- The Ahhh Factor:
Ideas & questions for a smooth running and more meaningful wedding ceremony and reception.
Dave Savage ceremony planner and videographer of LifeCyle events and family stories.
firstname.lastname@example.org 404 323-8686 Dave@DaveSavage.com DaveSavage.com MemoryKeepersVideo.com
When you are considering a ritual or ceremony, do it with feeling. This is a unique time to build bridges between families and individuals. If done well, you will hear a collective “Ahhh - how nice” in the audience with each
thoughtfully done ceremony.
From the very beginning of your planning, I also suggest that you read aloud to each other, at least the wedding portion of this book: “From Beginning to End – The Rituals of our lives” by Robert Fulghum, Villard Books - 1995
Each component of the ceremony and reception offers opportunities create fond memories and build closer relationships. There are no rules when it comes to weddings.
Have a non-family member directing and timing the sequence of events or have a wedding coordinator.
Tensions run high during these times, avoid the suspicion of favoratism.
If nothing is planned, that is exactly what happens. Too many important things don’t happen when you “Let it flow”.
Practice speaking your vows in front of others who are the same distance as the rear of the sanctuary.
Most people don’t naturally speak loudly enough to be understood very far away. Do you care if your guests understand what you are saying; particularly your elderly relatives? Remember, speaking to a group requires you to speak more slowly and clearly than normal.
Consider alternative positions for the B&G at the ceremony. There are more alternatives then facing the alter and facing each other. The B&G can stand in a V formation facing the audience: The B&G are one leg, with the minister the other leg of the V.
A pedestal with flowers and or wine is the connecting point. This way, everyone can see the faces of the B&G and everyone’s voices will project out to the guests. At appropriate times during the ceremony, the B&G turn slightly to face each other.
As people gather and wait for the ceremony to begin:
Have music quietly playing in the back ground. If there is a cultural or “old country – nostalgic music” for the B&G or some of the family members, this is a good time to celebrate heritage and family bonds with sentimental tunes.
Have an introduction time before the ceremony, in a lobby area, for all of the family and clergy to be introduced.
Historically weddings were more about the joining of families than about the couple themselves. Take the time in a ritual at the reception to join the families and make sure the couples elders are introduced, recognized and honored to the guests. Your life with them will be much better because of this small detail.
If at all possible position the bride and groom for the ceremony so that guests can see their faces as much as possible. This also helps in the guests hearing the ceremony.
Most people in a large audience won’t be able to here the ceremony if you don’t speak up or if there aren’t any microphones. Practice your vows with others at certain distances to get an idea of how loudly you need to speak to be heard, especially if you are going to be facing away from your guests
Before or after the ceremony, make sure someone lets the guests know the timing and sequence of events so they can make sure they don’t miss anything. People want to be at the right place to see everything and hate to have to stand around waiting unnecessarily.
Consider having the guests stand in a circle around the wedding party with the attendants in the inner circle.
Have the B&G stand on a platform to be seen.
Use heirloom candlestick holders as your unity candle (do you have past or present relative that have had a long marriage?) - tell your guests about their significance.
Have parents give short vows of support and promise to nurture the relationship with their child new spouse (and family)
A program is a good idea for a wide variety of reason:
When you want to recognize family and friends
To give guests something to read while they wait for the ceremony to begin. Perhaps include loves poems that aren’t included in
the wedding ceremony or an introductory bio of the B&G for guest who only know one of them
To give guests their reciting part for the ceremony
To include family trees of the B&G
To include the toasts of family members who could not attend.
Additional prayers and blessings from the B&G’s religious traditions and family.
An explanation of the religious ceremony, ritual objects and things being said in other languages
At the Reception:
Plan for cake for ½ to 3/4 of the guests & cut it into small or various sized pieces. Most people are full by the time the cake is served.
In virtually every wedding we do, there is a great deal of cake leftover.
Have someone who will pick up spilled frosting before it gets ground into the carpeting.
The groom’s cake is often ignored and seldom eaten. Make a ritual of it or eliminate it. What are you trying to say or symbolize by having it? What do you want the wedding and groom’s cake to symbolize? Express it’s meaning, for you, to the guests.
Be sure everyone can see and hear what is going on. To often I see the cake cutting done in a place or the couple positioned in a way that limits the view to what is being done. And too often nothing is being said to make the ceremony more meaningful or thoughtfull. Maybe say something about why the type of cake and decorations was chosen.
Say something to the guests about what you would like the wedding cake to represent. (the sweetness of love and what marriage can be). The bride & groom should practice how the cake will be cut and fed to each other. I consider pushing a piece of cake into each others mouth a hostile act. The way you give each other the cake represents the way you relate to each other to many people.
What message are you trying to send by having a grooms cake? Express this meaning to the guests.
Request that certain people start to dance early in the reception to get dancing started. Most people are to shy to be the first and only people on the dance floor. They revert to Junior High school dance mentality. People usually wait until the bridal couple and a few other friends start to dance before the rest will join in. IF you want dancing to start early in the reception, have some close friends get it started early. This is especially true if the reception is as much a family reunion as wedding event.
