Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Are You Nervous?

"Are you nervous?" - This is a question that I hear people ask brides and grooms on wedding days fairly frequently.  Why? Is it really that common for people to question whether they actually should be getting married? In my experience brides and grooms are pretty confident that they are making the right decision, at least by the time wedding day rolls around. (This isn't to say that people are always making the right decision!) And it's evident that many people are nervous on their wedding day, so what's the reason? Let's look at it:

Even the simplest weddings are performances. The bride and the groom, the best man, maid of honor, groomsmen & bridesmaids, the parents, even the flower girl and ring bearer are playing parts. The guests too, are on stage. People are often dressing up at weddings, wearing what for all intents and purposes are costumes. The wedding party parades down the aisle; the bride & the groom have speaking parts and the little kids are expected to follow instructions, even though oftentimes their parents haven't done anything to prepare them for being "on stage". For ordinary people, being the center of attention isn't part of day-to-day life.

In addition to the ceremony, there's even more details involved in the reception. There's flowers, music, food and dancing. Did the flowers arrive on time? How about the cake? Is the food hot? Is the deejay keeping things moving? How about the photographer? In a lot of weddings the reception is highly choreographed. All of this is nudging the bride and groom in the back of their brains while they are getting ready for the ceremony.

So what can you do to be less nervous on your wedding day?

  • Plan: don't leave things to the last minute - that's a sure way to be nervous!
  • Prioritize: make a list of your chief concerns, decide what is most important
    • Be honest about what terrifies you - if you just can't get through your vows without sobbing uncontrollably, tell your officiant that you just want to say "I do"
    • There is not one thing that you have to do in your wedding ceremony or reception, cut out the things that you don't want
  • Budget: set your budget and stick with it
  • Delegate: ideally, hire a wedding planner who will take responsibility for all the little details, otherwise a friend or family member that who you can trust implicitly to handle it all for you
  • Surround Yourself With Positive People: keep your circle of confidants clear of complainers and "Chicken Littles" - no matter what, the sky isn't falling
    • Watch out for the friends and/or family who are full of suggestions, it's your wedding!
  • Schedule: set up a reasonable timeline for all the things that you have planned in steps 1 and 2
  • Rehearse: definitely rehearse the ceremony itself, but a walk-through with the deejay and the photographer would go far in calming the jitters - make a list of questions to ask your officiant and other vendors so that there's no surprises
  • Communicate: If something is a non-negotiable item, make sure that the people responsible know how important it is to you
  • Relax: everything doesn't always go 100% according to plan!
  • Laugh: sometimes the little things that go wrong make for hilarious stories!
The bottom line is that at the end of the day you'll be married - which was the goal - you achieved your goal! You get to have a party with your family & friends and you're not the one who has to clean up!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Rehearsals - Redux

There was a time when I didn't emphasize rehearsals. Mainly because I looked at my job as walking to the front, turning around, and reading. I've come to believe that it's much more than that. A rehearsal gives me the opportunity to reassure the couple that every detail of their nuptials will proceed according to plan, whether that plan is simple or elaborate.

While I prefer to conduct a rehearsal at the same site as the actual wedding, even a run-through off-site has value. It gives the wedding party the chance to find out who they are walking with, where they will be standing, assignments (Who has the rings? Who takes the bouquet? When do you give it back?) and get an idea of how the ceremony will proceed.

Having the rehearsal at the same location as the wedding ceremony gives everyone the additional benefit of seeing exactly where they will be standing, how far they will have to walk during the processional, and little details like where does the best man step to hand the couple their rings? (Answer: behind the bride and groom - in front of the officiant - and take the rings out of the box!). I usually get everyone lined up at the "altar" first, practice the recessional, then turn right around and do the processional followed by a walk-through of the service.

