Wedding Ceremony Mistakes You’ll Want to Avoid!

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Photo courtesy of Stephanie Luxton Photography

Weddings come in all shapes and sizes and the ceremony is the most unique and memorable moment of your big day. Naturally, you want it to be as perfect as possible. After performing more than 120 weddings I have seen it all and there are mistakes that are very avoidable as long as you are prepared!

To make sure your ceremony goes according to plan, there are a few common mistakes you should be aware of:

Failing to Communicate with Guests.

Your wedding ceremony is going to have a start time, so remind your guests what time they need to be seated by. This can be communicated on your invitation, wedding website, and through email. It is very important your guests know what their arrival time is supposed to be as many people think the ceremony start time is the guest arrival time and I often end up passing latecomers on their way in as I’m on my way out – and they have missed the entire ceremony!

Encouraging guests to find seats ensures nobody is left standing for the entirety of the ceremony. If I see guests standing at the back and lots of empty seats, I will tell them to sit down so the photos don’t look like no one came. ProTip – Don’t open your bar until after your ceremony – this makes it a lot easier to get guests to sit down! If you do open your bar for guests arriving, please put up signage letting them know they can take their drinks to their seats with them.

It’s also important to remind guests to turn off their cell phones. The last thing you want is for some crazy ringtone to start playing as you say your vows. When I can, I make an announcement asking (telling) people to make sure their phone ringers are off!

Not Communicating with Your Officiant and Photographer

When I arrive at weddings, the first thing I do is ask for the licence. If it isn’t there, we have a problem! If you have forgotten your licence, please tell your officiant IMMEDIATELY! We have solutions, but we can only solve problems we know about! Don’t leave your officiant in the dark, with no clue what’s going on, 15 minutes before your ceremony is to start.

All too many couples have a first kiss photo with an officiant in the background. Speak to your photographer ahead of time about coordinating with your officiant during the first kiss and other big moments. A professional photographer should already be planning to meet with your officiant, and vice versa. Once I have your licence prepped for your ceremony I find your photographer and go over the script for their cues, and work out together how we will get you the best photos possible. And yes….I have been told by more than one photographer that they just don’t care and won’t have the conversation with me so make sure you discuss this kind of thing before hiring them!

Communicate with your officiant is to make the ceremony more meaningful. When you book me I send an intake form for you to fill in so I can gather all of the information I need to put your ceremony together. All too often, couples fill in the “Tell me about yourselves” section with one line saying they love their family, Netflix, and bonfires. Guess what? We all do! Tell me something interesting and unique about you, your life, and your life together so I can choose readings that reflect who you are and can make your ceremony as meaningful as possible.

Also – before you hire an officiant, ask them if you will be able to see your ceremony ahead of time! When you book me we start with your intake form and contract, and then I send you the ceremony template so you can see how it flows, the order everything happens, and make some choices like your vows, what you want to be called etc. Then I take the what I learned about you from your intake form, and your choices from the ceremony template, and I fill it in with readings based on that information. I send your ceremony back to you for any changes or edits, and eventually approval. Once your ceremony is approved I put it in your file until your big day!

I have heard a lot of couples tell me one of their fears is that the officiant will preach and lecture on marriage and go off script during their ceremony. Don’t worry, I stay on the script we have all agreed on and only go off script when something out of the blue happens and some space needs to be filled (like when we had to wait for someone to run allllll the way back to the farm house to get the rings the best man swore he had!).

Forgetting to Get the Rings Ready

Before you head down the aisle, make sure your rings are easily accessible and don’t need to be freed from any unnecessary packaging. This also includes removing any price tags.

Before we begin I always ask who has the rings and I have learned to ask whomever has them, to show them to me. At the start of my career I made the mistake of believing the best man when he was adamant he had the rings, and when the time came….he did not. I had to fill the empty space while someone ran back and got the rings from where they were left on the kitchen table. Now I know to double check!

Also…for the love of all that’s holy and the wee donkey – please do not tie your rings to your dog ring bearer! We do not have time to wait for groomsmen, friends, cousins to chase and catch the dog so we can get on with your ceremony. I have seen this happen more than once and it isn’t a good look.

Failing to Do a Mic Check

If you are planning to use microphones during your ceremony, make sure all of your tech is checked ahead of time. Technological issues can’t always be avoided but the risk of something going wrong during your ceremony there isn’t much we can do.

Anytime I know I am being mic’d I plan to meet with your sound people to make sure everything is working and they have my volumes before we begin. ProTip! Put a lav mic on the groom (if there is one) so it will pick all of us up, but I can also whisper instructions and encouragement to you without everyone hearing me.

Standing mics are the worst as it’s awkward to hold my book without bumping into it and I have to move my head away to whisper instructions to you. Also…they don’t look great in your photos!

Asking your officiant to hold a mic is really unfair – they are already holding their book or binder (often in the wind trying to keep their pages from flapping), passing you tissues, fixing your dress, picking bees out of your veil, handing you your vow books, and at some point in your ceremony, holding your rings. Asking us to hold a mic as well just doesn’t work.

When you are speaking with DJs, make sure they use lav mics before you hire them.

Not Looking at Each Other

It’s really flattering when my couples are so wrapped up in what I’m saying that they forget to look at each other – but it’s not what we are here for! When I see you are spending too much time looking at me, I will whisper to you to look at each other – we want your photos to be of the love between the two of you, not between the three of us (we can get those photos later!).

Yes there are times I will be speaking directly to you and will look up to make eye contact with you, but please, spend most of your ceremony looking at the gorgeous person in front of you and take in this amazing moment that you have waiting and planned for all this time!

And don’t forget to smile! I know it’s so stressful and easy to forget the look on your face, so remind yourself to smile and enjoy the moment!

The Biggest Mistake of All!

Not hiring a professional, licenced, registered officiant! I have heard too many horror stories about the friend who agreed to perform the ceremony, then didn’t actually write it or go over it with the couple, and then panicked at the ceremony because stage fright set in. The friend who is the life of the party is not always someone who is that great at public speaking while sober.

That friend could also be committing a huge crime by pronouncing you married if they are not in fact a licenced officiant with a registration number – a crime that can come with a 2 year jail sentence! They won’t be able to complete your paperwork properly and it will get flagged if it is mailed in to the government.

Unlicensed, unregistered “officiants” are committing fraud by performing marriage ceremonies an if you are caught, it costs a lot more than the $400 officiant fee to get it fixed.

Officiants must be ordained by some sort of religious organization in Ontario (the exception being judges, justices of the peace, and municipal clerks), and there are people out there lying about their officiant status, taking your money, and not filing your paperwork. It happens every year so please make sure your officiant is on the list of registered officiants (I can send you to the website where you can look them (i.e. me) up).


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