To Roll or Not to Roll – The Truth Behind the Aisle Runner

Planning a wedding can be a daunting task. Everywhere you turn it seems there is something you think you need. I can not tell you how many times I have seen items purchased and not used. Recently I saw a very young ring bearer take his ring pillow and chuck it into the grass before refusing to walk down the aisle. The mother of the bride had literally just removed that very pillow from its brand new packaging.

Another item I often see purchased but ultimately go unused is the aisle runner. Don’t get me wrong, they can be beautiful, with quotes or monograms on them. They are such a traditional image associated with the bride walking down the aisle. Yet, in my experience the standard “roll down” runner can be a nightmare. Their original purpose was to keep the aisle way clean from any dirt or debris tracked in by guests so that the brides gown would remain white and pristine.  Today it is really a more decorative element. There are several problems with an aisle runner. When used outdoors it is very difficult to keep in place. I have seen the wind lift and relocate the lightweight fabric runner with ease. Unless you can find a way tack it down without taking away from its beauty, it is more of a hassle than anything. One couple used rocks to try to keep it down, but ended up tripping on them. Another couple tried to use the guests chairs to keep it from flying but it made the aisle so narrow that the bride could no longer walk side by side with her father.

Surprisingly aisle runner malfunctions are not limited to the outdoors. Most couples opt to have the runner placed after the wedding party has entered so that it is walked on only by the bride. Occasionally it is rolled out after the last guests are seated. If a venue has side aisles as well it can be rolled out before the ceremony and guests are then instructed to walk around. In my opinion that is the only way to guarantee a chance of the runner working. Countless times groomsmen have attempted to roll out the runner before the bride enters and they never want to roll. That cute little ribbon that is suppose to guide it won’t work. If they can manage to get it rolling, it always ends up crooked, and if you buy a runner that is too short, the bride has to step over it, leaving the aisle way looking incomplete.

The cost of a runner can vary from simple ones starting, around $20, to a beautiful, customized one hitting over $300. That’s pricey for something that may not roll or stay put, will be walked on and is going to be used for a very short period of time. When feeling tempted by all the elements available for your wedding day, research before you buy. Recently married friends may be able to share their experiences on the “must haves” and what to skip to keep your wedding day beautiful, affordable and stress-free.

All the Best!

Beth

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A Simple “I Do” 

For many couples their wedding is an elaborate affair planned years in advanced.  But for others, they simply want to be married.  No big halls or fancy invitations, just a few guests or sometimes no guests at all.

I offer a perfect option for couples looking to make it legal without all the fuss.  With my simply wed package all you need is a valid marriage license. No witnesses? No problem.  I can often accommodate same day or short notice weddings on weekdays or weekends before noon.

Whether the judge at the courthouse is booked, you are planning a destination wedding at a later date (many ceremonies performed outside of the US are not recognized here so be sure to check) or just want a short & sweet wedding, my goal is to make it affordable, easy and memorable.

Some of  my most heartfelt weddings have been performed in my living room or local gazebo. Feel free to contact me for more information.

All the Best!

Beth

Ceremony Writing Packages

I was recently reading an article published by Wedding Wire that stated that 37% of couples ask a family member or friend to perform their wedding ceremony. It’s not surprising that in an age of free online ordinations that many couples find it to be a cost-effective way to have their marriage legalized. Couples also believe that their family and friends know them better than anyone and would be able to deliver a very personalized ceremony.

While there are some books that are available to help assist individuals on how to write a wedding ceremony, they are fairly generic and really just a guideline. And in actuality, there is so much more than just words. Do they know how to orchestrate the flow of the ceremony? Who lines up where? When do you cue people to walk?  How many songs should be played and when? Beyond the ceremony, how do you complete the marriage license to make it legal?

