To Plus or Not to Plus?
As your wedding officiant, I offer two levels of ceremony services – Custom and Custom Plus. Some of my couples aren’t sure which option to choose. With both you have the opportunity to select your own vows, ring ceremony wording, readings and marriage blessing. But if you want to have the ceremony be more personalized and include your own story as a couple, then Custom Plus is the way to go.
What does this actually look like?
To tell your story as part of the ceremony, I craft a narrative from your answers to questions like these:
Based on your replies to these and other questions, you can choose what you want to have emphasized during the ceremony.
The Custom Plus ceremony is meaningful if you want your guests to know more about you or if you simply want your story to be a part of your special day. It is an opportunity to inject some storytelling or humor if that is what you want. Most of the photos you see of couples laughing in the photo gallery are taken during this part of the ceremony. But if humor is not what you want to convey, the story can also deliver sentimentality - you know...when there is no dry eye in the room. It can also give you the chance to express the feelings you have for each other through my voice. Couples who know they will feel vulnerable or nervous speaking in front of their guests on this very important day, tend to appreciate this.
Along with your story, I also include a Spiritual Address on the joys and challenges of marriage, but it is shortened to make room for the story.
If you are indifferent about having your story told or if your guests already know a lot about you, go with the Custom ceremony. My Custom ceremony is awesome! With it you can also choose your own vows, ring ceremony wording, readings and marriage blessing, and my Spiritual Address (which usually moves everyone at some level) is more extensive.
I hope that helps you make your choice!
During a wedding ceremony, I definitely have the best ‘seat.’ As an officiant, I get to see all the faces and all the feelings of all the participants – those who are getting married as well as the guests. I get to see close-up the tender and sometimes hilarious moments that arise in the moment they arise – the ones that sometimes the photographers don’t even capture - the smiles, the laughter, the tears, the excitement, the nervousness, the love.
That’s my unique position as an officiant and I feel uniquely blessed.
In today’s world, many couples have let go of the traditional seating of guests, forgoing the usual ‘sides’ and allowing everyone to sit wherever they want to sit. But I’ve noticed that those closest to the couple - the parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles – typically still sit on the same side that their family member (bride or groom) is standing. So when we get to the part in the ceremony when the couple faces one other to exchange vows and rings, the closest relatives are in the perfect place to view the face of…not their own family member, but the one he/she is marrying.
As a close family member, it’s a wonderful site to behold – the face of the person whom your son/grandson/brother or daughter/granddaughter/sister is marrying. But if you want so see the face of your own son/grandson/brother or daughter/granddaughter/sister as they exchange vows and rings, you might want to consider sitting on the other side.
It’s just a thought, certainly not traditional, and one that I am sharing with my couples these days. Maybe it’s time to shake up the seating!
Making It Real
If there is ever a place to allow your authentic nature to express itself, it’s your wedding ceremony. One of the things I love about officiating weddings is the shear realness of them. Even though your ceremony has been planned, written out in advance and even pictured in your mind for a long time, it needs to be free to arise in the present moment.
As an officiant, it is my role to create a safe and sacred space for you as you stand before me and prepare to say your “I do’s” to each other. When the space feels completely safe, you feel free to allow your authentic feelings to arise. You are free to laugh, to cry, and even to allow the ‘unplanned’ and those endearing little ‘mistakes’ to happen without making them mean anything. Sometimes the vows aren’t recited perfectly. Sometimes the candle doesn’t light. Sometimes the ring doesn’t go on smoothly. Sometimes the wind is so crazy that hair and veils are going everywhere! Those are the endearing moments that provoke smiles and create memories. And all of it is perfect, because you are being real. You are sharing yourself authentically in front of your guests, and it is a gift to all to witness.
There really is nothing better than participating in and bearing witness to the full spectrum of authentic emotion. I feel privileged and honored to facilitate this wonder-filled, once-in-a-lifetime experience we call a wedding.
Keep Your Focus!
Weddings can be all consuming – the venue, the gowns and tuxes, the parties, the invitations, the registry, the food, and on and on. There is so much to consider and so many decisions to make. It can be a very stressful time! Love yourself through the process. Relax and make these weeks and months of planning enjoyable. Give yourself permission to let go of energy drainers. And keep yourself focused on what’s important.
I’ve seen couples get completely consumed by the process of planning and neglect what it’s all about – the act of getting married. Think about it. You’ve found your person! You have each decided to pledge your life to the other. That is amazing. That is what it’s all about. And now you will stand before your friends and family and commit everything to each other. Keep yourself focused on that. Don’t let the image of the day – how the photos will look, what people expect or want, what they will say, etc. – become more important than the day itself. What you will be doing as you face each other and pledge to be life partners is important. Those moments matter. And they will go by in a flash if you aren’t completely present.
So give it some focused attention! How do you want to feel at the altar when you face your beloved? What do you want to say? What readings, songs or rituals uniquely represent you as a couple? What do you want to remember? When all is said and done, how you feel during your ceremony transcends everything, including what you are wearing or how you will party later on. You can make that time when you cross the threshold into married life together the most meaningful moments in your lives. And that kind of meaning is stored in your heart forever.
Choosing Your Officiant
There are a lot of wedding officiants out there, with a range of skills and prices. As you do your search for the perfect officiant, keep in mind that this is the person you will be standing before as you make your sacred vows to each other. This is the person who will lead you through some of the most personal moments of your life. This is the person who will pronounce you husband and wife.
When you are looking at potential candidates, a good place to start is with a skills check. Just like with other wedding vendors you are considering, take a close look at the officiant’s website, photos and reviews. Is the website current? That can be a reflection of the officiant’s attention to their business. Does it reflect your style? The style of a website can tell you a lot about who that person is. Do the photos on the site have you desiring the same experience? Almost all reviews of officiants are positive, so dig down and read the details. Look for feeling and a sense of how the couple, as well as family and guests, felt about the ceremony. How do you feel when you read them?
It always helps to find an officiant who has a lot of experience, but never sell a person who is new to the scene short. After all, everyone has to start somewhere. I remember the first time I performed a memorial service. After listening to their desires and needs and laying out a plan, the family asked me how many memorial services had I done before. I nervously answered, “This will be my first.” I was relieved that they were okay with that, and they were also quite supportive. They could tell from our conversation that I was sincere, committed and capable. If you are looking at someone who is pretty fresh to being an officiant, observe their capability. How competent do they come across to you? A person new to being an officiant may be more likely to put in a lot of effort to make sure your ceremony is perfect. They may go the extra mile. That said, I would suggest that you find out about their experience with speaking in front of people, conducting sacred ceremonies or anything translatable to the wedding ceremony experience. It’s good to be gracious, but not naïve.
All that said, in the same way that you ‘selected’ each other, I think it mostly comes down to chemistry. How do you feel when you are with them? Do they make you feel comfortable? Do they seem organized? When you met with them in person or talked on the phone, did you share moments of laughter together? Did they lay out all that you can expect with their process? Most important, do they get you? And do they get your story? All of this will give you the sense of what it will actually be like standing before them at the altar.
For me, I never do a hard sell with couples, because I only want to perform weddings for couples with whom I really connect. I know I can only be my best self when I am enjoying the experience. I will not be the best fit for everyone, nor do I want to try to be. My desire is for every couple to find the officiant who will work best for them. So for you, I bless your journey and know that you will find the right and perfect person to officiate your ceremony on your very special day.