Many of my couples choose to keep their bridal parties small (or eliminate them all together) to eliminate the hurt feelings, political tussles and extra expense of having numerous people on each side. Wrangling all those bridesmaids, groomsmen, jr. attendants, flower girls, and Sparky, the ring dog is not everyone's idea of their perfect wedding day. Fortunately, there are many other ways to include honored guests in the day and keep the your stress level under control.
Readings can be included; and many are appropriate and very cute for children if they are old enough to enjoy that spotlight. (Dr. Seuss' "Oh the Places You'll Go" and Taylor Mali's, "Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog," are two that are great for kids, and long enough to be divided between several.) Your readers may even want to write their own. (Let them know to keep them to several minute...)
Many of the ceremonies I write with my couples speak of the people that played a part in their history; the colleague who introduced them; the friends who helped keep the proposal a secret. When they are mentioned in the story, it is instantly a more individual story, drawing on the memories of everyone who knows the "character."
All couples spend a decent portion of wedding-planning time trying to figure out music. What's the best piece for the bride's entrance--something traditional or maybe more upbeat, yet melodic? Will everyone in the bridal party enter to the same pieceat the reception or will there be different music for each person? What about the first dance? What music is good for getting everyone up from the table and on to the dance floor?
Last night I officiated for Shanae and Eric, a wonderful young couple with a great story and a great love for their families. Shanae and Eric chose a beautiful location for their ceremony--the Liberty House Restaurant at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, NJ. Although the the evening's festivities were (literally) dampened by the weather, this couple still had the ceremony they wanted. Something simple and yet very meaningful.
There was no need for me to be present at a separate rehearsal on this one because the staff at Liberty House did a superb job of organzing the wedding party in processing and recessing properly and on cue with the musicians. I was needed for leading Shanae and Eric into speaking the words and rituals that would unite them in the commitment of marriage.
Shanae and Eric wanted something simple, yet a bit more reflective of their love. In addition to the declaration of their intent to be married, the vows, the exchange of rings, and the pronouncement of their being married, Shanae and Eric asked for me to read "The Blessing of the Hands," by Daniel Harris, as they held each other's hands. And, they asked me to guide them through the pouring and sharing of sweet and bitter wines in a Wine Ceremony. These two "extras" turned a basic ceremony into something more.
I was excited and honored to be part of the romance that is the story of Shanae and Eric. And I am thrilled that their wedding spurred me to create a new ceremony package.
It's becoming more and more common for couples to see one another prior to the ceremony. A lot of couples do this for the chance to take the formal, family photos and get them out of the way so they have more time to mingle with guests at the cocktail hour. Some couples, however, still seem afraid to do this for fear of losing that "magic" moment when they see each other from opposite ends of the aisle at the beginning of the ceremony.
Although this fear has some merit, I have noticed that it's not usually the case. Again and again, I have watched couples be together for pictures and rehearsals and signing of the license and whatever else they need to do, and still experience the OMG-I-can't-believe-I'm-getting-married-to-this-person thrill of seeing each other when the music begins and the crowd rises to its feet. Even if the bride and groom have a special moment before the photo session where they get a "first look," they still have something of a first look at the ceremony.
Recently, I was officiating for a couple who had actually already been married by the time official wedding took place. I didn't prevent the groom from releasing an audible gasp and shed a couple tears when his bride came around a corner and was escorted, by her father, down the aisle as Train's "Marry Me" played in the background.
It's an amazing thing about the ceremony itself. There's a magic to the moment.
Just the other day, one of my former brides contacted me to see if I could do the baptism of her child who is due in December. I was overjoyed at this request. This has actually happened before. A couple comes to me for serving as their wedding officiant and, because of the connection we make with each other while preparing for that important event, when they approach another important event in their lives, the christening of their children, they think of me. Not all couples have an interest in, or a need for, the religious part of my life (I'm a church pastor), but for those who do, it's really sweet that they can have an ongoing relationship with the person who helped them become married to one another.
I tend not to be a gaga-over-jewelry person. When I got married, I wanted a simple strand of pearls around my neck, and that's what I had. I've grown to learn the importance of jewelry in defining a "look." An entire outfit or, in the case of a wedding, a gown and headpiece can look empty without a necklace at the right length or earrings that drop in such a way that a face or hairstyle take on a new brilliance.