I am proud to have created an entire package of items to help your chosen individual officiate your ceremony in the smoothest way possible given that this is most likely their first, and perhaps only, time performing a wedding. My writing package includes the following:

  1. A consultation via phone or video to learn all about you and your vision for your ceremony.
  2. A slideshow presentation for your friend on how to get ordained for free and how to complete and file your marriage license.
  3. A slideshow presentation on how to coordinate your rehearsal.
  4. An outline of where everyone in your wedding party will stand, and the order they will enter.
  5. Assistance with coordinating a receiving line.
  6. A ceremony script for them to use which is personalized and created just for you based on our consultation.The script includes cues to help assist them on how to make the ceremony flow efficiently.
  7. Unlimited revisions.
  8. Reminders and links from me on how, when and where to apply for your marriage license.
  9. A dinner blessing for them to use before your reception meal.

My hope is that every couple can have the ceremony of their dreams and this offers an affordable way for you to still receive professional wording that is personalized for you. Some of my past couples who opted to use my writing services did so for the following reasons:

  • They wanted me to officiate but I was already booked.
  • Their ceremony was too far for me to travel.
  • They had a friend who wanted to officiate but didn’t know where to begin.
  • They were on a budget.

If you live in Michigan, online ordinations are free and accepted in every county. If you live in another state, it is always advisable to check with the county clerk’s office where you will be officiating.  I can speak from experience that in Ohio you must register with the Secretary of State.

Of course, when making the decision to have someone perform your wedding, it is important to select someone who is confident and organized. Even with a script in hand, weddings can be unpredictable.  You will want someone who is able to keep your guests engaged with their voice, and roll with the punches if something doesn’t go as planned. If you don’t have a wedding planner, officiants often have to keep everything running smoothly not only during, but before the ceremony.

Should you find that having your ceremony professionally written is in your future, feel free to contact me.  My entire package runs $100.  I also offer a digital book entitled At the End of the Aisle, which can be found at most online book retailers. While it does not provide you with all the elements of my ceremony package, it is a helpful guide on where to begin.

All the Best!

Beth

I’m Engaged! What’s Next?

Occasionally I am approached by a couple who is unsure of where to begin in the sometimes overwhelming process of planning a wedding. While many years ago it was standard protocol to book your priest, rabbi or clergy person first to insure they were available, it is quite common now to book your venue first.  Of course, if you are absolutely set on having a particular individual marry you it is best to still check with them first, but if you are not getting married in a church or synagogue by a clergy person, most couples find their venue first.

Every couple is different and their priorities on who to book next will vary.  I have seen many couples that have their DJ, photographer and florist all booked before their officiant because having those particular individuals was their priority.  Others book their officiant immediately after their venue to confirm availability. There are lots of people who are ordained and can perform a legal ceremony, but the experienced ones will book quickly, especially for popular dates and time.  A May through October Saturday wedding between 2-5 p.m. will be harder to find an officiant for than a Sunday morning in February.

It is important to remember that there are only a few things you must have to get married. A location, a marriage license, and someone who is ordained to perform your ceremony. Most couples place a lot of focus on the beauty of their venue and the photos that will last a lifetime, and while those are both important, please keep in mind that securing a qualified, experienced officiant is equally important.  They will be the ones who can make or break your ceremony, and your guests will remember that more than your venue, dress or party favors.

Make a list of what is important and book your non-negotiables first. Often when you book one or two vendors they can help you navigate the maze of planning your wedding. From recommendations to advice, most are happy to help assist and point you in the right direction.

All the Best!

Beth

If it sounds too good to be true…

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You know the old saying “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. Heed that advice when hiring your wedding officiant.  I recently had a bride researching wedding officiants.  She came back and told me “she found someone cheaper”. While I applaud individuals for being wise with their money or sticking to their budget, remember often you “get what you pay for”.

I don’t necessarily believe that the most expensive officiant is always the best. But when hiring an individual who is going to coordinate your entire ceremony, make sure you are not just looking at the money spent, but the actual value for your dollar.

It is very easy to become ordained to legally officiate at a wedding.  If you have expectations that anyone who is ordained is good at performing a wedding, you may be surprised.  There is no training received, and no one teaches you how to write one, speak confidently, or handle all the ins and outs of coordinating a ceremony. That comes with experience.

