When couples tell me this in our consultation, it really could mean absolutely anything since a theme is a broad concept. A theme is anything that guides you to choose specific details for your wedding that are visually related. The most common theme is one that many people do not even recognize as such.
Color! If you have chosen specific colors for your wedding, you have a theme since that is what is driving your decision making when selecting clothing, flowers, decorations, etc.
Other common themes draw from the time of year and utilize holiday or seasonal touches. I bet if I say the words "autumn harvest wedding" or "Mardi Gras wedding" you can immediately imagine the colors the couple might use and maybe even give them some ideas for decorations, wedding favors, and a cake topper.
More specific themes might focus on favorite flowers, animals, and locations. Just this past year I officiated weddings themed with sunflowers, butterflies and Scotland - not all the same wedding of course. The butterfly couple had custom wedding rings made with butterflies engraved on them. Absolutely beautiful and very unique. You can probably already guess the groom and best man were attired in kilts at the Scottish themed wedding.
Historical time periods, favorite novels or movies, hobbies and interests make fantastic themes. I once officiated a New York Yankees themed wedding that included some of the cutest little touches I have ever seen despite being married to a Red Sox fan. The hot dog condiment bar at the reception was a big hit!
Next year, I will be officiating a "Shrek" themed wedding, though the couple keeps assuring me it will be very subtle. Rats, I would be tickled to death if they showed up in full costume! A few years ago, I got into the spirit of things and wore a costume to officiate a Halloween wedding. That will likely be the only wedding I will ever officiate as a zombie, though I have heard I have a groom at a pending wedding who would probably get a kick out of it.
Themes can be as whimsical or as stately and elegant as you want. They can be glaringly obvious, or quite subtle with just a few touches. The one thing they should be is authentic and capture what is important to you.
I highly recommend you select a theme that is meaningful to you. A nautical themed wedding when you are afraid of water or a honeybee themed wedding when you are allergic to bee stings would just be weird. Choose something that will make your guests blurt out, "This is sooooo them, it's awesome!"
Having a theme can make planning a wedding a great deal of fun if you like the challenge. While it may limit some of your choices, it does provide you with excellent guidance and thereby render decision-making a little easier. Once you've made the decision about the theme of course.
Themes provide excellent opportunities for those amazing "little touches" that will make your wedding one of your guests' most memorable. Don't forget to share your theme with all of your vendors. See how excited they get!
See, my head would not be in the close up!
Kaytlin and Geoff want to know if the officiant has to stand in the middle between the bride and groom during a wedding ceremony. This is a fair question with an easy one-word answer. Of course I am going to respond with more than that or it wouldn't be blog worthy, would it?
So, does the officiant have to stand in the middle? No.
I do officiate the vast majority of my weddings while standing in the middle between the bride and groom. They face one another and I face their guests. However, I do move to the side as I pronounce them joined in matrimony for a rather pragmatic reason. I want the photographer to get a direct shot of their first kiss without my red head in the background. That should be their moment alone.
I also move to the side during elements such as a sand ceremony, unity candle, time capsule or any other such ritual. Again this is because I do not want to intrude on any good photo opportunities or obscure the guests' view.
I have officiated a few weddings while standing off to one side, but there is a reason why I typically stand in the center.
One of the most important aspects of my role as an officiant is to provide the "non-anxious presence." I want to make certain the couple are fully present in the moment and enjoying their ceremony. That becomes more difficult if I am off to one side and cannot see their facial expressions or be in a position to communicate via my facial expressions when I feel they need it - whether it be a smile, nod, or even a wink.
I make eye contact with both the couple and their guests frequently throughout the ceremony and off to one side does not allow me to do that quite as well as being centered. Most couples are understandably nervous during their ceremony, whether it is the gravity of the commitment or stage fright generating those nerves. When the officiant is off to one side, the couple can feel totally exposed and the weight of the moment exacerbated, not necessarily in a welcome way. Simply having a calm and reassuring presence within a small circle of intimacy can go a long way in reducing tension and thereby enabling the couple to focus on one another rather than the discomfort of the moment.
