Sunday, August 27, 2017


I like to do rehearsals. Why? Because there's always a chance for miscommunication. The bride forgets to tell the officiant that a bagpipe player will be performing a medley of romantic songs just before the vows, or Uncle Smedley, who used to pastor a church in Arkansas before that "incident" will be reading from scripture, which turns out to be the first six chapters of Isaiah. Usually, however, it's little stuff. This past weekend the ceremony included a Unity Sand Ceremony. We discovered during the rehearsal that I had the wrong version in my notes, so we fixed it in time for the actual ceremony.

In general though, the rehearsal should be a fairly straightforward affair: get everybody lined up, show them where they are going to stand and let people who have parts to play know what there cues are. This of course includes whoever is holding the rings (usually the best man). It can also include any "extras", like family members who are going to come up and do a reading, or a musician or singer who will be performing during the ceremony. Since a wedding ceremony can be considered a performance of sorts, you don't want a lot of "dead air"; you want your singer or musician to be in position or least sitting close to the front when it's their turn.

The way I run a rehearsal is to start at the front of the room - the altar or arch, or wherever the ceremony is going to held. I then ask the bride and groom to line their attendants up in order, I then help them position themselves and ask them to note where they are standing. Then, before doing an actual run-through of the ceremony, we practice the recessional. As the bride and groom are walking out I instruct the wedding party as to when they are to follow the bride and groom. I also tell them to stay in order and with their partner because we're coming right back!

Now we can practice the processional since everyone allegedly knows where they are going. Once the processional is complete and everyone is in place we can actually walk through the ceremony, give everyone their cues and entertain questions. (Sometimes it's a challenge to keep questions on topic - decisions about table settings and limousines are best left for later). Occasionally the walk through will reveal flaws in the plan  and we make changes. Most of the time one walk through will be sufficient, but if there is any confusion, practice the processional and recessional as many times as needed.

A smoothly run rehearsal is one of the benefits of utilizing a professional officiant, especially if you do not have a wedding planner or event coordinator. An officiant with many weddings under his or her belt will anticipate potential problems and solve them before you even are aware of them.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Outdoor Weddings

Most people who plan outdoor weddings understand that they need a backup location if it rains (or snows!), but most don't consider the other challenges of an outdoor venue. Extreme temperatures can happen when you least expect it. That September day that you just knew would be cool and pleasant? Winter can come early. And summer weddings can bring heat indexes topping 100 degrees. How about where the sun will be in the sky at "I Do" time? A couple whom I married a few years ago scouted out their spot a full year before their wedding to determine whether the sun would be in anyone's eyes and if the guests would be in sun or shade - now that's planning.

It's also a good idea to find out if your location is home to mosquitoes...or bees! Scope out he path that your bridal party will be travelling for the processional, is it flat ground, gravel, pavement or soft grass? The surface will make a difference whether the ladies want to wear heels or not! What about noise? A popular wedding spot here in Lincoln is in a public park at one of the busiest intersection in Lincoln, so not only do you have the traffic sounds, but that of happy families enjoying a day at the park. Add to that - the preferred spot in the park is in front of a waterfall, which usually drowns out the officiant as well as the couple's vows.  There is also a venue where a train occasionally goes by during a wedding; out of sight, but unfortunately not out of earshot. Find out if your officiant has a microphone; if not, renting one would be worth it.

Finally, will your guests be able to find it? Sure, Google maps can get you anywhere, but what if there's no cell service in the area? I've conducted my share of late-starting wedding because someone important to the bride and groom was lost somewhere on the back roads of Nebraska.

Outdoor weddings can be beautiful, but they require an extra layer of planning.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Cell Phone Cameras

Here's some wedding advice - two cents from your friendly neighborhood wedding officiants:

Ban cell phone cameras from your wedding ceremony!

There's a couple of different reasons for this. One is that you want your family and friends to share the moment with you at that moment. Concentrating on getting a  good picture, or taking a video, distracts the amateur photographer from what is actually going on in favor of collecting an image for later.

Guests taking pictures can also be distracting to the guests who aren't taking pictures, not to mention the bride and groom and officiant. I've performed a few ceremonies where there were so many flashes that I found it difficult to read. There have even been a few weddings where guests got out of their seats and positioned themselves right in front of the bride and groom.

Then there's the professional photographer. They have been contracted to provide the couple with pictures for the wedding. They know where to stand in order to get the best photos, and know how to keep out of everyone's way while doing it. People standing in the aisles (or even leaning into the center aisle) will possibly ruin some shots. A professional photographer recently told me that some of the pictures that he takes are of the guests, it's hard to capture the proud smile of a family member or friend if they're frowning with concentration over a tablet that's blocking their face.

Photographers also take great care to note the light level in the room and adjust their equipment accordingly. Forty flashes going off from all corners of the room will not be helpful!

If you do decide to ban cameras, have your officiant make an announcement in addition to an easy-to-see sign at the entrance to the venue.

Keep cameras in the hands of the professionals!

Assembling Your Wedding Team

You can have an extremely simple wedding: you and a few family members in your living room, or at the courthouse, in which case your headaches will be few. But for most of you will have something a little more elaborate than that, in which case you'll need to assemble your wedding team.

The Venue
This is possibly the first thing that you'll have to line up. In most cities popular wedding venues are booked a year or more, even years, in advance. Find out what the venue will provide: do they offer catering, or do you need to make separate arrangements for food? Will their staff set up the room for you? Is there a deejay on staff? What's the parking situation? Will you be having the ceremony and the reception in the same location? The more popular places will anticipate your questions and help you with planning. Other locations may not be as helpful, but more affordable.

The Photographer
A professional is the way to go, preferably someone who has done a few weddings. Not only are there posed pictures, but there are many opportunities for candid shots during the processional, recessional and the reception. A good photographer will be virtually invisible. I've seen a few blocking guests' view during the ceremony; a no-no as far as I'm concerned. A good photographer won't need every member of the wedding party to stop and pose during the processional - but everyone should smile - that's hard to edit in afterwards! Sit down with your photographer and discuss exactly what pictures you want taken. Experienced professionals will have suggestions for you, but let them know if there is anything out of the ordinary that you want.

There are some great caterers and bakers in town. If your venue doesn't provide food, shop around, ask for suggested menus. Surprisingly, several of the grocery stores in town have excellent bakeries and cake decorators who do an excellent job with wedding cakes.

Many deejays double as the master-of-ceremonies during the reception. Work with your deejay on a schedule for your reception, pick out the songs together (although a good deejay will know what kind of songs work best for different parts of the ceremony) and make sure she has a list of all the relevant names. Some deejays will provide a microphone for your officiant and any musical accompaniment. Check with your musicians and your minister for their needs. For example, since I don't memorize my weddings (each one is different) and read from a script, it is awkward for me to juggle a hand-held microphone and ask for one on a stand, or at least a clip-on.

Wedding Planner/Coordinator
You're probably going to be somewhat nervous and under some stress on the day of the wedding. Hiring a wedding coordinator will take the pressure off. A wedding planner or coordinator not only does a lot of the leg work in lining up your vendors, but also helps "direct traffic", i.e. get everybody lined up and in place on time for the ceremony. A coordinator will also handle any last minute problems like missing flowers, late arrivals or issues with the sound system so that you can relax and enjoy your big day.

There are numerous other details and many other team members that will contribute to making the day go smooth: florists, bridal and tux shops, printers (for invitations) and of course, don't forget, an experienced officiant!