In previous articles, we mentioned the need for good communication between the couple and their officiant, independent of whether the officiant is a professional or a friend or family member. We also mentioned that if your chosen officiant is performing a wedding ceremony for the first or second time, they should seek guidance.
There’s a reason for that!
Below, we recount some stories that folks have shared with us, to illustrate why strong communication, research, and preparation are so important. So, settle in, pour yourself a holiday cocktail, and let the drama unfold!
How it went down: We heard this one from a wedding planner a few years back… but these forgetful moments have a way of finding us, so watch out for them. The wedding officiant forgot to do the ring exchange, and the moment came and went. As the ceremony concluded, and couple were about to recess out, someone yelled out, “What about the rings?” The officiant fumbled around, found them, and the exchange took place after all but were it not for that observant guest, an important part of the ceremony would have been forgotten.
How to avoid this mistake: Not sure what happened with this one, but if the officiant was reading through their ceremony, this shouldn’t have happened. If you want to perform the ceremony without a script in front of you, make sure to memorize the format, so that you always know what’s coming next, and you are prepared.
How it went down: Some couples, especially the sort that don’t like being the center of attention, like to pare the ceremony down to the bare minimum. That works just fine, but make sure that the script clearly communicates when the ceremony is beginning, and when it’s over. Otherwise, this next story might happen to you!
One ceremony held in Atlanta Georgia last year ended without the guests realizing. It was over in three minutes. That would have been fine, but in order to shave an extra minute off, the couple decided to cut the formal part of the recessional, and they just walked out after the kiss!
How to avoid this mistake: Most couples aiming for a short ceremony don’t realize how long the formal parts of the ceremony – like the recessional and processional – take. Ultimately, you don’t want a ceremony that’s shorter than the recessional and processional, so you need to factor that into your planning. By communicating with your officiant, you can make sure your ceremony is not too short or too long. Also, make sure you check out the basic parts of a wedding ceremony, because even if you don’t care about certain parts, they often serve as signals to the audience that they should stand, or that the ceremony is ending, or that they should clap.
How it went down: This is one we hear often, especially from photographers. The officiant remembers to tell the guests to rise for the bride, but forgets to tell them to sit back down after the couple has taken up their position in front of the officiant. This means that the guests are left standing until someone finally motions for them to sit down – we’ve even heard it being for half of the ceremony!
How to avoid this mistake: This is a simple item that comes from experience and can be easily avoided by writing logistical details into the wedding ceremony script. Seriously, if you are officiating your first wedding, there are lots of parts to remember, and they are easy to forget. It helps to have “stage directions” written into the script like, “tell the audience to please be seated.”
How it went down: This is especially applicable when a friend or family member – like a brother or college roommate – is performing the wedding ceremony. The officiant shares jokes, or embarrassing stories about the couple during the ceremony. Don’t do this! During one ceremony, the officiant – a college friend – commented on the number of girls the groom had dated during their undergraduate years. Needless to say, that sick burn didn’t go down well, and the older guests looked downright uncomfortable.
How to avoid this mistake: Although a wedding is probably not the time to share off-color stories about either the bride or groom, if they must be shared, it should be done as a toast during the reception and not as part of the ceremony. This is why we recommend that the couple and their chosen officiant talk about the tone of the ceremony, and why we recommend that the couple review the main parts of the ceremony after it is written.
Don’t let your ceremony end up being a war story. There are plenty of resources available, including Asked to Officiate, which will help you get a ceremony to remember, in a good way!