(See here for part 1.)
Clergy know that in many cases we're just one more prop in the elaborate affair that is your wedding. The problem is, we went to theological school for three to five years to learn our profession, and for us a wedding service is a religious ritual. And it's demeaning to know you're being picked not because of your professionalism but because you have a nice building or because you have the right "look" for the wedding day or will look good in the pictures. We know you're shopping around based on location and whether or not you like us, but try to hide that a little, please. Basically, we want to be treated like professionals, and nowhere do we get treated less professionally, sometimes, than weddings. And don't tell us something like, "Well, we want to be married by a priest, but we can't because it's our second marriage, so we had to come to you, but we'll get this blessed by a priest afterward." Great--you've just told me that (a) I'm your second choice, (b) you don't really take either me or my religion seriously, so you'll have to get a secondary ritual done. And, yes, I've heard this one--more than once.
I know I'm taking something of a negative tone in these posts, and please take it with a bit of humor. Most of the time we're delighted to help you achieve the wedding of your dreams. But we're people too, and we get disgruntled and crotchety, and in writing this down I'm letting you see the dark side of the clergy--that we do grumble about some of the things that happen, we do exchange wedding horror stories, and we do have our pet peeves--mine are the aisle runners and the photographers. Here's some others that I've either experienced or heard about:
1. Wedding Planners - I haven't worked with these much, but I know from colleagues who have that there can sometimes be a clash of wills here. We're used to running things our way, and wedding planners are used to running things their way. It can throw us off our game to have an insistent wedding planner in the mix.
2. Ring Pillows - Put fake rings on them, folks. Stopping to untie tough knots that kept little ones from losing the rings can be pretty annoying. So can chasing a wayward ring bearer down the aisle (okay, I've never heard of that happening--but I bet it has!).
3. Ring Bearers and Flower Girls - Having little children in the service can be charming and adorable. It can also be your worst nightmare. Pick older children, and only have children if you're okay with something going wrong, because most of the time, no matter how adorable and obedient you think these children are, something will, indeed, go wrong. Have the children walk down the aisle, and then go from the front to sit with a trusted adult. Be prepared to go on with the show without them if they refuse to go down the aisle. And, this is important, have that adult they're sitting with be someone who is prepared to walk them out of the wedding area to somewhere else, missing the ceremony if necessary. You can even hire someone to be this person. It would be a great idea.
4. The Bridezilla - We've seen the stereotype enough to know what I'm talking about. Yes, it is your wedding day. But we are not all here to serve you. People are there because they're professionals performing a job, in which case they don't need you to be acting like you think you're a princess, or they're there because they care about you, in which case they're volunteers and friends and family, and you need to treat them with care and respect.
5. Groomzillas - Same goes for you, guys.
6. Drunkenness - All of us who have performed weddings have seen or heard of stories where somebody was drunk at the wedding and ruined the show. Keep your bridesmaids and groomsmen and bridesmen and groomsmaids sober at the rehearsal, the night before the wedding, and at the wedding. I won't perform a wedding if the couple themselves has been drinking on their wedding day, and I'll kick drunken attendants out of the show. There's nothing worse, folks, than being drunk or hung over on your wedding day. Why do you want to be miserable on the big day? And if you do need to get drunk before your wedding, you should be thinking twice about getting married to begin with.
7. Tardiness & Goofing Around - I know you think you're all cool and funny when you show up late for the rehearsal and then goof off the whole time. This is only my time you're wasting, after all. But ministers have families and partners and social lives, and we like to be able to do something else with our Fridays and Saturdays. So be there on time, and focus in and pay attention, and let us get through the rehearsal. If the rehearsal takes more than an hour, it's because you weren't doing your job, and you were late and/or goofing off. I know how to run a rehearsal, and it can definitely take less than an hour. Wedding couples, think twice about who you're having be these attendants. If you can get by with fewer, do so--a large wedding party makes for a lot more hassle. I wish you would pick them based on their capability of doing the job they're being asked to do, rather than your affection for them, but I know that won't be the case. But let them know that this show will go on without them, if they can't be there. Showing up five minutes after the wedding was supposed to begin is not acceptable behavior from one who is supposedly in this service because they care so much about you.
8. Something Goes Wrong - Always, always, something will go wrong. Someday I'll tell you about my wedding day, if you haven't heard the story before. It doesn't always go that wrong, but something will happen. If you're being wound up about it being your perfect princess day where everything is perfect-perfect, this will destroy your day. Don't let that happen. Prepare yourself for the fact that something will go wrong, and when it does, laugh it off and roll with it. It'll be the great story you tell later, whether it's a ripped dress or a toppled cake. As clergy, we believe that a wedding isn't about the cake or the dress, but about the promises and vows. The more you can remember that and believe that, the better your day will feel when the flowers turn up wilted or the pianist gets lost on the way there.
These are just pet peeves, of course, and they're annoying. But what's truly saddening at weddings is situations that come out between family members. And nowhere will the worst of your family dynamics come out more, unless it's at funerals. It's heartbreaking to see the negative relationship between siblings get played out by a sibling deliberately sabotaging a wedding, or a parent showing the broken relationship with their child through deliberate snubbing or even lack of attention to the wedding ceremony. There's nothing much I can do in working through the rehearsal and wedding to help you mend these relationships, and sometimes relationships are so broken they can't be mended, and for good reasons. But do what you can before the wedding, and don't expect all those negative dynamics to go away just because it's your special day--if anything, they'll get more intense. Weddings can bring out the worst in us all.
And now you've seen the ways in which weddings can bring out the worst in clergy--at least in this one, and make me peevish and ornery. But on the day of your rehearsal, I'll be there to protect your interests--to do what you've asked me to, even in the face of wedding planners, mothers and fathers, and photographers, siblings and florists, all of whom think it should go the way they do it or dreamed of it. I'm there to make it your day, not theirs. And on the day of the wedding, I'm there to help you put all of the annoying details aside and focus in on who you are as a couple and what this ceremony you're going through is about. Because it's not about flowers and music and rings and dresses and hair and nails and food. It's about a lasting commitment between two people and their pledges and promises for what kind of future they want to create between them. And I'm here for that.
To that end, one last piece of advice. On your wedding day, I don't want you running around and dealing with the last-minute details and the things that are going wrong. I want you to be able to be in the moment, thinking about what this is all about. So find someone to handle those things that will go wrong, because they will--someone not in the wedding party, not a family member, but someone who is organized and who knows all your details and wishes. If you have a wedding coordinator, that's actually great, even though I might clash with them, but if you don't, find someone to stand in in this role. I want you to enjoy the wedding.