Robbie in Ireland: I have been looking for rituals that can be done for a reconciliation, but all I am seeing is Rituals of Reconciliation like the Bell of Truce you describe. Is there anything like a wedding ceremony for a couple who are not divorced and remarrying, but have gone through a tough time or separation and are reconciling?
Rev. Ann: I believe you may be referring to a Vow Renewal ceremony. Couples renew their vows for a number of reasons, with reconciliation being a fairly common one. Vow Renewals can follow the typical pattern of a wedding ceremony, but tend to be private and include special vows specifically for a reconciliation. They can also be something quite different from the flow of a wedding and consist of pretty much anything you can imagine. This is a ritual that lends itself to a high degree of personalization. It can be officiated by a professional or held in private with just the couple in attendance. I would recommend contacting a member of the clergy or independent officiant in your area and ask for their advice. If you prefer something more private, an internet search for 'vow renewals' and 'reconciliation' may generate better results than 'ritual for reconciliation.'
Tara in Australia: I am getting married in the U.S. at the end of this year and am finding and booking my vendors by internet without ever meeting them in person. I fell in love with one photographer's work, but noticed it's not a full time job for her. Should I move on to my next choice or take a chance?
Rev. Ann: Just because someone does something part-time doesn't necessarily mean they are not a professional. I personally know great people in my area who work other jobs and are phenomenally talented professional photographers part-time. (...and DJs, musicians, officiants, wedding planners, etc.)
There is a difference between amateur and professional, but it isn't full-time verses part-time. If you really like the quality of her work and feel she captures weddings the way you want yours captured, just ask for references. A true professional will be happy to provide them to reassure you their work will meet or exceed your expectations.
Deena in Jamaica: Since the day we were engaged, my fiance and I decided to recess out of our wedding to "Beautiful Day" by U2. (Don't ask!) I am a big fan of the Vitamin String Quartet. Can we have an instrumental piece for the processional and a song with vocals for the recessional, or is that too weird?
Rev. Ann: As someone who has seen a couple recess out to "Another One Bites The Dust" by Queen at the end of a ceremony begun by a thoroughly traditional and instrumental processional (Pachelbel's Canon in D) played by a live string quartet, I don't think you are weird at all.
Just this past weekend I officiated a wedding where the couple recessed out to the Star Wars theme. Choose music meaningful to you and you really can't go wrong. You may have a few guests who don't quite "get it," but that's their problem!
Indica Woodruff Photography
Most people associate wedding music with the tunes that accompany the Processional and Recessional as the wedding party marches up and down the aisle at the beginning and end of the ceremony. Anyone who has been to a handful of weddings will recognize the classic formula of Pachelbel's Canon in D (bridesmaids), Wagner's Bridal March (bride), and Mendelssohn's Wedding March (recessional). While music is not required when entering and exiting a wedding ceremony, it seems to be pretty much expected.
Music can be used effectively in other parts of the ceremony as well though. However, there are a few things that should be taken into consideration to ensure the music adds to the ritual and doesn't detract from it. For example, while it may seem like a good idea to have music playing during a sand ceremony, unity candle or other such ritual, it doesn't actually work that well. These rituals do not last very long and the officiant usually speaks throughout. The spoken word helps guide the participants by giving them directions and explains the symbolism to the guests. Background music is fine, but it will not be the focal point at such moments within the wedding.
The following recommendations will ensure your special song or cherished tune stands on its own as an important element in your Order of Service no matter if it is placed towards the beginning of the wedding, right in the middle or closer to the end.
1. Whether the piece is live or recorded matters less than if it evokes just the right emotional response in you and your guests. So select a piece that is meaningful to you! If you let a soloist choose a piece he or she finds easy to sing or ask your DJ to play his favorite song, your guests will spot the disconnect in a heartbeat. If a piece of music doesn't spring readily to mind as something you would want to hear during your wedding, don't feel you need to include any special music at all.
2. Although many of the most common rituals are not conducive to music, you might want to consider some sort of activity during a musical interlude. Try this. Play your favorite song while standing in your living room facing one another and holding hands. Now imagine your guests staring at you while you are facing one another holding hands. I can promise you a three minute song will feel like thirty. Here are some ideas for activities that will keep everyone engaged without detracting from the music.
3. Pay attention to the length of the piece and edit for brevity if necessary. Musical interludes should not exceed three minutes in length if you want to keep guests engaged, especially if your favorite song has lots of verses or is particularly repetitive.
4. Invest in quality when it comes to live musicians! This is not an issue if you are using a recorded piece, but can be huge if you are engaging a live musician. Okay, I'll be the bad guy and say it. This is not the time to agree to let your cousin sing if she cannot carry a tune in a bucket. Nor is it the time for your nephew to scratch out "Ode to Joy" on the violin he just started learning a few months ago. Promise me you will not torture your guests with low musical standards.
Photo Attribute: Commonly used online, no provenance found.
I promised awhile back to share my perspective on DJs for weddings. I am not sure why, but I frequently encounter people who assume that, as an officiant, I would not appreciate or promote the work of DJs. Quite the contrary!
While I have admitted to a preference for live music at the ceremony, I do love working with professional DJs. It is always a treat when they provide the mic and run my voice through their sound system so I do not have to set up my own equipment. We have a number of great DJs in my area with whom it is a dream to coordinate the ceremony. I definitely prefer professional DJs to a boom box when it comes to processional and recessional music - any day of the week.