Photo Attribute: Cheryl Clermont of Space Coast Photographer
On your wedding day, it might not be who you think.
I'm going to give you the one piece of advice that might very well go the farthest towards ensuring you have the smoothest possible wedding day. Find yourself a bad guy.
I'm serious and here's what I mean by that. You are likely to be surrounded by vendors bending over backwards to provide you with the wedding of your dreams. You are likely to have plenty of friends and family who want to see you happy. What you are not going to have is someone willing to tell you what you really need to hear. No one wants to break bad news to the bride. I see this a lot and I am still surprised when I encounter vendors who cannot bring themselves to be straight about a situation.
I see the following example all the time. No one wants to be the one who makes the decision to move an outdoor wedding to an indoor location when there is a strong possibility inclement weather is going to move in at the worst possible time. Everyone involved wants the bride to have her first choice location and does not want to be the bad guy here. Especially if the weather actually does cooperate in the end and the ceremony could have been held at the original outdoor location after all. So we leave it to the bride to make the call. Not a good idea! She doesn't deserve that much additional stress. Good decision making requires minimal emotional entanglement. Since when have you seen a minimally emotional bride?
No one wants to be the person who tells the bride it's too bad her beloved Aunt Jane hasn't arrived yet, but we've already held the start time for twenty-five minutes, guests are getting restless, the photographer is worried about losing light, the kitchen staff is anxious about the length of time the roast will be sitting... and her aunt is just going to have to miss the ceremony.
Imagine a bride ticked off the florist delivered the wrong centerpieces and is having a hissy fit over the situation rather than getting ready for the wedding. How many people do you know have the fortitude to respond, "Get over it Missy, no one's going to know but you and it's too late now, so sit still so we can finish your makeup?"
I recently officiated a wedding at the beach where the bride had given very specific instructions to her wedding planner regarding the placement of the arch and how she wanted to process into the ceremony. The groom's sister and mother came down to the beach to check on things and went ballistic because the arch was not set up to the bride's specifications. Given the tide schedule, the direction and speed of the wind that evening and the other people on this public beach who would also need access to the stairs - the bride's instructions were simply impractical. The groom's sister and mother would not listen to the reasons why the set up had to be changed and no one wanted to tell the bride what was going on. Except me.
You know what? The bride was fine. I didn't dance around the subject or leave it as another decision she would have to make. I explained the situation, told her what we were doing to accommodate what we could and why it would provide the optimal experience. It wasn't an option for her, it was a report on the situation. Done.
Find someone in your family or circle of friends with a no-nonsense attitude who isn't afraid to bring you back down to earth when the situation warrants and exhibits sound decision making ability. I recently had a bride whose favorite male cousin performed this function admirably. He was fantastic! What little challenges we encountered stayed molehills instead of escalating into mountains because he was there to put it in the proper perspective and give it a reality check. By the way ladies, males are great for this. They do tend to make decisions quicker with fewer emotional impediments. If you have a man in your circle of friends and family who enjoys this kind of stuff, grab him!
Enlist your "bad guy" and tell him or her to stay by your elbow. Give this person permission to make judgment calls on your behalf and tell your vendors who this person is and that he or she speaks with your authority. You'll have plenty of "yes men" surrounding you on your wedding day so this isn't the person bound and determined to have everything your way. What you need is someone who can tell you "no." That's your best buddy and your most valuable set of helping hands.
Photo Attribute: Indica Woodruff Photography
Rob and Erin showing off their football boots.
I’ve met with plenty of couples who have unfortunately lost sight of the fact their wedding day is supposed to be all about them and their unique relationship. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. Wedding planning can gradually, or not so gradually, become the rote selection from a pre-set menu of choices rather than an opportunity for creativity, spontaneity and charm.
Choose your colors, pick out a cake, select a DJ, decide on a menu….it’s really easy to look at what vendors are offering and simply point to the option you prefer. In a sense, this is exhibiting some creativity because no one is going to make all of the exact some choices you’ve made. But is it really capturing who you are?
