One Perspective: My Sister’s Wedding

I’ve just returned from a road trip to New York state to be a guest at my sister’s wedding. It’s an unusual role for me as I usually serve as the officiant at ceremonies, but I’ll be getting lots of practice this year with a total of three family weddings to attend.

The family weddings are a perfect example of one of my favorite phrases: Every couple should have the wedding ceremony and wedding day that they want. This is not a “one size fits all” experience, and each wedding can be special in its own way. Last weekend’s ceremony was a great example of a minimal ceremony with a very limited guest list. Everyone in attendance was directly related to the bride or groom. The ceremony was held in their home, and we all fit comfortably.

The ceremony was officiated by their town clerk (remember, marriage laws differ by state), and lasted no more than four minutes. After brief introductory remarks the couple said their “I do’s” and exchanged rings. A pronouncement of marriage and invitation to kiss wrapped things up. But it was the happiness that shone from the bride and groom’s faces, especially the smile lighting my sister from head to toe, that made this the perfect ceremony for them. The day continued with pictures, food and wine, and lots of chatter as two families met each other for the first time.

The next family wedding is in only two weeks, and promises to be just about the complete opposite from my sister’s. I’ll report back on that after it occurs. In the meantime, remember that choosing the elements of your wedding ceremony and wedding day that are meaningful for you will ensure happy memories for years to come. Best wishes and Congratulations to Mary Chris and Paul!

Surprise! It’s A Wedding

A surprise wedding can be great fun, but you’ll want to be aware of possible pitfalls as well. While it might seem at first glance that a surprise wedding would require less planning, in fact, it can take quite a bit more planning than a traditional wedding day, and you’ll have less help if none of your besties even know it’s going to happen.

Here are a few things that will be different if you opt for a surprise wedding celebration:

– You won’t have wedding showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties in the weeks before the wedding. But, there’s no reason these can’t follow the wedding if you like.

– You won’t have a wedding party (bridesmaids and groomsmen) in color coordinated clothing. You can, of course, ask a few of your guests to stand with you for the ceremony, and can even have arranged for bouquets and boutonnieres for them if you wish.

– The day will likely be more casual than traditional weddings, unless you can devise a story to gather all your family and friends for a dressy gathering without giving away the real reason.

– Your guests won’t be prepared with gifts on your wedding day… since they didn’t know it was your wedding day. Some may gift you in the following weeks or months, or maybe part of your intent is to make this less of a gift giving event.

If you want some of the standard elements of a wedding: a dress/suit or tuxedo, bouquets and boutonnieres, music (for the ceremony and party) and food, you’ll need to make all of those arrangements yourselves, and will have to try to keep everything hidden from your guests until the big reveal moment.

A surprise wedding may be a perfect fit for you if you’re looking to avoid some of the drama wedding planning can bring, if you want a generally lower key experience, or if you want your guests to focus on just having a good time. Some couples have used family reunions, holiday parties, or other social events as a “cover” for their surprise weddings, and this can work very well. Once all your guests have gathered, you take the floor, welcome them to your surprise wedding, and let the festivities begin.

One final word about surprise weddings – it’s best not to surprise the bride or groom with the wedding. This is actually pretty hard to do in Minnesota, since you need to apply together, in person, for your wedding license from the county government center. But even if you manage to find a way around that obstacle, marriage is a big, big commitment, that no one should be pressured into by finding themselves ambushed by a surprise wedding. Save the surprise for your guests, and it can be a fun filled, happy way to launch your new life together.

A Shout Out to Mid-life and Encore Couples

I recently saw a statistic that one third of all couples marrying in the US include at least one person over the age of 40. This is happening for a couple of reasons. First, the age at which people first marry continues to climb, with the average bride now being 27 and the average groom being a full 30 years old. The other reason, of course, is people who are marrying for a second or subsequent time. As with all couples, mid-life and encore couples have unique considerations and needs when planning their wedding.

Angel & Eric

Anne & Alley

The article I was reading went on at length about the accommodations and special thought that wedding vendors need to consider when serving these couples. And I realized that I’m very lucky in this respect. Since I work with each couple to define the ceremony you want for your wedding day, my process doesn’t need to change at all when working with mid-life couples. I offer options, and each couple tells me what you want to include in your ceremony. This includes options for rituals, readings, vows and more. And since the focus stays on you throughout the ceremony, reflecting on the love you’ve found together, honoring the commitment you are making to each other in marriage, and celebrating the bright future in front of you, it is by definition, appropriate for you regardless of your age and previous marital experience.

