Planning a Wonderful Wedding Ceremony?

Here are some tips to get you started!

1.  Avoid "Hot Trends" that aren't so Hot!

Recently, I came across three different articles which focused on current trends in weddings: the first displayed a gallery of sheer dresses that left little to the imagination; the second informed readers that the current trend in ceremonies is to have a friend or family member officiate, especially if they are used to public speaking; the third suggested that having wedding guests use their cell phones to capture the nuptials would  save money that would otherwise go to a photographer! Please, please don't follow a trend just because some wedding guru claims this is the "hottest"!  You will look back on your wedding and regret sacrificing quality for fleeting fashion.

Let's start with the sheer wedding dresses. The models flaunting them were stick thin and knew how to walk so that the fabric provided discrete coverage in both front and rear; even so,  fashionable or not, there was a shock value to these dresses that would be magnified if the bride were even a few pounds heavier than the model. Not only would the "flesh spillage" be ungainly, but any bending or stretching would mean an instant "wardrobe malfunction" and public indecency. Enough said.

​Then comes the issue of inviting a friend or family member to officiate. Having a loud voice or the ability to read well does not make for a good officiant. 

1.  Find the Right Wedding Officiant: Don’t settle for someone who will simply show up and read a canned ceremony; instead, work with a Marriage Officiant who will respect your uniqueness as a couple. Ideally, meet him/her before the Wedding or at least have phone contact as well as email exchanges. Wedding Officiating is, for me, not merely a job but a way of  celebrating Life and Love -- and for this there is no "right" price tag! When assessing the "value" of a Wedding Officiant, ask yourselves: 1) Will this Marriage Officiant  respect you, your guests and your unique circumstances? 2) Will this Officiant truly create a ceremony that reflects your beliefs, traditions and love story? 3) Is this Officiant professional as well as caring, articulate as well as creative, skilled at public speaking while possessing strong inter-personal skills? 4) Will this Officiant bore your guests to tears or leave them feeling uplifted, energized and ready to continue the celebration? 5) Can this Officiant handle the unexpected, respond to emergencies and transform awkward moments with just the right comment to put everyone at ease? 

2. Don't Settle for an Inexperienced Friend or Relative as Wedding Officiant! Sadly, in an effort to save money, couples sometimes invite someone they know to preside on their important day. This person may be close to you and be only too happy to serve, but may have no understanding of "ritual flow" -- the transitions between ceremony elements, when to interject humorous remarks, how to diffuse tension. Also, there is a vast difference between reading a script and delivering an experience -- your family member may be a great reader but may lack the "right presence" to carry the occasion with all its solemnity, exhilaration, moments of tenderness, and light-hearted playfulness. Only someone with experience can carry this off!   You want your ceremony to be memorable for all the right reasons, not because your Officiant unexpectedly goes off script and shares inappropriate stories about your childhood, or worse still,  adolescence!
3. Work Closely with your Marriage Minister: Do you want a religious ceremony (if so, which faith traditions are to be represented?), a spiritual ceremony or a secular ceremony? What “God language” (if any) are you comfortable with? Do you want to include any rituals (e.g. the Sand Ceremony or Rose Ceremony) or any special texts? Will you write your own vows or use standard vows? Would you like your Officiant to give a brief address, drawing on your history as a couple? Are there special people to be included in the ceremony – children from another marriage, a child you have together, visiting relatives from overseas? Are there special customs or traditions you wish to incorporate? These are important considerations if you want your ceremony to be truly personal.    

4. Know the Difference between a Cruise Ship and a Land Venue: On land, Weddings  start “whenever” and members of the bridal party are often late; on board, ceremonies start on time or the boat will leave without you! Punctuality is crucial so make sure that everyone knows this – including guests! Boat ceremonies usually last about 20 minutes. This means everyone involved (couple, parents, bridal party etc.) should be prepared ahead of time and know the order of service. Readings should be brief and if you invite someone to read, that person needs to rehearse the text carefully (suggestion: ask someone comfortable with reading in public). Typically, there is time for only one ritual, whether Hand-Fasting or Jumping the Broom!) Unity Candles are not permitted because of the fire hazard and the probability that the flame will be blown out by gusts of wind.    

5. Be Flexible: Outdoor Weddings are lovely, but make sure flowers and ritual props (e.g. glass vessels for the Sand Ceremony) are weighted down or they will blow away! Occasionally, bad weather can mean the ceremony moves inside; if so, roll with the waves and don’t let disappointment cloud your day – you will still have the wedding of your dreams!    

6. Remember your Marriage License: Your Marriage Officiant cannot conduct the ceremony without it.

7. Invest in Relationship Coaching!  Trained as a spiritually-based life coach, I am also available for relationship coaching before or after you have "tied the knot!" If you have an outstanding relationship, why not invest in making it even better?    A member of Spiritual Directors International (SDI)  and of the International Coach Federation (ICF), I am a Board-Certified Life Coach  who has offered spiritually-based coaching since 1989; I have also trained others in the sacred art of listening and am currently on faculty at the Institute for Life Coach Training (ILCT). I would be more than happy to listen to you and help you explore dreams and set goals for the future!  Though I serve primarily in Christian contexts, I work extensively with people from all faith traditions, as well as with "'spiritual seekers" without a formal religious affiliation.

Chicago Wedding Rites Wedding Minister

Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart,   Chicago Wedding Officiant