As part of the rehearsal I also spend time instructing the bridesmaids and groomsmen on minutia such as how to line up (in an angled or slightly curved line so that everyone can see the bride & groom; standing at an approximately 45 degree angle); how to walk (woman with her hand in the crook of the man's arm, not linked at the elbows - this makes it easier to walk, especially if there is a big height difference); and how far the couple ahead of them should get before starting to walk; also where the bride & groom should stand during the unity ceremony (behind the table, or at least on the side, so their guests can see what they're doing).

The rehearsal is also a good time to talk about staying relaxed and not getting stressed out about small details. The behavior of ring bearers and flowers girls is often cause for concern. "Kids will be kids" I usually say; whatever they do, your guests will think it's cute. It's usually a good idea to have a plan for where the youngsters will go after they have delivered the pillow with fake rings (DON'T ever give the real rings to a three year-old!) and the flowers.

If the bride and groom will be saying their vows (rather than just responding "I do") I like to make sure that I talk about how the microphone will be handled. I prefer to have a mic on a stand or a boom where I can simply tilt it toward them when it's their turn to talk, so that they don't have to lean in to speak. The deejay can usually adjust the gain to allow the mic to pick up their normal speaking voices.

Once we've run through the ceremony itself, I ask the bride and groom if they would like to do a second run-through. More often than not they are comfortable with once. An exception to this might be if there is an unusual or complicated processional arrangement. Finally I ask the wedding party if they have any questions. There have been times where attendants have asked very good questions, causing me change my thinking on something we were doing, but it's important to stay focused on what we're there to do and not get distracted by aspects of the wedding day, like limo rides and the reception. Before I leave I make arrangements with the two witnesses to meet with me get the license signed.

And that's it. A well-run rehearsal with a cooperative group will take a half hour or less. See you all tomorrow for the wedding!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Deejay: Not Just For The Reception

When people talk about deejays at their wedding, they're usually thinking about the reception. A deejay can make or break the the atmosphere at a reception, the good ones know the right mix of music to get everybody up and dancing, yet keep the music at a background level during dinner. But what about the ceremony itself? Your guests have joined you for this pivotal moment in your life - they may be thinking ahead to the wedding cake and the open bar, but you want them to hear what's going on! Most deejays, in addition to providing music and master-of-ceremonies services during the reception, will also take care of processional and recessional music and will set you up with microphones so that your family and friends can hear the officiant, as well as the bride and groom when it's time for vows.

In our early days as wedding officiants we would often have a deejay hand us a wireless microphone just before the ceremony. A handheld mic is very helpful if the officiant has memorized your ceremony, but we seldom do, since each wedding is unique, and we try to avoid going off on tangents, which is a strong possibility when operating without a script. So for us, a handheld is a little awkward. We've also used clip-on or headset microphones, which are ideal if the vows are going to be in the "I Do" format, but not so ideal if the couple will be reciting their vows. The clip-on or headset may not be able to pick up the vows. We have taken to recommending a mic stand with the the stand equidistant between the officiant, the bride and the groom. We then do a pre-ceremony sound check to verify that the mic placement will be able to pick up all three. Sometimes this requires some on-the-fly volume or gain adjustment by the deejay, but if done right, no one has to touch the microphone, or change position in order to be heard. This has worked well every time we've done it.

One item on our pre-ceremony checklist is to check in with the deejay, not only to arrange for a sound check, but also to make sure that we are all on the same page when it comes to music. Making sure that everyone can be heard, even in the back row, is an important part of your wedding ceremony.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Religious Affiliation

From time to time we are asked whether or not we are "real" ministers, or what church we belong to, or even specifics about our religious beliefs. We always decline to answer questions like that, not for any nefarious reason, but because we strive to maintain an openness to couples of all faiths (or no religion at all).

The State of Nebraska has designated several categories of people who may legally officiate at a wedding in the state. One of these categories is "ordained minister". The state does not presume to decide what determines a valid ordination and leaves that up to the individual religions, denominations, seminaries etc to set their own standards.

