The Real Wedding Guide

Like most of America, I've watched the You Tube video of the bridal party dancing down the aisle at their wedding (notice the female officiant - you go girl!). Avant garde, yes; also joyful. And real. I've had a few of these weddings that are concerned more with love and joy than a social event. They're wonderful.

So what makes every priest, pastor, or minister I know roll her/his eyes at the mention of weddings? Because many (maybe even most) aren't so wonderful. Weddings are too often a social event first and a prelude to a life together second. Truth be told, get us all in a room together, ply us with some good wine, and you'll hear more than once, "The church should get out of the wedding business." Or maybe we should publish our version of Bride's magazine that addresses the wonderful aspects of a covenant made before God and God's community. Perhaps the first article would look something like this (you knew the humor was coming somewhere, didn't you!):

So, he's given you the ring, declared his love, and you're actually getting married! Congratulations. This is a wonderful time in your life. If you're getting married in a civil ceremony, good for you - you can do everything exactly as you'd like. But if a church wedding is in the plans, remember these tips to make the day one that won't be the subject of a story for clergy that begins, "You will never believe this wedding I did!"

Remember you're getting married in a church, not a nightclub. Ergo, dresses should be of reasonable length. Plunging necklines aren't so attractive, especially on the grandmothers of the couple. If you reverence the altar in a short hemline and down-to-there bust line, the congregation and the altar party see far more than they want to see. This is a church service, not Skinemax.

And while we're on the church, if you have to introduce yourself to the priest, pastor, or minister of the church where you'd like to wed because you've almost never darkened the door of the church, what are you thinking? Go on Sundays. Get to know the congregation. Be part of the ministry of the church. Be known to the clergy and the treasurer (which means put your money where your faith community is). If you simply want a church wedding because it will be pretty in the pictures, go to one of those specially built wedding chapels. If you want to be married and live your life together within a faith community, go to a church.

Let the experts select the music. Reserve the Celine Dion, Whitney Houston (before she lost her marbles), Britney Spears, and other pop singers for the reception. Of note, Pachelbel's Canon in D is overused, and the Wedding March by Mendelssohn occurs when the bride marries an ass. Food for thought when selecting music. The church organist is quite able to select lovely pieces that aren't overplayed or related to wedding an ass or the devil.

And while we're on music, just because your sorority big sister sang in the talent component of the Miss Upper South Lower Delta pageant does not mean she should sing anywhere else. Friendship is not a valid reason to ask someone to sing at the wedding. Talent, however, is. And by talent, we mean someone who has actually had formal voice training and whose high notes don't make the congregation's teeth fall out.

Limit the wedding party. The number of bridesmaids and groomsmen seem to be increasing exponentially, like rabbits in the throws of unbridled sex. A large wedding party doesn't mean you are popular or loved. Every one you have ever known does not need to parade down the aisle in an unflattering dress. Your friends should be delighted simply to be present on the day of your wedding.

If you are visibly pregnant, opt for a smaller wedding. We all know that most clergy haven't married a virginal couple in, say, decades or perhaps eons. But gliding down the aisle in white at six months? I'll just say it: tacky.

Flowers. The phrase nothing exceeds like excess does not apply with floral arrangements at weddings. Go for the Coco Chanel guideline - less is more. Always. And also, get them out of the church after the wedding. Clergy aren't part-time florists on the clean-up crew.

It's a church service, not a beauty pageant. If you're spending more time and money worrying about false eyelashes, the outfits, and the flowers than you are the words and vows you will say before God, step back and reevaluate. It's sort of like a rock star known for excessive drug use and whoring around thanking God for his Grammy. I'm just saying...

Remember etiquette. Invite the clergy to the rehearsal dinner and the reception. Say, "Please" and "Thank you" to the church staff. And if your wedding gown is strapless, don't stuff a ratty tissue between your boobs to wipe away your tears of joy. It freaks out the priests.


Donna McNiel said…
This is excellent! I would only add, that while it is absolutely the right thing to do to invite the clergy to dinner and reception, one should not be surprised or offended when said clergy politely declines the invitation.
nanjo54 said…
I agree with most of the article, however one reason I chose my grandmother's church over the church I grew up in (Methodist) was one of many rules in their rather large booklet of dos and don'ts (mostly don'ts). "The minister of music will choose all music for the wedding". There was no discussion, no allowance for the fact that I have a degree in classical music, (vocal performance).

The fact that I was never a fan of the ego of the minister of music didn't help.

On the other hand I loved going to the church where my parents had married 30 yrs before.

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