Written by Dave Sugarbaker, Sugarbaker Productions
We Want to "Personalize" the
young 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.
I told 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.
The day 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 feelings.
Finally 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 red."
This 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
One way 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.
One 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 very personal.
One or 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
For the 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 also 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.
Groom if 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.
For 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.
You may 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!
Another "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.
A third "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 work.
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."
The 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
Then the flower girl began to cry. No one
was taking her seriously. She really had to go! Everyone was frozen in place.
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.
The 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!
The 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
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
There are 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 the pillow.
The 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 buckskin.
At the 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 recovered.
That's "too tight." There's
also "too loose"
a 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.
This was 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!
Give the pillow with the rings attached
to the ringbearer sixty seconds before he heads down the aisle in the processional; not
half an hour.
What about Reader(s)?
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 public settings.
It's a 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 wedding!
Check on 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 rehearsal.
Some 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.
If you 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.