I only perform a handful of weddings per year, but I've been performing them for over ten years, so that's plenty of time to see some of the best and worst examples of wedding behavior. And every year lately I've been thinking of writing up this list of dos and don'ts, but I shy away lest a particular couple think it's all about them. Trust me, folks, it's not. Everything on here has been done by multiple people, and sometimes it's a colleague who mentioned the particular issue I'm listing.
1. Entitlement & Importance - Your wedding is important... to you. For your clergy person it's just another wedding, to some degree. And for some clergy people who are barred from legal marriage due to lack of same-sex marriage in most states, it can be a bit of a thorn in the side that couples can have a sense of entitlement about their marriage without looking at the bigger societal picture.
2. Religion - Presumably you've come to a clergy person rather than a Justice of the Peace because you want a religious wedding. Therefore, it would make sense if you cared a little about the religion of the person who is performing your wedding. Learn about our faith tradition. If you're at odds with it, you're coming to the wrong person to perform your wedding.
3. Taste - Just because you think it would be cool to get married in the nude or dance in the aisles or include your dog or jump out of an airplane doesn't mean that your clergy person is up for this. We may have different attitudes of what is in good taste, so check with your clergy person ahead of time if you're planning anything unusual. You may need to find someone else, so give yourself plenty of time with this.
4. Thoughtfulness - Your clergy person most likely thinks that the most important part of a wedding is the wedding service itself; it's what makes you truly married, not the big party that follows. Humor us in this, and show some thoughtfulness about your wedding service. Think ahead about what your wedding means to you and what you want it to be like.
Those are some over-arching ideas and issues. Now into the nitty-gritty:
1. Aisle Runners - Personally, I hate these things. I hate what they symbolize, which as far as I can tell is about the purity and/or nobility of the bride. That's why the bride walks on the aisle runner and not the groom. These things are tripping hazards, and they often are difficult to roll out correctly. The nature of them is that you only want to do it once, so it can't really be rehearsed. They interrupt the flow, and are quickly dirty and torn. Enough said.
2. Flowers - Personally, I'm allergic to them. That's the only reason they're on here. But avoid putting them under everybody's noses. Lots of people have allergies.
3. Music - I'm not a musician, first of all, so don't come to me with questions about what you should choose. If you're doing recorded music, there are lots of nice CDs out there with wedding music choices on them. Go to Amazon and type in "Wedding Music." Just don't wait for the last day. Oh, but don't plan to play it off your iPod. Who is working your iPod on the wedding day? Is it compatible with the church's sound system? Just a plain CD will work nicely, thank you. And in my church, you're responsible for your music. If it's recorded music, you need someone assigned to hit "play" and "stop." I can't do it, and you can't do it--we're already up front. When you hire me and rent the building, you get me and the building. You don't get extra staff people to push buttons. Lastly on music, unless you're working with professional musicians who do weddings all the time, have your musicians or recorded music there at the rehearsal. Seriously. It needs to be rehearsed.
4. Photographers - No where in weddings do ministers have more issues than with photographers, in my experience and opinion. Here's the situation: Ministers think they're running the show. Photographers think they're running the show. Sometimes we can't both be right. So here's who is: Ministers. We believe that the ceremony is about the ritual in the present. Photographers think it's about how it will look later in pictures. This can be the difference between thinking that something is a theater or is a movie set. In a theater, the most important thing is the audience's enjoyment. Photographers don't go walking on the stage to get the close-up. On a movie-set, the most important thing is the perfect picture. Getting right in front of the actor may be necessary. Here's why the ministers are right: If it's our church, it's our decision, our rules. If we say no flash photography, that means no flash photography. If we say no moving up and down the aisle and in and out the aisle during the ceremony, that means don't do it. Please convey your minister's rules to your photographer and make sure that he or she is prepared to adhere to the policy.
5. License - I'm not running city hall, so it's not my job to tell you how, when, or where to get your license. I just sign it, stamp it, and put it in the mail. It would be nice if I didn't have to stamp it because you'd done that, however.
That's enough for Part 1. Coming up in Part 2: late, drunk, and unruly wedding parties; screaming and kicking little children; bridezillas; and more!