How to officiate a wedding: The ceremony is too long. We need more time for photos!
One of the most common challenges officiants face is the setting sun. Many couples choose not to see each other on their wedding day until the bride is coming down the aisle, so they’ve not taken any photos together. Photographers are often stressed, because they want to do a great job for the couple too, and shoot as many photos as possible before the sun sets.
Unfortunately, their agenda doesn’t always jive with mine and my ego tells me that if it wasn’t for the ceremony, the couple wouldn’t need a photographer. However, at the end of the day it’s their wedding, so I don’t take it personally if photos take priority over the ceremony. Photos keep memories vibrant and alive.
So, what are the best ways to shorten a ceremony?
1) Suggest signing the license before their ceremony, even if they don’t see each other. You can take the license to the bridal suite to have her and a witness sign and then take it to the groom’s room, where he and a witness can sign. Signing the license immediately following the ceremony doesn’t usually take longer than ten minutes, but this suggestion won’t be one your couple is expecting and knowing it’s an option will reduce their stress level.
2) Cut readings. Feel free to suggest cutting the readings you like least. If you like the reading, you’ll sound genuine when you read it during their ceremony, so while your suggestion might be self-centered, it’s for their benefit.
Perhaps the most unique way to shorten a ceremony is…..
3) Sign their license during the ceremony. This custom is common in other countries, but not in the U.S. Make sure there’s a table in the ceremony space for their license, presumably the same one used for imagery, like the unity candle or blending sand. Fill out the entire license before their ceremony begins, leaving only the four signatures blank (bride, groom, two witnesses). You want the process of signing in front of their guests to move quickly, so there’s no uncomfortable energy. Ask their DJ to play soft music during the license signing to fill any dead air, which seems to help everyone feel more comfortable.
Make sure you go over the details with the couple and their witnesses before their ceremony, so they’re not figuring it out in front of everyone. I usually say something like this
“While marriage is a contract of trust between partners, it’s also a legal contract. Normally the bride and groom are whisked away to sign their marriage license in private, with just a few close people to witness, but with you all being so important to Bride and Groom, they wanted to sign their marriage license right now, with you all acting as their witnesses. However, only two lucky people receive the special honor of signing the license along with Bride and Groom. Maid-of-honor and best man, will you please sign as witnesses?”
After everyone has signed, they return to the spots they were standing in and I say, “You are now, as your hearts have always known you to be, husband and wife. Groom, kiss your beautiful bride!” and the party begins!
How to officiate a wedding: The ceremony is too long!
I hope these ideas were helpful. I go over lots of this stuff in my video training. You can check it out here.
Matt T. Nathanson, 1st Officiant
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