by Dave Sugarbaker,
We Want to "Personalize" the Wedding Ceremony
couple had met and fallen in love in the course of their
work together as actors at a famous theatre company in
San Francisco. These two wanted to have a larger spoken
role in the wedding ceremony. They wanted to say lengthy
statements to each other about just exactly why and how
much they loved each other.
them, as we got together to plan the wedding, that this
was real life, not the stage. The real-life emotions of
the day could sneak up on them. They assured me they
were professionals. They could do it. The Groom, in
fact, got quite indignant that I would even consider
warning them about possible difficulty in speaking. He
told me in no uncertain terms that this was their
wedding and they would do it as they had planned. I
assured them I wasn't going to stand in their way.
of the wedding arrived. We were in the Berkeley Rose
Garden, with 150 guests, and a beautiful wedding party.
The Bride and Groom turned to face each other and speak
of their love and eternal commitment. Both started to
cry. Neither was able to speak. Because, as
professionals, they didn't need prompting or help, they
hadn't given me copies of what they planned to say to
each other. There was no way I could help them. Their
guests, their families and I waited as each struggled to
give brief and incoherent voice to their innermost
the vows were completed and we moved on in the ceremony.
The rings were next. I gave the ring to the Groom, who
had insisted that he make his simple statement to his
Bride [again] without my prompting. As he put the ring
on the Bride's finger, he said "With this wing, I thee
story isn't meant to scare you, but to cause you to
consider how much performance pressure you want to add to
the other pressures you may feel that day. At least
consider giving the Officiant / Minister a copy of what
you plan to say to each other. If you need to ask for the
card, it will be there for you.
to add a uniquely personal flavor to the wedding, without
asking your officiant to recount your life histories or
the entire saga of your meeting and courtship, is to write
one-page letters to each other, to be read during the
wedding ceremony. Talk together about what the outline of
the letters will be, and a general direction for the
subject matter so there is some connection between what
the two letters will be addressing. Think about what you
would like to say to your partner during the wedding
ceremony. Write it in the letter, but don't show it to
your partner! Have the officiant read your letters to each
other in the early portions of the wedding.
couple had two friends, one "representing" each of them in
pseudo-lawyerly fashion, read a humorous list of assets
each was contributing to the marriage "Mr. Smith brings to
this marriage four linear feet of old phonograph records;
a 14-year-old cat; two of the most lovable daughters in
the world; a bass fiddle; 54 first cousins; and skill and
experience in repairing a 1960 Volkswagen...." The list
goes on, back and forth, between the two
"representatives." It can be touching, lighthearted and
both of you can speak to the guests, thanking them for
coming and supporting you at this special time, and saying
whatever is heartfelt and appropriate at that moment.
Prepare well and have note cards available to prompt you
if you need them
truly fearless, and if you have sufficient talent, sing to
your partner or read him or her a wonderful love poem.
Caution this is a highly emotional time. Know that you can
in fact finish singing or speaking, if you start.
personalize the wedding by what you choose to have the
officiant say the readings, the solos, the form of the
vows, all communicate to your guests about the nature of
your particular partnership.
If you are to kneel during the wedding,
there's a choreography to it. As you go from standing to
kneeling, the Bride should precede the Groom by just a
fraction of a second. Groom hold your Bride's hand and
steady her as she kneels. Getting up is trickier. The
Groom should rise just a fraction of a second before the
Bride and again offer his hand to help her stand up. It
can be tricky in a long dress.
you're going to kneel during the wedding ceremony, don't
let any of your Groomsmen get at your shoes! Two reasons
First, they may write "HE" on your left sole and "LP" on
your right. It's good for a laugh during the ceremony, but
it's an old joke. Second, if those madcap Groomsmen write
on the soles of your shoes, it may rub off and damage
carpets or floors you walk on unawares. You may be liable
for the cleaning bill.
Taking Care of Young Children in the
If the young people are five or older, you
can probably relax. They will be able to do what you ask
them to do and will probably listen better at the
rehearsal than the adults in the wedding party.
children under five, you need to make some judgments,
based on the temperament of the child and the stress of
the situation. If you are not sure your little ringbearer
will actually be there when the officiant needs the rings,
give the real rings to the Best Man and Maid of Honor and
put two dime-store rings on the pillow. If the Ring Bearer
"bails out" at the last minute, you will still have the
rings when you need them in the ceremony.
want to arrange for several "rescue points" for children
under five who either may not make it down the aisle at
the beginning of the wedding or who may not be able to
stand with the wedding party for the duration of the
ceremony. The first "rescue point" is to have an adult -
known to the child(ren) but not in the wedding - present
with the Bride's party just prior to the processional. If
"nerves" suddenly strike, that adult will be there to take
the child to sit with other relatives and watch the
wedding. Young children's successful performance at the
rehearsal often has little to do with how they will
perform with all the guests watching!
"rescue point" can be arranged for young people in the
wedding party who you think will be able to do the
processional, but may not be able to stand - or stand
still - during the wedding ceremony. Arrange for a
relative of the youngster to be sitting on the center
aisle toward the front. The child processes in and then is
invited by Grandma, or whoever, to sit with them and watch
the wedding. The children can be reinserted into the
wedding party as the recessional passes by on the way out.