What's even more important is the understanding that there are businesses that specialize in making special-event jewelry personalized for each body and each outfit. I am grateful to my friend, Deb, at www.elegantbydesignstore.net who is willing to learn about a bride's body size, gown style, and overall desired image when creating a necklace, earrings and even bracelet for a wedding. Deb even shows up at gown fittings (for brides local to her) with the necklace to make sure it fits at the perfect length. For brides a bit farther away, she spend lots of time on the phone and in e-mail getting all the pertinent details necessary for creating the right piece at the right size with the right gems and the best metals.
Jewelry is to an outfit what framing is to artwork. It completes the look in such a way that it makes the look "look" better.
There's something about this couple and their families that just made the other vendors and I want to go beyond our commitments in our contracts. I, for one, was glad to oblige the father of the bride and add some personal comments to a very Basic Ceremony. The photographer, from The Pros, noticing that they did not hire a videographer, went to her car and got her video camera and tripod and set it up at the back of the space. The DJ, also from The Pros, responding to the bride's wish for him to pick whatever would work, chose just the right entrance musc for the bridesmaids' walk and then for the bride to be escorted down the aisle by her father. And then there's the matre'd, from the Tides Estates in North Haledon, who made it his personal mission to find a young child to be responsible for the bubbles everyone would blow at the couple as they recessed.
We all wanted Josh and Tina to have a day that was better than they imagined. I think we succeeded.
They met at Gantry State Park, in Long Island City, NY, several years ago when Henry was looking for someone to teach him Portuguese and Tatiana answered the ad he posted on the Internet. So it was very fitting that Gantry State Park was the site of their nuptuals yesterday afternoon. About 40 friends and family members, plus their little dog CoCo, gathered on Pier #2 for the simple ceremony of vows, exchange of rings, and pronouncement of marriage, before heading across the street for their reception at one of the riverfront restaurants.
What I loved the most about Tatiana and Henry choosing this particular place for their wedding was that the park, situated on the east side of the East River, is on the edge of Manhattan--the place of dreams and possibilities. A wedding is on the edge of a new place for a relationship because marriage is a destination full of dreams and possibilities. Tatiana and Henry were right where they belonged as they crossed the threshold from one form of knowing each other to another--that of being husband and wife.
I'm very excited about the wedding this weekend and I'm not talking about the Royal Wedding in England. This Saturday, I am finally getting the chance to lead Lauren and Matt in their exchange of vows. It's been a full year of discussions, writing, interviews, preparations, etc. (I have several more weddings in the works after this one, but this is the first of the season and I'm really excited.) I bought a new outfit and have been looking at ways to fix my hair. Probably, nobody would guess that an officiant cares this much about the couples s/he marries. We actually do. I'm evidence of that.
If a couple is comfortable with their bridal party--those who particiapte in the ceremony with them--there can be some pretty funny moments arising. One of my favorites happened at Leah and Alex's wedding last July. L&A's ceremony was held at the visitors' center of a national park. The groom, best man, groomsmen and I had to wait in the gift shop of the park prior to the arrival of the bride's limousine. Apparently, the best man had a chance to check out the items in the shop and decided to purchase a couple things while no one was noticing. Once the bride arrived, the ceremony got underway. When it came time for me to ask L&A what tokens they offered as symbols of their union (in other words, "where are the rings?"), the bride and groom looked at the best man. The best man, rather than producing the rings, handed me two fuscia-colored wristbands that were sold for entrance on a ride the park offered. The sight of these bands made everyone laugh, espcially Leah and Alex. In keeping with the moment, I offered the bands to the bride and groom who, in turn, strapped them to each other's wrists and promised to "be together until the end of the ride." After the hilarity, I returned to the script and we continued the ceremony as planned. The best man found a way to bring the unexpected into the moment. It can happen at other weddings as well--as long as the bridal party members have a feel for the sense of humor of the main couple. It's always good for the bride and groom to be flexible about their day.
One of the best ways to make your wedding ceremony truly personal and romantic is speaking your own hand-written vows to one another. The problem is finding the right words and the best ideas for doing this. Sometimes couples commit themselves to writing their own vows but then one member of the couple doesn't get around to doing the work and then stands in front of everyone gathered and says something off-the-cuff like, "You're so hot. Just looking at you I know how much I love you. You're my best friend." These are great words (and who wouldn't want to hear them?), but they don't convey the promises of commitment that vows communicate.
Here are some things to keep in mind when creating personal wedding vows:
- make sure the vows cover the major aspects of life together: commitment and faithfulness through the best and worst times; finances; health; family; communication; respect; appreciation.
- start your vows by looking at some of the standard, traditional vows and then inserting your own words and thoughts.
- think more about doing than feeling. Rather than speaking of love, speak of action. What is it that you promise to do and to be, with this person, for the rest of your life?