Couples who are active in their respective faith usually have their own minister, priest, imam or rabbi solemnize their marriage ceremony. For those who desire a wedding minister who shares their religious beliefs, or are looking for someone to spiritually "bless" their union, there is usually someone close at hand who is in that category. We at Beyond Illusion Wedding Officiants do not attempt to meet that description!

One of our goals is to work with you to create a wedding ceremony that reflects your beliefs and what is important to you. We feel that our own views of spirituality are irrelevant; what is relevant is what you want. And because we make your wishes the priority, our policy has always been to keep our own religious opinions out of the process and put the spotlight on the bride and groom. We do not discuss our personal religious opinions or affiliation in order to maintain an openness to couples of all backgrounds.

We always encourage a couple to schedule a face-to-face meeting before committing to our services.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Thanks for Choosing Us!

As we move into a new year, our twelfth as wedding officiants, we at Beyond Illusion Wedding Officiants would like to express our gratitude for all the couples who chose us as their officiants. A special thanks to those who recommended us to their friends and relations, as well as the vendors who tell their customers about us; and, of course, those of you who took the time to write reviews.

We started in 2007 by performing eight ceremonies, advertising in the yellow pages with no online presence at all. We kept track of our brides and grooms on a paper calendar stuck to a clipboard and returned your calls via a landline. Eventually we realized that it was the 21st century and there was this thing called the internet. Today, other than word-of-mouth referrals, most people find out about us through our website beyondillusionweddings.com, as well as our Facebook page. This past year we've added a Twitter feed and of course, this blog. We also purchased a small amplifier that can be utilized at no extra charge for those noisy venues! 

Beyond Illusion Wedding Officiants has also changed our pricing structure to better serve the diverse needs of the community of soon-to-be brides and grooms. Our standard wedding, which has always been semi-customized, now tagged as The Silver Package, continues to be couples' most popular choice. We've added a Gold package, which will be 100% customized, designed from scratch, as well as more affordable options for people who want to elope, or just need someone to "make it legal" by signing the marriage license. For those who would like to be united in marriage by a close friend or relative, but that person lacks experience, we will help you write the ceremony that your chosen officiant can use.

No matter who you are, where you're getting married, no matter how simple or elaborate, it's your day, and we, as always, will help make special for you!

We look forward to another great year working with many more happy couples!

Happy Holidays!

Revs. Tom & Susie Joyce

Monday, November 13, 2017

Five Hundred Plus Weddings!

On September 30th of this year, Beyond Illusion Wedding Officiants celebrated our 500th wedding. We started on this matrimonial journey on March 31st 2007 with Mandi & Brandon's wedding and have averaged 45 a year since.

Before we started performing wedding ceremonies ourselves, we attended the wedding of some friends in Chicago, where the officiant was another friend of ours. During the ceremony Susie elbowed Tom in the ribs, whispering "You'd be good at this!" It took several years for Tom to heed this advice, but an ad went into the Lincoln phone book's Yellow Pages in 2007 and we were off and running. Eventually we upgraded to a website, Facebook page, Twitter feed and now the blog.

That first year was quite an adventure. We were learning as we went, accepting advice from other officiants, scouring the internet for tips and developing our own style. That first year Tom officiated at eight weddings. In 2008 Susie began doing her own, starting out with two on 8/8/08! The number of weddings increased quickly - one year we even did 75! There were times when we were officiating three times in a day!

Unlike many officiants, we do not use the same liturgy for everyone, but provide a method that we call "semi-customized". Upon meeting the soon-to-be  bride and groom, we go over a checklist with them that helps to come up with an outline for the ceremony. As we review the checklist together, the couple have the opportunity to add or take away items that we suggest. Occasionally they have everything figured out ahead of time and just hand us the completed ceremony. That is extremely rare!