I have enjoyed lives bands at wedding receptions, but encounter DJs far more often and actually prefer them as entertainment. The few bands I have seen at weddings were accomplished musicians, but not terribly adept at being Masters of Ceremony. They didn’t have anything to suitably fill the gaps during their necessary breaks and were limited to their own style of music.
I have seen live music put to its best use when musicians perform a set for the cocktail hour and then a DJ takes over for the formalities of the reception. Similarly, I attended a reception this spring where a band played a single set in the middle of the reception. The DJ was able to grab a bite to eat and relax for a little bit while the guests were essentially treated to a mini-concert.
Although DJs are frequently the primary entertainment at many receptions, couples can fail to appreciate how much the quality of the DJ impacts the overall experience. DJs have an amazing degree of influence over the flow and atmosphere of your festivities. I have seen DJs create incredibly awkward moments by mispronouncing names or badgering someone to dance who really does not want to be out on the floor. On the other hand, I have seen DJs transform a sluggish mass of people merely enduring the cocktail hour into a laughter-filled crowd enjoying a fun and engaging cocktail party.
Take note though, this is a wedding vendor category particularly prone to “weekend warriors.” There are plenty of folks who think because they can push a button on an iPod they are qualified to DJ a wedding. Please believe me when I tell you the DJ does much more than this. This individual is your Master of Ceremonies and should have the unique personality necessary to pull it off without being either boring or obnoxious. They have to be able to “read a crowd” and know when to switch to a different style of music at a particular point in time to rev things up or tone it down. I have attended enough receptions where this was not the case and it can make the occasion rather tedious for guests.
A good DJ will have an extensive music library, high quality sound equipment and an engaging personality. Many of these entertainment companies can also do wonderful things with lighting to achieve just the right festive atmosphere.
While you should definitely be permitted to select key songs, I highly recommend you share your tastes with the DJ and then leave it in his or her capable hands with respect to music selection. Your desired play list may not be the best choices for pacing a celebration attended by a diverse group of guests. Trust me on this and trust your DJ. We are talking about professionals who have experienced hundreds of events and consequently have learned what works and what does not. I know you have the best taste in music ever, but dictating the play list to the DJ is a guaranteed way to ruin your reception. Do not be tempted to do it.
If this is not an aspect of your wedding that is all that important to you, enlisting a friend or opting for the lowest quote might be perfectly fine. But if you want an awesome party with entertainment rather than just background music, take your time and hire a reputable professional DJ. The price difference is well worth a place in your budget.
So are cellos, pianos, flutes, bagpipes, steel drums, etc. I confess to a fondness for live music at wedding ceremonies. I love it, love it, love it!
I am in no way discounting the skills of good professional DJs and I'll be happy to explain in another blog entry why I think they are fantastic for the reception--and why it's so important to choose the right one. I also enjoy working with DJs who provide good sound equipment for the officiant in their package as it makes my job a little easier.
But for the processional and recessional music and perhaps a musical interlude? I'll opt for live music every time. We have no shortage of great musicians available for weddings here in central Florida. I have officiated ceremonies with harp, flute, string quartet, piano, classical and Spanish guitar, bagpipe and steel drums.
Accomplished musicians are simply more adaptable to the situation than recorded music. If your choice is between a friend with a boom box and a professional DJ, go with the DJ. But even they can't make a song longer if your bridal party gets to the front before the song ends. They can only replay the song from the beginning or go with the silence. A live musician can choose an appropriate section to repeat without stopping and guests are none the wiser.
While I have seen this happen, typically the bridesmaids and then the bride arrive at the front well before their respective songs are over. In that case, the DJ has to fade out the volume where a live musician can end the piece with a well-timed flourish at the logical end of a measure.
I'm inserting this paragraph on 07/707/12 because of an experience at a wedding this weekend. It's something I've witnessed before that is unlikely to happen with a live musician--equipment failure. I've never seen a flute have technical difficulties. On top of the DJ having trouble getting the computer to boot up, he queued the wrong song for the bridesmaids. I was able to whisper the correct piece for him to make the change, but there was nothing I could do about the bride walking down the aisle to what must be the most common and recognizable recessional march. Yep, her father escorted her to her groom to the music most commonly used for the triumphant couple to leave their ceremony as husband and wife. A harpist or pianist wouldn't make that mistake.
Perhaps it's the romantic in me, but I just find live music for the ceremony to be a beautiful touch. Aside from the adaptability to the moment, live music lends a bit of elegance, even when we're talking bagpipes and steel drums. If your budget allows for a musician to play at your ceremony, and they may not be as pricey as you fear, give it some serious consideration.
Healing Strings of Brevard (harp)
Jan Jennings (harp)
Nicole Scott (flute)
Alpheus "Ali" Adam (steel drums) - I'll go ahead and put him on here, even if he is a Chelsea FC fan.
Franke Lutz (steel drums)
Classern String Quartet
I'll go so far as to put in a little extra punt for Petra at Healing Strings of Brevard. She brings live music to the bedside of ill and dying patients both in the home and in clinics or inpatient settings as well as performing at weddings. I admire people who use their gifts and talents to comfort others and make the world a kinder place.
Photo Attribute: I shamelessly stole the above photograph from Josephine Lee, of Vancouver Harp. Alas, I live on the opposite side of a continent and in another country, but should you find yourself getting married in the Vancouver area, go ahead and give her a call. If she's anything like her website, she must be awesome.
Rev. Ann Fuller
The commentary on this blog is my own opinion developed over years of officiating a wide range of wedding sizes and styles. I am always happy to answer any questions you may have.