If you have a straight couple wedding, and have some LGBT guests, the LGBT guests will most often be reluctant or unwilling to dance together because they don’t want to upset any of the other guests. If you want to make them welcome to dance together you can suggest it in this very inclusive way. Have a family member or the DJ announce that “everyone with dancing feet are invited / encouraged to dance in groups, by themselves, or with anybody they like, whether it be a fast or slow song.”
In some families one of the couple or a parent is in a wheelchair. On Youtube there are many examples of how the couple’s dance or dancing with a parent can be done wonderfully. Do a search for wedding Dance wheelchair and wedding dance with parent wheelchair
Plan and insist that the band or DJ play music at a level that allows for people to socialize in the room, without yelling at each other. Sometimes the speakers can be positioned to direct the music only onto the dance floor and facing the band or DJ.
Have them show you in advance what level they play at and to only change it if the wedding coordinator tells them to.
Remember that a room full of dancing people create a great deal of additional heat in a room. Plan to have the thermostats adjusted, doors opened or fans turned up when the dancing is underway. Have water easily accessible.
Plan the first dance, do you want to finish the whole song or have parents cut in part way through? Have someone invite guests to join in after parents or other relatives have had their turn.
If you are planning any kind of ethnic dancing, hire someone to help lead and teach the guests. The farther each generation gets from their immigrant roots the more important this becomes, especially in mixed marriages.
Have gallon sized zip-lock bags, foil and plastic wrap ready to take home food and cake. Have designated people to take them home to a refrigerator that has been cleared out for expected leftovers. Will leftovers be frozen for the future or served for after wedding activities?
Kitchen trash bags are great for wrapping up & moving/stacking trays of food: much better than plastic wrap.
If there is a family member who makes a special food, , you might arrange for them to make it early and have someone give it to the caterer to be served as one of those family binding and fond memory traditions Have a special note card next to the platter/bowl/tray explaining that it is Aunt Molly’s Magic Whatever.
Have the caterer put a descriptive note card next to dishes and sauces that are not obvious. People have allergies – be aware of them when choosing dishes. You might have some add-in ingredients on the side. If a dish normally has a certain spice or ingredient in it and you have left it out or have it on the side, let people know with a sign
Very little coffee is drunk in a buffet style food service. Provide hot water and high quality coffee and tea bags for variety.
On warm days and evenings, very little coffee will be consumed. People want cool drinks to sooth their throats from so much talking and their bodies from the dancing.
Be sure to provide pitchers of ice water as an alternative to high calorie punch and alcohol.
Plan for vegetarian and low salt foods – label them
For a low cost wedding, have a potluck reception, with the food as the guests gift.
Have someone make an identification card to put with each dish as it is brought.
Have someone assigned to arrange and keep the buffet table looking neat and full.
Make sure that all platters and bowls brought to the church have name labels on them. (some people will forget to pick up their dishes and you won’t know who owns them.
Have someone assigned to monitor and control any over-drinking or disruptive behavior.
Plan in advance for designated drivers of people who are likely to drink to much.
Plan who is going to take the gifts to the place to be opened. Make sure you have someone recording who gave each gift as you open them and that they write the gift given on the card. to make sure thank you card writing goes more easily.
Ask that a special service to you be the gift from someone who can’t afford to buy a gift.
Have someone’s gift be that the Bride & Grooms’ home be cleaned during the wedding/reception so they come home to a clean and straightened house that is often left in disarray when getting ready for the wedding.
Have you timed the length of your ceremony entry song with the time it takes to walk down the isle? Sometimes people end up standing for excessive time while the music finishes. Choose songs with their length in mind, or arrange with your musicians to start the song at a place where it will naturally end just after your reach your positions for the next part of your ceremony. You will have to tell them how long it will take, doing some practice walks at home, having measured the walk distance in advance.
Make sure there is one person assigned to determine control the volume of the music played. All band leaders and Disc jockeys have hearing loss and do not realize the true volume of the sound. Also the volume of music is like the temperature. Determine what volume you want in advance. Do you intend it to be background music? Do you want the elders to not be able to hear each other talk at their tables? Does the mix of the songs give everyone something to dance to? Are there more slow songs early in the evening when people are still smelling fresh?
The band leader or DJ using the microphone to call people to a ceremony is not enough. Someone needs to physically round up people. They get so caught up in conversation in other rooms that an announcement does not get understood or heard.
Have recorded, soft background music for the setup and cleanup time.
Do as many family pictures before the ceremony as possible.
Do you want the click of the photographers camera going on during the entire ceremony?
Plan to have after ceremony pictures done in a side room if possible.
Do you want the photographer to document what you did as well as create staged shots of things you would never naturally do?
Reception - misc.