Once we have the outline worked out, the couple is sent an email with the outline, as well as a selection of options for each item on the outline. We like to give them the opportunity to think through their choices without pressure. We are available for follow up visits, or subsequent communication can be by email. Once they have made their choices we put everything together in a final draft so that the bride and groom know exactly how the service will go, without concern that we'll go off on a tangent.

We also offer fully customized ceremonies, short, non-customized weddings, or we can just sign the paperwork for you.

Tom likes to tell people that officiating at weddings is "the best part time job in the world" - we've met many wonderful people over the last ten plus years and 500 weddings, and look forward to 500 more!

Monday, September 4, 2017

What To Do If Your Wedding is Running Late?

The short answer is "Don't Run Late"!

There are a multitude of ways that the start time for your wedding can be delayed. Any one of the big and little details can take longer than you thought it would. So what do you do? You plan. One of the fundamentals of any kind of event planning is that you anticipate everything that can possibly go wrong and come up with a contingency plan, a Plan B. I have done a fair share of event planning in my life, and my assumption always is that things will not go as planned. Outdoor event? What do you do if it rains? Where's your backup location? Do you need to delegate someone to set up the backup room?

A key to knowing what could possibly go wrong is to have some experienced professionals on your wedding team.
(See my previous blog: "Assembling Your Wedding Team"


An experienced wedding planner will anticipate some of these potential problems and work to obviate them before they happen.

One of the potential weak links in the wedding day chain of events is an unrealistic estimate of how long things will take. If the bride's hairdresser tells you that it will take a certain amount of time, make sure the estimate is accurate, and then pad the time. Then make sure that you stick to the schedule. Someone is going to have to crack the whip and make sure that if an item on the schedule is supposed to take 90 minutes, that it takes no more than 90 minutes. A great wedding planner will make sure that this happens. Travel time is another possible cause for delay. Did you allow for heavier-than-usual traffic if there is another event that day? What about parking? Is your wedding party driving around for 20 minutes looking for a parking meter while the photographer waits (im)patiently? Of course vehicles break down, you can't predict when it will happen, but what's the plan for when it does happen? Everyone has cell phones. Do you have someone designated to drive and pick up missing people? Wedding party and family pictures also occasionally take more time than anticipated, but not usually because of the photographer. People wandering off to smoke, or chatting with each other when the photographer is trying to get you in place will slow things down. I've seen weddings where someone was designated as a "wrangler" to get everybody in place so that the pictures moved along at the planned pace.

Finally we're down to the last hour or so before the ceremony. This is where decisions have to be made regarding start time. Usually by this time the bride, groom, wedding party, parents and officiant are all on site. The bride and groom have to decide whether or not the issue holding things up is in fact important enough to hold things up. A year ago I officiated a wedding that started close to an hour late. the reason? The bride's bouquet was missing. In my view, this is not a reason to delay. Few, if any, guests, will realize that the bouquet is missing, so starting that late is not going to endear you to your family and friends!

Until now we haven't mentioned the guests, the family and friends who have come to share this day with the bride and groom. They have made the effort to be there on time and are sitting outside in the hot sun, or inside on hard wooden pews and they are very aware that the invitations said 5:00 and it's now 5:20. Respect your guests who cared enough to show up on time. Of course, sometimes some of the guests aren't there. The reality is that many people have no interest in the ceremony and just want to attend the reception. Some people are just terrible at getting places on time, and no matter how late you start, someone will come in after you start. So, don't worry about the stragglers and start on time. (Exception - if a very important family member, like grandma or a parent isn't there, you might want to wait, but you should have also included their arrival in your planning!)

And speaking of guests, for outdoor wedding especially, no one wants to sit down any sooner than they have to. Instruct your ushers to firmly guide your guests to their seats so that everyone is seated at least 5 minutes before you line up.

More often than not though, the delay is due to no one realizing how late it is. Once again, this is where the wedding planner comes in, cracking the whip, getting everyone lined up and up the aisle. In the absence of a planner I often take on this role myself.

So, as I said at the beginning of this blog post: "Don't Run Late"!