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Many wedding magazines, planners, and wedding shows provide a multitude of great ideas and resources to help make your day special. They focus on everything from hairdos and headpieces to transportation and can be a bride's and grooms best friend as they plan their special day. But what really makes your day special is the ceremony. A wonderful ceremony will make for a wonderful celebration. A terrible ceremony may cast a shadow over the remainder of your day. So being prepared and taking care of the small details, before your ceremony begins, can reward you with fun and pleasure for the remainder of your momentous day. So, my wife Joanne, who also conducts ceremonies, and I offer a few suggestions, from 'lessons we have learned' to help you have a stress free ceremony.

First, we suggest that you arrive early; not ON TIME or LATE, but early. Then after you arrive, if you want to be a little late that's OK. You are now in control. If possible it is a good idea for you to dress in the bridal room. If that is not possible it is still wise to arrive at least 15 minutes early even if you wait in the limousine. This will provide you with some 'personal time' to prepare for the most important part of your day. In most weddings, the ceremony usually begins a few minutes late. This is acceptable and often unavoidable as it usually takes a few minutes to coordinate the 'start up'. Beginning your ceremony reasonably close to the invitation start up time is a small way in expressing gratitude for your guest's presence and will assure a stress free ceremony.

[One final word on arriving on time. Some believe that it is 'fashionable' for the bride to be late. The truth of the matter is that it creates a lot of stress on the bride, the wedding party, the guests, and others involved in your day. The ceremony may not go according to plan and many of the scheduled events following the ceremony are often rushed.]

Secondly, the good news is that most of the guests do arrive early and on time. However, the second potential cause of stress is when your ceremony is delayed because guests arrive late! For some strange reason this 'phenomena' is almost sure to happen. People either are notoriously late or may be late for legitimate reasons. Occasionally 'late arrivals' may even enter during the 'processional' with the bridal party. To prevent this from happening consider assigning someone, to 'HOLD BACK' 'late arrivals' until the wedding party has entered. Perhaps a friend, or the wedding hostess could be asked to assist late arrivals by 'holding them back'. After the wedding party has entered they may be escorted to their place.

Here are a few other suggestions you may want to consider.

#1 Consider putting the 'invitation time' of ceremony one half hour before intended start up time. Have snacks and nonalcoholic drinks available as people arrive. This will provide everyone with an opportunity to enter into a relaxed atmosphere and assure ample time for late arrivals.

#2 Consider sending the boutonnieres with the best man and the groom to the venue along with the license, the ceremony, the rings, and the final payment.

#3 Many brides and grooms distribute a detailed map with directions to venue for 'out of town' guests. Also you may want to ask immediate family to arrive one half hour early to greet guests.

#4 It is prudent for the Officiant to be in charge of the 'start up' of the ceremony. [On occasion, when other have been in charge the bridal party has found itself coming down the isle without the Officiant and groom in their places.]

#5 In the case where your guests are transported to the ceremony site via a rented bus it is wise to instruct the bus drivers to arrive early rather then just arriving on time.

#6 Ask your ushers to begin escorting your guests to their seats no later then 15 minutes before the scheduled start of ceremony.

#7 Let your Officiant know in advance your wishes regarding your photographer and Video Recorder. Request that they coordinate their activities with your Officiant.

#8 Young Children love to take part in your ceremony but have a contingency plan in place to prevent potential incident.

#9 Summer outdoor ceremonies which are held during a extremely humid, sunny, hot day may be a source of stress for your guests. Cold water, fans or sun protectors may be a thoughtful way to lessen the effects of hot weather. Perhaps setting up chairs in the shade could also be considered. Your guests will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Finally! Most of the ceremonies we conduct run smoothly from beginning to end. And we also realize that sometimes it is the 'unexpected' that adds life and laughter into a great ceremony. It is great when things go as planned. However, on occasion there has been a few 'awkward' moments over the past few years. Some of these 'moments' were due to unforeseen circumstances. They could not have been prevented. Many were not even noticed. However, others, happened because people did not understand the significance of a 'stress free ceremony'. Enjoy

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