Guests often only know one of the wedding party. Have a bulletin board of old photos of the B&G, include small family trees of the B&G so that families get to know each other more easily. Collect photos of important family members early and put their names and photos together on the bulletin board. Create family trees of the B&G to make it easier for families and friends to get to know each other I have seen many a grandparent or great grand aunt sitting by themselves at a reception without any recognition by the others familyA picture board and a family tree diagram will help with the meeting and greeting of family and friends
Staying fresh, taken care of and relaxed
Have someone assigned to the B&G as their special assistant to bring food, drinks, napkins to wipe sweat from dancing, tell them the time and direct them where and when they need to be for the next activity.
In many traditions, the B&G sit in special chairs on a platform, like the King & Queen of the day. The guests come up to greet them. This helps keep the B&G more relaxed and comfortable.
Plan who will get table decorations or have a lottery of some sort. First choice goes to the person with the decoration under their plate.
Plan where the bride & groom will stand, if there is to be a reception line. Often the line bottlenecks a doorway or restricts the flow of traffic within the reception or transition activity space.
Make sure the important elders are in a place to see and be seen and recognized.
Have special chairs of honor set up in front for honored elders.
Rehearse the positions of people in the wedding party and timing of the processional speed before getting to the rehearsal.
This can shorten the rehearsal time from 3 hours to one.
Be sure to let the photographer and videographer know the timing and sequence of events so they will be positioned and ready.
Honoring and joining families
Use and tell the guests about heirloom objects used in the service or reception to remember certain relatives. (grandma’s candlesticks)
Display and label photographs of loved ones, living and dead, who could not attend the wedding.
Recognize /honor/ any long married role model relatives or dear friends in toasts or as part of another ceremony.
Bouquet toss ceremony - Making it inclusive for all single guests
All single people looking for a relationship – men women gay and straight and any age are invited to get a flower from a ceremony vase (people can gather and pick their own flower or be handed a flower. Or that can be passed out to the seated guests). Bride and groom both speak to the flower holding guests about the joy of finding someone so wonderful as they have (using descriptive words) and their wish that each should find someone as wonderful as “we have” or each gives the name of their partner (I guarantee you will get a wonderful reaction from all of the guests at your reception.
Consider an alternate ceremony where you give a flower out of your bouquet (designed to easily come apart) to each eligible person and say that you (or the wedding couple together) wish that each one could find someone as wonderful as your new spouse and perhaps some other sentimental wishes for each of them.
The groom can give a small, wrapped, meaningful gift to the eligible men in a ceremony, instead of the tradition garter taking and toss. He also should write or get help writing something mushy and meaningful to say to the men about how fortunate he is to find such a wonderful partner. Keep it a secret and write it down. It works well to read it slowly and with feeling. If properly done, the bride will be in tears of joy & you will have elevated your status as a husband by several notches. If you decide to do the garter toss, decide what you want the garter ceremony to mean and express it to your guests, The historical origins of the ceremony and checking the stockings of the bride are antiquated.
Have people doing toasts, write them down; they will be much better. Have someone help the non expressive toasters to write something that will be meaningful to them, put it on note cards.
Bride and groom should write down toasts to each other. Most people forget what they want to say due to the excitement and tension of the time.
Bride and groom should thank guests and friends for being a part of their special day and thank parents for ... write it down
Have a microphone set up for toasts and ask toasters to use it, most people don’t speak loud enough in public
Write down a really mushy toast to your new spouse and don’t share it with them before hand. It’s a gift that will last for many years.
Most people buy far too much champagne. Have people who pour it, just put in enough for a sip at the toast.
Decide if you will do the toasts to each other or cut the cake first.
Consider making a souvenir program that could include:
a family tree
names and relation of wedding party
name and significance of the music
the words off the couples promise’s
short biographies of the couple
Remembrances of relatives who have recently died and others who could not be at the events.
Meaning of rituals and ceremonies at the wedding and reception (traditional explanation and your spin on them)
Wedding and reception love/dance songs
JUST IN TIME
LET IT BE ME
MOMENTS TO REMEMBER
AND I LOVE HER
AND I LOVE YOU SO
BECAUSE I LOVE YOU
CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
CAN'T SMILE WITHOUT YOU
CLOSE TO YOU
COULD I HAVE THIS DANCE
FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOU
FIRST TIME I EVER SAW YOUR FACE
LOVE YOU TRULY
IF WE ONLY HAVE LOVE
JUST THE WAY YOU ARE
THE NEARNESS OF YOU
YOU AND I
YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE
SEA OF LOVE
SHARE YOUR LOVE WITH ME
STLLI IN LOVE
TO LOVE AGAIN
VISION OF LOVE
YOU NEEDED ME
NOBODY LOVES ME LIKE YOU DO
SIDE BY SIDE
THE WAY HE MAKES ME FEEL
ONE IN A MILLION YOU
NOBODY DOES IT BETTER
I'M IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL
TONIGHT I CELEBRATE MY LOVE
YOU'VE MADE ME SO VERY HAPPY
Wedding Web sites
modern Bride.com, theknot.com, weddingworld.com,weddingbells.com, weddinglinks.html, jmts.com/wedding/customs.htm
Ultimatewedding.com has wedding songs list and extensive ceremony vows and ritual words