"rescue" for children under five is to designate a member
of the wedding party (a Bridesmaid for a Flower Girl; a
Groomsman for a Ring Bearer) who is given specific
permission and responsibility to decide when and if the
young person should be offered a hand and walked to a
waiting relative among your guests. Bribes of lifesavers
or quarters work sometimes; hissing and threats never
wedding was underway and everyone had successfully
arrived at the front of the Chapel. There were four or
five bridesmaids and ushers. Two or three minutes into
the ceremony, the three-year-old flower girl started
squirming. As time went on, the squirming increased, and
in distress the flower girl finally turned to the Maid
of Honor and said "I have to go potty."
Maid of Honor didn't really know how to solve the flower
girl's problem at that moment, and told her to be quiet.
The squirming escalated and there were more
announcements of a similar nature. The bridesmaids stood
the flower girl began to cry. No one was taking her
seriously. She really had to go! Everyone was frozen in
Finally, the organist, having watched the squirming and
heard the comments, took the situation and the little
girl in hand and walked her off the altar area and into
the choir room where there was a bathroom. The flower
girl (much relieved) and the organist were back in their
places before the wedding was over. A large percentage
of the guests were not even aware that the flower girl
had left the scene temporarily.
lesson always have a designated member of the wedding
party authorized and encouraged to deal with the needs of
three- or four-year olds during the wedding!
responsible adult should not be your Maid of Honor or Best
Man. He or she may have other responsibilities during the
wedding ceremony that would prevent them from taking care
of a youngster. If the young person was walked off the
altar to sit with a relative, he or she can be reinserted
into the passing Recessional if they choose.
Keeping the Rings on the Ring bearer's
Most ring pillows are equipped with ribbons
to be used to tie the rings on. In my experience, the
ribbons are a disaster. They are either tied too tight or
not tightly enough.
some Brides or Mothers of the Bride who devise other
ingenious solutions to the problem of ring security
Mother of the Bride, with a small case of tunnel vision,
sewed the rings securely to the pillow. Apparently she
didn't stop to consider how this might become a problem
when the Best Man was asked to liberate the rings from
Best Man on this occasion was literally and figuratively
a mountain man. He was huge, with a wild beard. He had
come down to the city to do honor to his friend, the
Groom. He was in a very large tuxedo (size 56!), but
somehow the clothes failed to take the mountain out of
the man. He might just as well have been wearing
rehearsal, this mountain man had been coached to take
the rings from the pillow and hand them to me. At the
ceremony, however, he encountered the immoveable rings.
He gave the rings a tug or two, and realized the
problem. He reached behind him, inside his tuxedo
jacket, and produced a huge knife, with a seven or eight
inch blade, and proceeded to "operate" on the pillow.
The rings were free in short order, but the pillow never
"too tight." There's also "too loose"
Bed & Breakfast Inn, the Bride's two daughters, aged
four and six, were to be the Ringbearer and Flower Girl.
The four-year-old had the rings, tied loosely on the
pillow so they could be easily removed by the Best Man.
She carried it with one hand in a strap on the underside
of the pillow and the other hand free to steady it. It
was a long walk down ivy-lined paths from the B&B to the
gazebo where the wedding was to take place. In her
nervousness, the four year old started punching the
pillow with her free hand, turning it into a satin
catcher's mitt. By the time she arrived at the gazebo,
several thousand dollars' worth of ring had been lost
somewhere in the ivy.
preventable! Tie the ribbons on the pillow in a nice bow
and forget about them. Secure the rings to the pillow
using long corsage pins. Use the long pin to catch some of
the fabric of the pillow cover, then put the pin through
the ring and back into the pillow fabric. The ring is now
secure but easily removed. This is good insurance!
pillow with the rings attached to the ringbearer sixty
seconds before he heads down the aisle in the
processional; not half an hour.
Having a friend or relative read a poem or
other selection during the ceremony is a way to include
someone important who isn't in your wedding party. It
helps to know they can, in fact, speak reasonably well in
rule (or should be) of public speaking that one should
never attempt to read what one doesn't first understand.
Don't have a friend read a dense and complex poem if he or
she can't take the time and energy to "take the poem
apart" and understand it first! Have your friend read the
selection for you, so you can check for mispronounced
words, etc. It will pay off for you on the wedding day
when the reading is an integral and meaningful part of the
microphones, etc. for them so they can be heard when they
speak during the wedding.
What About Solo(s)?
If you plan one solo during the wedding,
the best "window" for it would be after the Vows and
before the Rings Exchange. If you plan two solos, put one
after the moms are seated but before the processional, and
the other between Vows and Rings. Arrange with your
soloist and whoever will accompany your soloist to
rehearse their music at a time other than your wedding
rehearsal! The soloist's attendance at your wedding
rehearsal might still be a good idea, but only to get an
idea of the physical space in which they will be
singing... not to rehearse their music during your
couples plan a solo while they light the Unity candle [see
below.] If there are more solos desired, these might best
be placed before the wedding, during the Prelude time,
before the seating of the immediate families, or as
background for the seating of the immediate families. Some
couples plan a vocal solo as their Processional music.
plan for more than two solos during the actual wedding
ceremony, the event might take on more of the flavor of a
musical recital, rather than a recital of your wedding
vows. Don't ask a soloist to sing during your Recessional.
Based on 4000 weddings' experience, it's hard on the
soloist to be singing to an emptying house.