- think about the best qualities of your partner and find ways to commit to being like him or her. For instance, if your fiance is good about fighting fairly, write a vow that says you will work at fighting fairly also.
- look on Google for hand-written vows from other people and see if there are aspects and general ideas of those vows that you can incorporate into your own. (Note: Do not lift anyone's work word-for-word and call it your own.)
- give yourself several weeks for the writing process. Don't try to sit down and do it all one time.
- break the work into manageable pieces. Write about respect on one day and then finances on another day.
- don't worry about perfection during the writing process itself. Just get the ideas down. Keep the work of proofreading until the end.
Good luck to you. You might find that the process itself is its own form of commiting to your future spouse and your marriage.
At some point after the wedding, photos of your great day will be appearing on table tops and fireplace mantles; cell phone screens and fb pages. When you imagine these pictures, do they say something specific about you and your fiance? For instance, if the "look" of your wedding attire is top of your priority list, do the photos you imagine show off the details of your gown and the cut of the tux he's wearing? If you want the world to know how much in love the two of you are, do the pictures capture an ultra romantic look between the two of you? Do they reveal how you both laugh easily? Do they include children because little ones are important to you? Do your imagined pictures celebrate the atmosphere of the reception you worked so hard to create?
As you go through the process of selecting YOUR photographer, scan the albums in their studios and pay attention to the statements the pictures say about those couples. Instead of focusing just on the cost of the package, pick a photographer who tends to get the shots that would tell the story that's important to you as a couple.
Top recommendations from me: flowingcolor.com; photography-by-rebecca.com; jefftismanphotography.com; vanschaickphoto.com
There was once a wedding where I was present but not officiating (a colleague was the officiant for the wedding that took place in my church). This allowed me to be in the back of the sanctuary as the bride and the bridesmaids were arriving. The bride's name was Angelica and everyone called her "Gellie." Included in the bridal party was a 3-year-old niece of the bride. As the bridal group waited for the ceremony to begin, the little niece approached the bride and said, "Gellie, Gellie, I'm scared." Gellie, in a remarkable gesture for one about to be married, put her own concerns aside and focused on the needs of this little one. "Come under with me," Gellie said, as she leaned downward while also lifting her veil enough for the 3-year-old enter into a special space shared by the two of them alone. The softness of the surrounding sunlight created a protective aura for them. I don't remember if I even heard anything that was spoken by the two of them. I do remember wishing the photgrapher could have had the opportunity to capture the moment on film. It's an image that stays with me--a beautiful bride, a child seeking comfort, and magical space created by a wedding veil.
In hearing many engagement stories from the couples I get to know, I have come to realize that the guys know about the impending proposal before the women do. They ask the parents, they purchase the ring, they hide the ring in different places. They sometimes have the ring "on their person." There are a number of stories of the ring being inside a pocket and how awkward that becomes. One guy had the ring in his pocket as the couple went through airport security on the way to Hawaii. The ring did not set off alarms, but the sweat on the guy's brow nearly gave away the secret. In another story, the couple posed for photos just before the proposal and the guy resisted hugging closely for fear that the girlfriend would feel the tell-tale box. In the meantime, she became annoyed that he was being aloof.
In all of these stories, one truth repeats itself--THE GUY KNOWS! The women go through wretched weeks or months wondering if their boyfriend is ever going to get off the dime and move things forward while the guy, the whole time, knows that there is a proposal approaching. (Sometimes the parents know as well.) If it weren't so delicously sweet to be surprised when the question is popped, there wouldn't be a need for such covert behavior. Alas, such is the way in matters of the heart.
Every once in a while I come across a professional vendor who really makes a difference for a couple's wedding ceremony. Once such person is Nella, a matre'd at the Crystal Plaza in Livingston, NJ. Nella ran the rehearsal just like a pro--getting everyone in line, up the aisle, through the motions, back out again, with very efficient timing. This is not where she stands out, however. It was when Nella did things like telling the bride to "kick" the front of her dress so that air would fill it up and make it puffier, that she really impressed me. Nella also showed all of the bridesmaids exactly how to hold their flowers and explained that doing so would make the photos look nicer--which I'm sure it did. My favorite tip from Nella was when she told the father of the bride to cup his daughter's face with his hands and draw it downward a bit so he could kiss her on the forehead. I had to hold back my tears at this point. Nella took the almost pedestrian "daddy's kiss" and turned it into a new Kodak moment. I hope all brides get to have at least one Nella among the professionals they hirer on for their wedding day.