First of all, a great over-all tip: If you do not have a wedding coordinator or other professional assisting you, enlist a “TFM.” TFM is secret code for “Trusted Family Member.” This person does not have to be a family member, but someone you can really count on who is not in the bridal party. It may be an aunt, a friend, or anyone who is well-organized and willing to take on a few tasks for the big day. Some of the things your TFM might do are: hand out the corsages and boutonnières, cue the bridal party to begin the processional, set up unity candles, sand ceremony vessels, or whatever props you need for your ceremony, and handle last-minute disasters, such as torn hems.
Worse than a torn hem is a ripped seam! Last summer I arrived at a wedding venue just as a frantic bride was calling a friend to find her a new dress because the one she had planned to wear had two torn seams. My guess is that she had not tried the dress on since she bought it. Maybe she had gained a little weight since then . . . . Make sure you try on your gown from time to time to make sure it still fits well. If your weight goes up or down it may have to be altered. Fortunately this bride was having a small, casual wedding, and wanted a cocktail length dress, which her friend was able to find at the local prom shop.
Most of the weddings that I perform take place outdoors. The ceremonies have been conducted in gazebos, on a boat, under trees, on lake docks, and under a chuppah. Most of these ceremonies have taken place on glorious, sunny days, but couples who plan to marry outside must have an alternate plan in case of inclement weather. Does the wedding venue have an indoor room or a tent that is large enough to accommodate your wedding party and guests? Is there a space that can be set aside for the ceremony? Do you want to provide umbrellas for everyone? In the movie, “Monsoon Wedding,” the guests dance joyfully in the rain after the Hindu ceremony, but most Americans are not quite that resilient.
Even couples planning an indoor ceremony may have to think about the weather, depending on the season of the wedding. Last June I attended a wedding in a chapel where one of the groomsmen fainted as the bride and groom were exchanging rings. The chapel was not air-conditioned, it was at least 90 degrees and humid, and the groomsmen were wearing tuxedo jackets and vests. For summer weddings, consider other options for menswear, such as seersucker suits and short-sleeved shirts. For the casual boat wedding I officiated at, the men wore white Hawaiian shirts. (I have also heard of groomsmen passing out drunk during the ceremony. This is not funny! If you suspect one of your bridal party might succumb, warn him that anyone showing up intoxicated will be asked to leave the ceremony site.)
Make sure you understand New York State marriage laws and apply for your license more than 24 hours before the ceremony. Better to leave a bigger window of time in case there’s a problem. I worked with one bride who was getting married for the second time and didn’t realize she had to present her divorce decree at the city clerk’s office. Her divorce papers were at her home in Florida. Fortunately, her daughter was able to send them to Oneonta just in time! The ceremony cannot be performed less than 24 hours after the license is obtained. Give the license to your officiant at the rehearsal so nobody has to worry about forgetting it on your wedding day.
Too often, guests can’t wait for the ceremony to be over and the party to begin! The ceremony should be the focus of the day - it’s the symbolic bridge that takes you from life as two separate individuals to life as a married couple. It doesn’t have to be boring! If you’re thinking: “You’ve seen one wedding, you’ve seen them all,” you haven’t been to a celebrant-led wedding! A celebrant will personalize your ceremony to make it uniquely yours. Ceremonies can be interfaith, multi-cultural, or nondenominational. Rituals may be traditional or entirely innovative. Whoever your officiant is, you have the right to ask that your ceremony reflect your values, beliefs and taste.
I hope these tips will help prevent potential problems. After you’ve taken every precaution to avoid pitfalls, you should still expect the unexpected. Life is full of surprises, and your wedding day may not be exempt from this rule. Try to have a relaxed attitude so that whatever might go wrong will be easier to deal with. The unforeseen event may be the part that you still laugh about on your tenth anniversary!