Wedding Tips

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!


adelev said…
I totally understand where you are coming from here, and I think your practical tips and suggestions are valid and necessary. I am just a little put off by your very first point about entitlement and importance.

Yes, the wedding day is important to the couple, and they have selected you to share one of the most important days of their lives. I was married by a JoP because I was not a UU at the time of my wedding. If I were getting married now, I would definitely want my minister to perform my wedding, and frankly, I would be disappointed and hurt if I thought he did it with an attitude of "No big deal. Just another wedding."

Regarding entitlement, I am a strong supporter of marriage equality, but I am not ashamed to admit that on my wedding day concern about those who were unfairly prevented from marrying was not at the forefront of my mind. I can see where the clergy person would be bothered by a couple treating her as if she were a prop or an extra in the performance that is their wedding, and such an attitude from a couple would be completely out of line in my opinion, but I think we need to excuse a couple from being a little self-absorbed on their wedding day. That is only to be expected.

Equally to be expected is "wedding burn-out" on the part of the minister of course. I would like to think the minister would at least try to rise above that. My minister gave a sermon I found incredibly moving about how the legalization of same-sex marriage helped him appreciate the honor and opportunity inherent in playing a role in the official joining of so many couples. If you are interested, you can read the sermon here:

Cynthia Landrum said…
More about "importance." I suspect, Adele, that you were not one of the brides to which this is pointed. But there is definitely the phenomenon of importance where the wedding becomes such a big deal to the people involved that they start to forget that the whole world doesn't revolve around their needs for their day. There are weddings that have been very special for me, usually because they're with members of my congregation or they're for friends and family. Most other weddings are just another job. I'm glad to be part of your special day, and I want it to be special for you, but I'm just saying it's not all that special for me. When that sense of a special day comes with a sense of your own importance, sometimes it gets a bit overbearing.

Yes, I'm taking a snotty tone in this piece. It's not personal against any one person or even wedding couples in the general--just giving air to some things that build up in clergy.
Cynthia Landrum said…
Oh, and of course I rise above that with couples, and generally that's why I've avoided writing this snotty piece for years. ;)
I would add videographers, too. Just did a wedding last weekend where the videographer had set up three(!) cameras, one of which stood exactly where the flower girl had been instructed, during rehearsal, to stand. First time I dealt with a videographer - not looking forward to a next time... Argh.

On the other hand - I've never had to deal with an aisle runner. Most weddings I do are outdoors, or in peoples' homes, and those that are in churches just haven't had any.
I actually appreciate this piece (even though it's admittedly a little snotty). Couples spend more time and effort on the reception some almost forget to select an officiant. My son is getting married in a few weeks and from the time they became engaged we discussed the importance of the ceremony and why it's so important. I wish other parents would too. I think we'd have much less divorce.
And, yes, many couples do get caught up in their wedding being the only thing in their lives while having the expectation that everyone else in their social circle feel the same. Weddings are wonderful and exciting, but shouldn't take over our lives.
Cynthia Landrum said…
@Earthbound Spirit -- Aisle runners at outdoorweddings are even worse! Bumpy=more tripping!

And, yes, videographers, too! And photographers or videographers who think they should stand where the wedding party stands!

@Top Wedding Sites -- good job with your son! Thank you for understanding both the importance of the ceremony and also how the couple transfers that feeling of special day to everyone else around them sometimes. :)
Cynthia Landrum said…
And outdoor wedding issues need a whole separate blog post, don't they?
Outdoor wedding issues need a whole separate blog post? -
Photography said…
Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
thank you :)

Popular posts from this blog

Blessing the Backpacks -- Backpack Charm Craft Instructions

Garrison Keillor Is no "Companion" for Unitarian Universalists

The New First Responders