Tip #1 – Shaping the Wedding Party for Best Results
As the officiant I like to have the bride and groom be able to look at me, at one another and at their guests. So stand with one foot slightly forward of the other so you are grounded, yet stable for turning a bit. Mostly you are facing one another, but slightly more facing toward your guests. If you have bridesmaids and groomsmen, have them stand the same way, fanning out into a wide V shape.
This looks great for photos and allows your joyous faces to be seen by those who love you!
Tip #2 – Seating the Parents for the Ceremony
Have your parents sit (or stand) on the opposite side from you. Even though the tradition of “bride’s side or groom’s side”, is no longer in vogue, parents and immediate family still tend to gravitate toward that side.
As the minister, the bride would be on my right. If her parents are on my left as I face the guests, they would be able to see her face – which is what they really want to see, right?!
Tip #3 – Relaxing into the Day
Give away control! Unless you have a wedding planner, as the bride you are likely running the show. Ask a relative or friend who is good at organizing and being in charge to take over for you the evening before, or at least the morning of your wedding. As the officiant I have seen many a frazzled bride still trying to make sure everything goes right before during and after.
You want to be relaxed and present for your own wedding. And those who care about you will be honored to be asked. So designate that person, let them know what you want, and then turn it over to them before the rehearsal (if you have one), or at the very latest, the morning of your wedding.
Tip #4 – Don’t Expect Everything To Go as Planned
As with any big event, regardless of excellent planning, some things will not turn out the way you imagined. Just knowing that in advance will help you let go and enjoy all the wonders of the day without dwelling on the things that were less than perfect.
Tip #5 – Kids and Rings
If you have a ring bearer, do NOT let him/her carry the actual rings! (I once cut the ribbon around the neck on a Labrador who was the ring bearer.) I have seen the wedding rings sinking to the bottom of a pond. Give them pretend rings and leave the real rings to the Best Man and/or Maid of Honor, or let your officiant hold them.
And while on the subject of kids, they almost never do what you think they are going to, especially if they are under the age of 5. So let whatever happens be okay. Just make sure someone is in charge of their safety and let the rest unfold as it will. They sometimes add humor to the ceremony!
Tip #6 – Not Too Short on the Ceremony
I often hear, “short and concise,” as a descriptive of what the couple want for their ceremony. Do not short change yourselves or your guests. This is your opportunity to declare what you are committing to and the path you are laying out for your future together. A well written ceremony can be quite sweet, personal, moving, inspiring, or humorous. Fifteen to twenty minutes is about right for your guests to feel like you just got married and be ready to help you celebrate.
Tip #7 – A Wedding Ceremony is Serious, It Does Not Have To Be Solemn
This is a sacred ceremony, and it is a human ceremony. Sometimes things happen that, if we can be relaxed enough to see the humor in them, will change the tone of the occasion to one of lightness alongside the seriousness. I have had many laughs with the bride and groom during the ceremony and it just makes it all the more fun and no less sacred.
Tip#8 – Decide Word for God, or . . .
What the officiant (or minister) believes, may not be relevant to your wedding. (Unless you are picking them precisely for their religious beliefs.) I always ask the bride and groom in the course of my getting to know them, what their word(s) for God is. It may be Spirit, Higher Power, God, Essence or any number of other words. One couple I married called this energy, Prime Mover. Okay. I will use the words or word that you both are okay with, maybe one for each of you. Or not use any word at all for God if that is your preference.
This is your ceremony, make sure it reflects who you are, individually and as a couple.
Tip #9 – Tell Your Guest What to Do
Most often the bride and groom want to take photos immediately after the ceremony and then be congratulated and hugged. (All that hugging can really mess up your hair and make-up!) You want to get this part over with and on to the party – right? Ask your officiant to step forward after the wedding party has walked back out/down the aisle and before the parents go, to step forward and say what you want them to do. For example, “Paul & Susie ask that you enjoy cocktails and appetizers while they take a few photos. They will join you after that and have asked that you wait until then to congratulate them.”
Tip #10 – Read or Repeat Vows?
There are two type of vows, the “I do” vows and the ring exchange vows. I always ask the couple to write their own vows, regardless of how much of the ceremony I am writing. I do have example vows on my website so they may pick one of those if it feels right, or use a piece from one and another, or just get inspired to write their own entirely. The “I do” vows are usually the same for the bride as the groom, but they don’t have to be. The ring vows are sometimes a surprise to each other and quite different. If you are very timid about public speaking you may wish to repeat the vows after the officiant. If you do not have a voice that projects and are not using a microphone, you may want the minister to read them for you to repeat.
If you choose to read them, practice them aloud beforehand. I always have them in large print in my notebook so you can have your hands free and look at your beloved standing before you.
Either way, ask your officiant to say something like, “Now you may read (or repeat after me) the vows you have written,” so your guests know they are your own vows.
I perform wedding ceremonies in Ouray, Ridgway, Montrose, Delta, Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Aspen, Edwards, and of course the North Fork Valley where I live. I am open to traveling just about anywhere on the Western Slope.