I can not stress enough the importance of reviews.  Does the person you are looking to hire have multiple positive reviews? Do they have a backup in the event of illness? Is officiating their primary wedding service or did your DJ say he can do that too? If you can’t find a review, it’s safe to say that they don’t have any or it went so poorly they didn’t ask for one.

The key isn’t to just find someone who can solemnize your ceremony. You want someone who can navigate the unexpected when it occurs.  Someone who can keep you calm, answer your questions, and who you know you can trust. If they are offering such a great deal, ask yourself why.

Talk or meet with them ahead of time, and make sure you feel they can carry out all the duties associated with your ceremony. Look for someone who is genuine, and isn’t telling you just what you want to hear.  Watch out for someone who promises everything but can’t deliver anything. Are they simply saying yes to all your requests or providing suggestions based on previous experience.

If they don’t meet your expectations early after hiring, like timely responses, or tell you they won’t provide a draft until a month before the ceremony, BEWARE! You do not want to get your first look at your ceremony when it’s so close and be disappointed that they aren’t providing you with a suitable service.  Securing a new officiant a month before can be daunting to impossible task.

Don’t look back at such an important day and wish you had spend a little more money for a lot less headache and heartache.

All the Best!

Beth

The Art of “I Do”

You may not know, but for a wedding to be legal, only two things MUST happen during the ceremony*. You must agree to marry one another, and your officiant must pronounce you married. Everything in between is lovely but not legally necessary.

On TV it is often shown that each partner says “I Do” or “I Will”, but in actuality any positive affirmation will also suffice.  I tell my couples to say what feels right at the exact moment.  Some use phrases that they find a person connection to.  One groom said “Absolutely” in a Russian hockey player’s accent, while another bride said “Yes, please” which I later learned was her grooms favorite saying. Another couple, who had been together 15 years, said “Always have, always will” when the Supreme Court finally allowed her to marry her partner.

I encourage couples to be heartfelt and say what feels natural.  While some prefer a traditional “I Do” response, “With all my heart” is my personal favorite, and even “Yup” will get the job done. Whichever words you choose to use, my hope is that it will always reside in your hearts.

All the Best!

Beth

*Of course your marriage can’t be solemnized without obtaining a marriage license from the appropriate county clerk’s office.

How Long Does a Non-Denominational Wedding Ceremony Last?

Many of my couples ask for something short and sweet.  And I often ask them in return what their definition of that is. Some couples seriously want “I do” and to be pronounced husband and wife.  But most simply want something that is memorable without dragging on.

I tell my couples that the length of their ceremony is really up to them. I could say some nice words about love and commitment, bless their hands and the rings, perform all the legal requirements, and be done in 10 minutes. But there are many ways to lengthen your ceremony and have it run around 15-25 minutes.

Adding a unity ceremony, readings by me or several guests, or other special touches like the support of the community, rose ceremony for parents, or a thank you to your guests will certainly add more time to your ceremony. And of course, the more attendants you have, the longer your processional and recessional will be.

I think many people recall weddings running 45 minutes to an hour in length and if you are holding yours in a church with a full mass and communion it can certainly last that long. But as a non-denominational minister (or wedding officiant), we focus much more on the wedding and less on the ritual of a specific religion, therefore the ceremony is significantly shorter.

In my experience guests and couples alike seem to appreciate a ceremony that runs about 20 minutes, allowing them to focus on the beauty of the words, and the love you are expressing without sneaking a peek at their phones, or thinking “boy, when is this going to end”. And the couple has just the right amount of time to enjoy their ceremony without fainting, having their feet hurt in those gorgeous but completely uncomfortable new shoes, or freeze / melt in the outdoor weather of the season.

My goal is to provide you with a heartfelt and meaningful ceremony that both you and your guests will remember as being the perfect reflection of your love and personality. I promise it will be just the right length of time so you can move on to the celebration at your reception.

All the Best!