I have seen plenty of truly heart-warming personal touches in all areas of wedding planning, but my specific role is helping the couple craft a ceremony that captures who they are, their regard for one another and their expectations for their marriage. Because I am not limited to a denominational rite of marriage, we can create anything our combined imaginations can conceive. When couples have a whimsical idea for their ceremony, I encourage them to follow that train of thought. That’s why I joyfully changed a Bell of Truce ritual into a Water Pistols of Truce ritual for one couple.
While I wasn’t the officiant, I recently saw photographs from a wedding where the bride and groom processed into the ceremony pushing shopping carts -- they met at Publix. That may seem strange to some, or even wildly exceeding the bounds of proper etiquette to those who prefer a strict adherence to tradition, but to those who know the couple it must have seemed absolutely perfect. And really, who is going to forget their wedding?
When it comes to the bigger picture, ceremony and reception, the opportunities for personal expression are virtually limitless. Don’t be afraid to show off your silly side, highlight a passion you share or spring a surprise or two.
The picture above is from the wedding of the youth development director of my sons’ soccer club. He and his wife share a love of the sport. Of all the pictures from their wedding, this one just jumped out at me as the best. And their faces aren’t even in it! Why is it so brilliant? Because underneath the wedding finery, this is who they are and what they mean to me and others. Rob introduced two-thirds of my children to the love of the beautiful game. If his wedding hadn’t had anything related to soccer in it, there would have been something seriously missing.
Yes, it’s a wedding and we want to keep things within the bounds of good taste, but it’s your wedding. Own it!
Photo Attribute: John Johnston - Glasgow Photographer
Kristen and Miguel: Fabulous Kiss!
Weddings have traditions, superstitions, and are guided by social etiquette, but they don't necessarily have to have hard and fast rules. In a typical wedding, the officiant stands facing the guests while the bride and groom face one another in front of the officiant. If the bride's parents sit in the front row on "her" side and the groom's parents are on the other side of the aisle on "his" side, they may very well have a spectacular view of....the back of their child's head. Consider swapping the parents' positions so they can see their own child's face throughout the ceremony.
In a similar vein, don't worry about "bride's side / groom's side" for your guests, seat them anywhere. I often encounter situations, like my own wedding, where one side would have tipped over the room if it were a boat. Very strange to see 75 people on one side and 25 on the other. And what do you do with the guests who are friends of both the bride and the groom? Their indecision can stymie an usher. Just sit down and let's get on with it.
It's usually a piece of cake to take a ring on and off your own hand, but placing one on someone else's hand isn't always a smooth endeavor. Combine stiff fingers, nervous tremors and sweaty palms and you have a recipe for comedy. I've been tempted on a number of occasions to change one of the popular ring exchanges and instruct a bride or groom to repeat after me, "as I jam this ring on your finger, I pledge my life to yours." Please, no broken knuckles for the honeymoon! It's perfectly okay to pull your hand back and finish placing the ring properly on your own hand. Or, you can do something quick and easy that makes for a smooth ring exchange. Right before the ceremony begins, apply chapstick to your ring knuckle. Hand lotion won't last until the ring exchange and vaseline will be on your knuckle until well after you throw the bouquet and toss the garter. A little chapstick and that beautiful band of gold will slide right on.
Rehearse the kiss. Seriously! Make sure the groom doesn't have a habit of putting his arm around the bride's face and shoulders on the side that will block the guests' view and the photographer's line of sight. If you have to restage a moment in the ceremony for the photographer, the resulting pictures look restaged. By the way, I now step to the side as I announce the couple husband and wife so the kiss shot doesn't have my red head in the background. That just doesn't seem right.
That's all I've got for a lazy Thursday morning. Happy Wedding Planning!
Photo Attribute: Indica Woodruff Photography (I had the honor of officiating Kristen and Miguel's wedding ceremony.)
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.