This article is brought to you by the fabulous Bernadette Coveney Smith of 14 Stories. Across the nation, she is the leading same-sex wedding planner. She trains wedding professionals around the world, showing them how best to service LGBT couples. Bernadette is doing a three part feature for H&H Weddings. The second part deals with the in's and out's of an informal wedding ceremony.
I've planned many weddings at which the fifty-plus guests stood for ten- to twenty-minute wedding ceremonies. There was select seating for elderly family and friends but generally no more than twenty or so chairs up front. These types of weddings have a nice casual vibe to them, and often the marriage ceremony seems to unfold very organically.
Informal ceremonies can work well and they can fail. If you are considering this option, here are some tips:
- Truly keep the ceremony no more than fifteen minutes long.
- Even though this is casual, make a plan about the partners' processional. Options including coming in from two different directions and meeting in the middle, walking down a central aisle, and walking down the sides of each aisle and meeting in the middle.
- Make sure you have a coordinator designated to clear the aisle or form an aisle when it's time for the processional.
- Greet your guests with a drink (which could be champagne, sparkling water or lemonade) when they arrive, and plan to allow the guests to mingle for about fifteen minutes before your true ceremony start time.
- Don't mingle with your guests during that time, or your ceremony will definitely start late!
- Place the ceremony musicians where they will be easily visible by your coordinator so the coordinator can cue the processional music when the time is right (it's sometimes hard to see the musicians when most people are standing!).
- Make sure you have "an escape route" and destination after the recessional if there's no receiving line. Otherwise you and your partner will get mobbed by your guests and a receiving line will happen spontaneously.
If you follow those guidelines, an informal ceremony can work out very well and can set the tone for a casually fun and upbeat reception. Gay couples seem to enjoy this style of event because it breaks with tradition and because many of them don’t want the grand-entrance processional of conventional wedding ceremonies.
Two of my grooms held their wedding ceremony in their gorgeous living room with thirty friends and family members (who had been drinking champagne and having nibbles for forty-five minutes). The twenty-five-minute ceremony was scripted and delivered by a celebrant who, after asking them to complete individual questionnaires and spending quality time learning about their lives together, beautifully told the story of their relationship. One of the readings was from the book Giovanni's Room, one of the grooms favorite novels.
In case you missed it, check out the first article of the three part etiquette series from Bernadette here.