The Ahhh Factor: Ideas & Suggestions for a smooth running and more
meaningful wedding ceremony and reception.
These suggestions come from my experiences of wonderful
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
From the very beginning of
your planning, 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.
The “traditional” American wedding was created in England, by the royals in the 1800’s.
There is world of wonderful ideas that can be blended to express who you are,
not the British Monarchy.
Planning Have a non
family member directing and timing the sequence of events or have a wedding
run high during these times, avoid the suspicion of favoratism.
is planned, that is exactly what happens.
Too many important things don’t happen when you “Let it flow”.
The rehearsal Practice
speaking your vows in front of others who are the same distance as the rear of
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.
alternative positions for the B&G at the ceremony. There are more alternatives then facing the
alter and facing each other.
can stand in a V formation facing the audience:
The B&G are one leg, with the minister the other leg of the V.
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
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.
introduction time before the ceremony, in a lobby area, for all of the family
and clergy to be introduced.
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.
The Ceremony 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
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
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.
having the guests stand in a circle around the wedding party with the
attendants in the inner circle.
B&G stand on a platform to be seen.
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)
is a good idea for a wide variety of reason:
1. When you
want to recognize family and friends
2. To give guests something to read while they
wait for the ceremony to begin.
3. 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
4. To give
guests their reciting part for the ceremony
5. To include
family trees of the B&G
6. To include
the toasts of family members who could not attend.
7. Prayers and blessings from the B&G’s religious traditions and family.
explanation of the religious ceremony, ritual objects and things being said in
9. Name and
significance of the music
10. the words
off the couples vows - most people won't be able to hear them clearly at the ceremony
11. Biographies of the couple
of relatives who have recently died and others who could not be at the events.
Cake Plan cake quantity for 1/2 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 there is a great deal of cake leftover.
someone who will pick up spilled frosting before it gets ground into the
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.
everyone is gathered around the cake and other reception ceremonies and they
can see and hear what is going on. Take this time to also thank the guests and
family for coming and being a part of your lives.
something to the guests about what you would like the wedding cake to
IE the sweetness of love and what marriage can
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
message are you trying to send by having a grooms cake? Express this meaning to the guests.
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.
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.
show you in advance what level they play at and to only change it if the
wedding coordinator tells them to.
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.
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
Food 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
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.
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
coffee is drunk in a buffet style food service.
Provide hot water and high quality coffee and tea bags for variety.
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.
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.
someone assigned to arrange and keep the buffet table looking neat and full.
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
someone assigned to monitor and control any over drinking or disruptive
advance for designated drivers of people who are likely to drink to much.
Gifts 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.
someone’s gift be that the Bride & Grooms’ home is 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.
Music Have you
timed the length of your ceremony songs 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.
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?
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
recorded, soft background music for the setup and cleanup time.
Photography 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?
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
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.
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.
will get table decorations or have a lottery of some sort. First choice goes to the person with the
decoration under their plate.
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.
the important elders are in a place to see and be seen and recognized.
special chairs of honor set up in front for honored elders.
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.
Tell the guests about heirloom objects used in the service or reception to
remember certain relatives. (grandma’s
label photographs of loved ones, living and dead, who could not attend the
your godparents if they are important to you
throwing the bouquet and garter belt (most don’t make it to the group of catchers. think about
who you would like to catch it, look for them before you toss to estimate
direction and strength of the throw.
alternate where you give a flower out of your bouquet to each eligible
woman and say that you wish that each one could find someone as wonderful as
your new husband.
Garter The groom
can give a small, wrapped, meaningful book to the eligible men in a ceremony, instead of the tradition garter
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. Don’t have kids involved.
decide to do the garter toss, decide what you want the garter ceremony to mean
and express it to your guests. Is there
a better and more meaningful way to say & do that?
Toasts Have people who are 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.
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.
groom should thank guests and friends for being a part of their special day and thank parents for ...
microphone set up for toasts and ask toasters to use it, most people don’t
speak loud enough in public and many just don't like to use them and don't use them correctly. They are often to close or to far away.
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.
buy far too much champagne. Have people who pour it, just put in enough for a
sip at the toast.
you will do the toasts to each other or cut the cake first.
Dave Savage - Memory Keepers Video Services and ceremony consultant firstname.lastname@example.org 404 323-8686 www.MemoryKeepersVideo.com