Beth

Behind the Scenes: A Breakdown of an Officiants Pricing

So many people view the wedding ceremony as being “just 20 minutes of your time”, and some believe an officiant is paid too much.  Occasionally I am asked to reduce my pricing or inquires are made if I can work with their budget.  I do reserve the right to offer reduced pricing when I meet a couple that I believe truly warrants a reduction. Some examples include the military couple who was frantic and needed someone “now” before he was deployed, or couples that are flexible and work with my schedule.

I understand that many couples are on a budget, and I offer a price point for all if you truly want to “just get married”. But what couples forget is that the time of an officiant works on the same economic principals of supply and demand as other goods and services.  For example, if you are looking to book a venue, they often have a price structure that charges a premium price for Saturdays, and reduced pricing for less popular days of the week. The same applies for time of year.  If you want to marry in the warmer months, pricing is higher than if you want to host a January wedding. My pricing is the same. As an officiant, once I book a “popular” date and time, that date is removed from my schedule. I turn away many other couples due to my limited availability.

Pricing is also based on many behind the scenes costs couples many not consider. Beyond gas, wear and tear on my personal vehicle, and even time spent traveling to and from the wedding, there are other expenses I incur. Some include:

  • Advertising – My largest expense so you can find me.  This includes costs on wedding sites, Google & Yellow Pages, as well as hosting my own website.
  • Office Supplies – From archival pens, postage, business cards and keepsake envelopes, to the computer I use to write your ceremony and the iPad to deliver it. Even those tissues I keep handy for your special moment all add up.
  • Clothing and Accessories – I’m standing in front of your closest friends and family.  Blue jeans and tennis shoes just won’t work. While I am no fashion diva, a classic black dress and a never ending supply of tights (oh, if someone could only invent ones that never get a run) do add to the cost.
  • Phone
  • Time – My time is not limited to just a 20 minute ceremony. From responding to that very first inquiry, to consultations, ceremony writing, revising, and even time after your ceremony to answer questions regarding name changes or any other issue, it all adds up. On the wedding day alone, with drive time, officiating, and arriving early to make sure everyone is comfortable and on track is about 3 hours without a formal rehearsal. Many more hours are spent prior to your wedding day to insure not only that the words are just right, but that you know how, when and where to apply for your marriage license, and simply touching base to make sure your planning is going smoothly.
  • Family – While I LOVE officiating at weddings, most take place on a weekend which prevents me from spending time with my own family when they are not at work and school. Similar to how employees get paid time and a half to work on a weekend or holiday, my pricing is increased on a weekend because of the time spent away from my loved ones. If you ask me to stay later to deliver your dinner blessing I charge extra.  While some may believe that because I am getting a “free meal” I shouldn’t charge more, I view it that I am staying another 2-3 hours (yes, your dinner doesn’t start immediately following your ceremony) and that is time away from eating dinner with my own family.

I believe I am very competitive in my pricing, and for what I offer, below industry standards. But there is so much more than just your ceremony time. I hope breaking down a few of the costs associated with creating that perfect day will help everyone understand the true reasoning behind the pricing.

All the Best!

Beth

Things I Won’t Say

I want my couples to feel that their ceremony truly reflects their own unique personalities, and I will say just about anything they want. Thankfully many of the really silly things (like farting – yes really – twice have I had brides use that word during their ceremony) have been left up to the couple to share in their personal vows. I was once asked to blend the bride and grooms names together, similar to “Brangelina”, which while it felt a little weird, the guests LOVED!

But there are a few words / phrases I won’t say. While I do provide ceremonies to inter-faith couples, or couples who simply share a faith different than mine, I always reserve the right to not worship another deity.  I am happy to let you or your guests include those elements, but I will not utter words that I feel go against my own belief system.

I will NEVER say “obey”.  I think its antiquated and doesn’t reflect the partnership you and your spouse should maintain during your married life.