Kelly & Steve

Joanie & Rick

I’ve had the great honor to work with mid-life couples from back in 2010 when I started offering ceremony services, and I’m thrilled to include here today a few pictures of the wonderful couples I’ve married through the years. I sincerely hope they are continuing to write new chapters in their love stories as they share their lives together. If you are an encore or mid-life couple, I’d be thrilled to work with you to create the wedding ceremony that fits your vision and ideals.
Stephen & Gerardo

Francie & Mary

When is One Hundred Not One Hundred?

One hundred is not one hundred when you’ve invited one hundred guests to your wedding ceremony, but the last ten arrive to find no chair available for them to sit in. But why, you ask, would this happen? Because there are going to be empty chairs in a number of places, leaving your final guests standing awkwardly at the back of the ceremony space. Here are a couple of scenarios I’ve seen at recent weddings:

Scenario 1: One couple did not spend time deciding exactly which family members they wanted seated in reserved seating at the front of the ceremony space. They casually said, “Just leave the first two rows on each side of the aisle for family”. Each row had 10 chairs on each side of the aisle. The result – the last four to six seats in each of the first two rows were empty as the last guests arrived. All other seats were taken, and guests were standing around looking lost, having been told the first two rows were reserved for family. The venue had set out exactly the number of chairs asked for by the couple, which was exactly the number of guests they were expecting. Solution: Either ensure that the family will fully utilize the chairs in the reserved rows, or have extra chairs set up so non-family guests have a place to sit.

Ceremony space at Mayowood Stone Barn

Scenario 2: Many couples are opting for a more relaxed approach to seating their guests. Rather than having ushers formally escort guests to their seats, the guests are handed a program (if one exists), and invited to seat themselves wherever they wish, leaving the first x rows for immediate family. With these instructions, guests often leave an empty seat between groups, resulting in a scattering of empty single seats throughout the ceremony space. The last 10 to 20 guests are greeted with inside seats that are difficult to gracefully reach and without the ability to sit together. So they stand in the back. Solution: Have your ushers ask people to not leave empty seats between themselves, and have some extra chairs set up, knowing that some people will still leave empty seats. Another way to address this situation is to ask that the chairs not be placed right next to each other. Leaving just a couple of inches of space between the chairs provides an extra bit of shoulder and elbow room for your guests, and can usually be easily accommodated in outdoor ceremony venues where you’re not constrained by walls.

In each scenario, setting a few extra chairs removes some stress for your guests, makes everyone feel that they are expected and welcome, and allows your guests to take their seats quickly and without fuss. That allows you to start your ceremony on time and begin your wedding celebration on a happy note… all with the simple addition of a few extra chairs.

10 Things Your Wedding Guests Don’t Care About

Here’s a link to a recent article titled “10 Things Your Wedding Guests Don’t Care About“. While you may not agree with each of the 10 items listed, I think the underlying message is a good one. There are literally scores of things to consider and make decisions about when planning your wedding. It can become totally overwhelming if you spend a lot of time on each item. You can make your life even more difficult if you get caught up with Pinterest and try to recreate the many cute, but often unnecessary items found there.

So what do you focus on? I’ve written before suggesting that you identify the five or six things that you really value and focus on those. The article above looks at this idea from another angle, suggesting things that your guests might not notice or appreciate, and that you, therefore, don’t need to spend much time (or money) on. At the bottom of the article are also the five things the author claims the guests WILL care about. Hopefully, those will line up fairly closely with the things you care about, too.

Even if you disagree with the author on the items in either list, it’s worth considering this approach. If you’re spending lots of time (or money) on things that you believe your guests won’t notice or value, those might be great candidates to either forgo altogether, delegate to a parent or close friend to handle for you, or make a quick decision on and move forward. This approach will leave you more resources (both time and money) to handle those things that are important to you (and likely also to your guests).

Every couple has a vision for what their wedding day will be, and you want to bring that vision to life as much as possible. By letting go of some of the less important aspects of your day you can ensure that your focus stays on the heart of the day, which is after all, all about the love in your heart.