.

Ceremonies take place later in in day in Spain, because the evening meal is served later. Also in consideration that it is a cooler part of the day, so expect a 6pm ceremony time.

Photo from 1922 of traditional Spanish Bride

Speaking of weather – spring is the most popular time for wedding in Spain. Orange blossoms are in bloom and they are chosen – like so many deep-rooted traditions – because they symbolize fertility. The wonderful fragrance of orange blossoms reminds everyone of joy and happiness. I know there is an abundance of orange blossom perfume, and I hope to pick some up as a souvenir.

Family is important and it is not uncommon for a Spanish wedding to have 200 to 300 or more guests. There are no bridesmaids or groomsmen however, but a tradition of corsages for the bride’s girlfriends says that a girl who loses her corsage during the ceremony will be the next to marry. How she losses it is anyone’s guess, but no questions asked.

As the father of the bride escorts her, so too, does the groom’s mother escort him. I love this and highly recommend it. The groom and his mom enter first, and he will wait at the altar, as is typical here as well.

If you’re attending a wedding in Spain, a gift of money is always appreciated. Be sure to dress to impress. A Spanish wedding is full out fancy.The traditional dance named ‘seguidillas manchegas’ is danced by the couple and the guests. It is also common practice to have a live band perform at the wedding. Expect firecrackers, flower petals and rice to be tossed but no wedding speeches.

Interesting fact: wedding rings are worn on the right hand.

Every country and culture have their own ‘take’ on weddings, and even several variations within any tradition. But in the end they share more similarities.

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Wedding Trends for 2019

At the turn of the calendar I join ranks with columnists and bloggers everywhere in writing about what happened last year and what is expected to happen in the coming year. So here goes – from the superficial to the important –  wedding trends to look for in 2019.

I’m reading a lot about wedding dresses and while all the styles we know and love are still around, ballgowns, A-lines, mermaid and sheath, look for some subtle but welcome changes. You will find there are more long sleeves and boat necks (thank you Meghan Markle). Expect to see some patterns rather than lace, and straighter cleaner lines. A more practical dress is definitely on the rise, and I’ve been preaching this for years. There is the return of the tiara. One of my personal favorites you don’t see too much is the tea-length dress, especially charming with sleeves and boat neck.

For décor and flowers expect bright colors to return, including turquoise, emerald, purple and burgundy – replacing the copper and rose gold that were here for a second. Pantone, that self-appointed color trend company, points to purples being popular, but Living Coral has been chosen as its 2019 color of the year. Hint: it’s orange.

A big question: will rustic barn weddings continue to be popular, along with the burlap, wildflowers and mason jar look? Yes, but there is nothing preventing you from having a barn wedding and skipping the burlap.

Creative food buffets will continue their trending upward, along with those custom cocktails named for the happy couple. I’m especially glad to hear that we can expect to see more healthy choices served at weddings.

Photo: Rhinehart Photography

And the environmentally conscious wedding has finally become mainstream. I’ve been advocating this for years! Choose linen napkins over paper and ditch the plastic. Recycle and repurpose your stuff. I was thrilled to hear one of ‘my’ brides tell me they are taking their wedding flowers to a local nursing home after the party. Donating to charities instead giving favors has become more familiar and accepted now.

The ‘first look’ is falling out of favor, with a return to the excitement of seeing one another for the first time that day when you walk down the aisle. As with most everything wedding, it is truly the couples’ choice – both are special moments on your wedding day.

Providing late night snacks for guests, even breakfast, is great for those who party long and late.

Photo: Dearly Beloved Photography

Rarely do I hear about ceremony trends, but I definitely see people tiring of the Sand Ceremony. If you’ve seen it at a friend’s wedding, you probably want something different for yours. But I stand by this trusty ritual, especially when there are younger children involved in the marriage. It truly is perfect for blending families, with clear symbolism that young ones can understand.

I am also hearing from couples that focusing on their story is most important. They still want some cultural references, rituals and traditions, but most of all they want the ceremony to be about their journey. We’re going heart-felt and honest.

And speaking of the ceremony, more couple are choosing to have a friend or family member officiate their ceremony. I understand the inclination.  I’ve written about it before and  probably will again) – you choose professionals for everything else, why would you have an amateur for this very important moment in your life? As you navigate the myriad of choices for your wedding celebration, please put your officiate at the top of the list.

Remember a great ceremony will kick off your big day, whatever colors or clothing you choose, with lots of love and happiness, and that is never out of style.




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