I won’t say “man and wife”.  I honestly never understood how that phrase came to be.  The groom was already a man before the ceremony.  Shouldn’t he now be a husband? I will always say “husband and wife”.  Unless, of course, it is a same-sex couple because then it just wouldn’t make sense 😉

I highly discourage couples from saying “Mr. & Mrs. Bob Smith”.  I believe the woman doesn’t lose her identity just because she is married.  I prefer to say “Mr. & Mrs. Bob & Sally Smith”.  Brides love to hear their first and last name together for the first time, and I think it shows that you are united yet unique individuals.

All the Best!

Beth

What to Look for and Ask Your Future Officiant

When I meet a couple, or even e-mail them, I try to provide as much information as possible relating to my services. I even have a FAQ section on my webpage in the hopes of answering many common questions before we even start. I believe my couples find it helpful, and it prevents me for repeating the same thing over and over.  Sometimes I can’t recall who I told what to so it prevents me from sounding like a broken record.

I believe you should be very comfortable with your officiant, and that should be easily accomplished with a phone call or meeting. I have been told that just through the phone they could feel a warmth and sincerity about me.

Do they respond in a timely manner? You should be able to tell that even before you meet them.  Typically you will fill out a response form, leave a message or an e-mail and based on their response time you can get some idea of how timely they are.

Do they have reviews? You should be able to easily access and obtain feedback on your officiant.  Go to a trusted wedding site.  Read the good and bad.

Do they allow you to customize your ceremony or will you be required to follow certain verbiage? Time and time again I have had couples come to me expressing that they were told certain words must be used, or that their current officiant insisted on more religious elements than they wanted.  Ask before your hire.  Often couples seem to select an ordained family member affiliated with a church only to find that the secular ceremony they were hoping for their officiant can’t provide.

How many ceremonies have they performed? While we all had to start somewhere, if you are paying top dollar you should expect someone who feels comfortable in front of a large crowd, knows how to handle unexpected events, and can navigate all of the intricacies of a wedding ceremony before, during and after.

Can they recommend other vendors? Another sign that they are familiar with the industry and have performed multiple ceremonies is if they have networked within the industry. I work with DJ’s, live musicians, wedding planners, photographers, and venues.  My goals is to make your day easy by seamlessly coordinating with other vendors and when I find highly capable individuals I am always happy to recommend them to my future clients.

What are their payment terms?  While it is reasonable for an officiant to ask for a deposit to hold your date and time, in my opinion it is not acceptable to ask someone to pay up front the entire amount.  I also believe a phone consultation should be free.  Anyone who asks for money before you meet you should avoid. But be considerate of their time.  If you are interviewing multiple officiants and insist on an in person interview let them know.  I happily meet couples in person free of charge up to a certain mile limit, but it is always with the hope I will be a good fit. If I am competing with 3 other people I will be much less likely to want to spend time and gas when we could chat via phone or video and achieve the same results.

Is pricing based on the amount of guests or length of ceremony? Many officiants have pricing tiers based on your needs.  Ceremonies with less guests may be called “elopment” and cost less.  Be upfront about your needs, and make sure to check with them to see if their pricing has limitations.  If your needs change their pricing may as well.

Get a contract! It is there to protect you as well as them. Once you receive one, review and make sure it covers all of your concerns. A qualified officiant should give you ample time to review before signing and not rush you. Do keep in mind though that most officiants won’t consider your date booked until they have a signed contract and deposit so don’t wait too long to sign or you may lose a popular date as sought after officiants can book those dates quickly or far in advanced. If there is something you feel is important to add to the terms of the contract, let your officiant know.  It is better to have everything outlined ahead of time to avoid confusion.

Hiring is a two way street.  You have lots of questions. Be sure to ask them, especially before you hire them. Your officiant may also have questions for you. I have found over the years that I want to provide you with the best experience possible, and if your expectations differ from mine, I may recommend that we are not a good fit. If you are planing your wedding months in advance, you will want to maintain open communication and a solid relationship.  Both parties should feel comfortable.

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. I hope you find the perfect officiant for your very special day.

All the best!

Beth