The Long and the Short of it
Have you ever noticed that weddings seem to be getting shorter? Short and sweet is what many couples want, and the most guests appreciate it, too. It’s kinder at outdoor ceremonies where everyone is made to bake in the sun or when restless children are involved. That said, there is also such a thing as too short—which may not be so sweet. The guests will likely feel shortchanged if the wedding becomes just a blip on the screen.
I have always made it a practice to send couples a script of their ceremony beforehand. This leaves some tinkering room if they want to add or omit a poem or other ceremony segment and to make sure the language reflects their style. Some couples panic when they get five pages of script, assuming that the wedding is going to be an hour long. I’ve seen them start snipping and cutting until there’s not much left. So I tell them I will do it that short if they really really want me to, but my original script would not translate into a wedding that is nearly as long as they think.
First of all, I use a large type font so I can easily read it on their big day; that fills more sheets of paper. Secondly, it takes very little time to read through text. Five pages amounts to about ten minutes, tops, even when I speak slowly and deliberately as I will on their big day. If there’s a huge wedding party, the processional can add a bit more time. But even if there’s a long distance to cover and they space out the bridesmaids and groomsmen rather than bunching up, the whole parade rarely lasts longer than two to three minutes.
Candle lightings take a minute or so and sand ceremonies slightly longer, particularly if children or other family members participate. Still, it normally does not amount to more than a couple of extra minutes. Poetry readings may take a minute or two each. For couples who choose an additional two or three ceremony elements such as a ring warming, presentation of flowers to moms, or a wine ceremony, all told, these will likely add only a few minutes. In my experience, the entire ceremony from processional through recessional rarely exceeds 20 minutes. More often it is 10-15.
What is much more likely to eat up time at a wedding is the waiting beforehand. Uncle So-and-So takes the wrong exit and is retracing his steps on the freeway; or I’ll get everyone lined up and invariably a member of the bridal party will be MIA in the rest room; or the bride has a wardrobe malfunction and/or her hairdo won’t do what she wants. There are lots of reasons why a wedding may take more time than expected, but it won’t be because I’ve gotten longwinded! I will leave long discourses to the orators and sermons to the preachers. As a wedding officiant, I vow that my words will be elegant and yet succinct. I will make the ceremony long enough to convey the meaning and feeling, and short enough to keep everyone awake.
We live in an electronic age for sure. While virtual weddings aren’t legal yet, at least not in this State, guests are finding inventive ways to “attend” a wedding from afar. While officiating one such ceremony I noticed the bride holding something next to her bouquet. I mused: A small Bible? A photo of a departed loved one? Nope, turns out it was a cell phone. Dad couldn’t come, but he was right there with her on speaker phone.
At another wedding of an older couple, their daughter stood with them holding her brother, or at least the laptop through which he was Skyping from Hong Kong. After the ceremony, the family posed for an interesting picture; the sister stood between her newly married parents, holding the electronic version of her brother, whose smiling face filled up the entire computer screen. It gives a new meaning to the expression “talking heads.”
Speaking of “talking,” it’s a good idea for the guests to hit the mute button at their end. I recently officiated a wedding at our chapel in which guests were Skyped in from New Zealand. I’m sure they were not aware that we could all hear their running commentary, in a thick New Zealand accent, amongst each other. "Crackie!"
At still another in-home wedding, a young couple traded vows in front of the fireplace before a dozen or so guests. They perched on the living room couches and chairs, with two more on the coffee table—that is, two laptops. One was connected to loved ones in California and the other to a branch of the family in Canada. Following that ceremony, the couple squatted down in front the coffee table with a glass of champagne, in a virtual toast to each computer, and to the kinfolk who could not be there in person. I wonder if wedding invitations will change their RSVP Yes-lines to: “I plan to attend in person,” or “I plan to attend via cyberspace.” Yes, it certainly is an electronic age we live in!
A farm wedding, in this case a working farm and also B&B, makes a picturesque backdrop for a wedding. While capturing an image of the bride and groom and their large wedding party, we caught a weather vane in the background, while a llama watched from just outside camera range. Chickens were walking about, and the inside of the barn had been transformed into a sparkly fairy-like place for the reception. The flower girl clearly loved posing for pictures. Congrats to Rachael and Jesse!
The Old Church in Portland, OR: http://theoldchurch.org/
Well it was bound to happen sooner or later. Nine years into my career as a wedding officiant/minister, I had my first fainting body come crashing down in the middle of a wedding. The recipe for disaster goes like this. It’s a very warm and humid summer day. I’m standing in the midst of a large wedding party up on the dais of downtown Portland’s Old Church, a beautiful vintage venue with a massive pipe organ. Though plans to upgrade the HVAC system are in the works, like many historic buildings, the place is not yet air conditioned. The pews are packed with guests, all fanning themselves with their programs. The bride is drop-dead gorgeous in her stunning white gown. Sleeveless and strapless helps compensate for layers of polyester and lace, comfort-wise. The young groom is handsome and trim in his three-piece tux and buttoned-up shirt with tie, tightly tied. Alas, formal men’s wear is not user friendly in the heat.
We’ve made it through the swelling organ music of the processional and are mid-ceremony. I’m reading along from my book. The groom is on my left; the bride is on my right and they are standing a few paces apart. Stretching out to each side there is a large assortment of bridesmaids and groomsmen. I’m not looking in the groom’s direction at that moment, so I don’t see it coming. But the bride does. I notice her anxiously reaching for him, which is curious since we’re not at the vows yet where I invite them to hold hands. Then, TIMBER-R-R-R-R-R-R! He goes down with a thundering crash, flat on his back, out cold.
Instantly there is pandemonium while everyone huddles around him, loosening his tie, removing his jacket, finding him water. They bring him to his feet and bring him a chair, but he still looks woozy. I try to persuade him to remain seated for the rest of the ceremony, but he’s a young, macho guy and refuses. And then he goes down a second time! More water, and the venue coordinator is just about to call 911 when he comes to and is on his feet again. I do the rest of the ceremony in hyper speed, skipping some paragraphs so we can make it to the goal of, “You may kiss the bride” while he is still conscious. Afterward as we all head to the reception room he is embarrassed, but married to his drop-dead-gorgeous bride. Everyone leaves with a story to tell.
Unique Urban Setting for a Wedding
We officiated at a really great venue over the weekend: the Jupiter Hotel, a renovated motor-inn turned boutique/hotel. It’s on East Burnside, not far from the Willamette River in downtown Portland. They have a really great tented courtyard with lots of potted plants everywhere and even a couple of fancy hanging chandeliers. The bridesmaids wore dresses in all different styles and shades of purple. Best wishes to Brad & Christia for a long and happy life!
Here's a link to the Jupiter Hotel: http://www.jupiterhotel.com/events/index.cfm
I'm the founding minister of Wedded Your Way. I love helping people tie the knot!