Time for another round of (relatively) short answer questions. I bet you can guess which question I get asked all the time.
Q. I want to include both the unity candle and a bell of truce in my wedding. Is that possible or do I have to pick one or the other?
A. You can certainly include both! The unity candle is a ritual symbolizing the coming together of two individuals in a partnership. The bell of truce is a reconciliation ritual providing the couple with a repair attempt they can use later in their marriage when they experience conflict. These two rituals work quite well together within a wedding because they convey quite different meanings.
Q: What are some of the easiest ways to save money when planning a wedding?
A: I am not a wedding planner so this is not my area of expertise. Oddly enough, hiring a budget conscious wedding planner can actually help you save money. They can help you prioritize the must-have, want-to-have, and can-do-without. Here are a few tried and true cost-saving measures though.
1) Make a budget and record every dime you spend to make sure you don't blow it.
2) Schedule your wedding during an off peak season, day and time.
3) Cut your guest list.
Q: My fiance and I are not drinkers and would prefer a dry wedding. He's an EMT and has seen too many bad examples of what alcohol can do. We're getting a lot of pressure from friends and family. Are we obligated to serve alcohol at our wedding?
A: Absolutely not! The bride and groom should be able to choose the refreshments served at their own wedding.
Alcohol has come to be associated with celebrations, almost expected in many cases, but it is by no means a requirement. You are no less gracious as hosts for having a dry wedding. Your friends and family should care enough to celebrate with you on your special day and not worry about whether or not they are going to get to drink alcohol at the same time. They are wrong to pressure you into doing something that goes against your values and convictions.
Q. My dad wants to say a few words during the ceremony, but I think that would be more appropriate at the reception. What do you think?
A. Tricky one! I think it all depends upon what your father wishes to contribute to your wedding. If he would like to say a prayer, offer a blessing, read a poem or something he has prepared in writing, it can be a very lovely touch. I do try to steer people away from including extemporaneous speaking during a wedding for a few reasons.
1) Even the most accomplished speakers can ramble when overcome with emotion. I have seen it lead to awkward moments and disturb the rhythm of the wedding as a ritual.
2) If you and your officiant have created a thematic flow to your ceremony, an extemporaneous speaker can interrupt that by including concepts you may not wish to emphasize at that moment.
3) You hit on a very good point. I have seen many speakers during weddings express sentiments that seem more appropriate as a toast.
This is going to be a delicate negotiation because of the father daughter relationship. You don't want to hurt his feelings, but you also want him to understand what would make you the happiest on your wedding day. I would suggest you follow your instincts. Make sure he knows his contributions are truly welcome, but that you would prefer he take center stage at another moment during the festivities.
Photo Attribute: Shannon Perez of Florida Beachside Weddings
Jennifer and David found me through Victoria, their wedding planner from A wedding to Remember. I'd had a little mishap in Philadelphia earlier in the week which left me a bit stiff and sore, so I was a tad concerned about my ability to get through the evening if anything significantly delayed the ceremony. But with Victoria on hand, I knew everything was going to go smoothly and it did.
The Vero Beach Hotel and Spa is just gorgeous - perfect for a couple that loves the casual lifestyle of Florida, but appreciates the elegant touch as well.
Jennifer and David chose a short, but sweet ceremony that included self-written vows. I offered my microphone so the guests could hear what they had to say to one another, but they preferred their vows to be more private. Between the sound of the waves behind me and the questioning looks on their guests face, it lead me to quip, "I don't know what he just said either, but it made her cry."
As you can see from the picture and guess from my past commentary, the bride wore a dress I absolutely adore. They had a guitarist for their processional and recessional music who was not only great, I thought his look was awesome for the occasion.
Jennifer and David just radiated sheer joy. I love that!
If their flawless wedding wasn't enough, as I was walking back down the aisle two guests leaned over to get my attention. It was a couple who had taken my marriage education class and whose wedding I had officiated two and a half years ago. Which is astounding because I would swear it was just last year. Wow! Let that be a lesson Jennifer and David, time is going to fly by. Enjoy every minute of it.
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
One of my brides sent me this question and graciously agreed to let me blog about it as it is a question I get from time to time in various forms. She wrote:
"I want to hire a wedding planner, but mom's giving me a hard time. Says it's a waste of money and I'll have more fun and can make sure I get exactly the wedding I want if I do it on my own. Mom loved you when we met and asked me to get your opinion. Wedding planner thumbs up or thumbs down?"
I gave the idea a thumbs up and here's why.
First of all, I think her mom holds two common misconceptions about wedding planners both of which we can give much credit to Hollywood for creating. Contrary to the prissy, bossy image perpetuated on television and in film, wedding planners are neither outrageously expensive nor are they going to take over and make you endure the wedding of their dreams rather than yours. Not the good ones anyway.
A good professional wedding planner is well worth the investment. This individual can save you both time and money simply by being in the industry and already knowing who the best vendors are. You won't have to weed through the websites of fifteen to twenty photographers and DJs when your wedding planner can introduce you to three or four who best match your personality and expectations. Wedding planning companies may also have discount agreements with vendors that may not be available if you were to book the vendor on your own. You are under no obligation to book vendors you don't like, even those suggested by a wedding planner. Your wedding planner's goal is to connect you with vendors they trust to do a good job and you are comfortable hiring. And perhaps surprisingly, to keep you on budget!
A good wedding planner will listen carefully to your vision, guide you through the available options, and coordinate communication so everyone works together to provide you with the wedding of your dreams within the budget you've set. A great wedding planner will share ideas, give advice, calm nerves, solve problems, and take care of the little details so you don't have to. Aside from concrete cost savings, wedding planners can be worth their weight in gold for the stress relief alone.
Even if you don't hire a wedding planner for every step of the way, consider hiring a "day of coordinator." Being on site at hundreds of weddings, I can tell you with all sincerity I wish every bride had one. I wish I could afford to give every bride one. Ever wonder how awesome it would be if you had four hands and two brains to get something done? Now's your chance!
As in all service professions, there are excellent wedding planners and some decidedly less so. I did have to banish a wedding planner from a wedding until after I left once because she was adding to the bride's stress (and mine), but overall my experience with planners has been stellar. If you take the time to find wedding planners available in your area, interview several who look promising, check their references, and hire the one you like most who comes highly recommended, you won't regret the decision.
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.