You’re Making Your Wedding List and Checking It Twice—What Have You Forgotten?
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Preparing for a wedding, large or small, is overwhelming! A way to combat that feeling is to break down the required tasks, divide the responsibilities and assign deadlines. Ok, all that is fine—but what have you forgotten?
A wedding is a public affair, and it’s everyone’s fear that somewhere, somehow, despite all the planning, arrangements, expense, and hard work, something will happen to make one or more of the principles appear foolish in public.
Let’s look at a scenario for a moment. It’s a beautiful day and a beautiful wedding. Everything is in place. The site of the ceremony has been decorated appropriately and beautifully, all major participants are playing their roles correctly and are properly dressed, the groom and his best man have arrived and are in place.
The music starts, and the bridal attendants proceed down the aisle. They’re nervous, and when nervous, people tend to “herd.” The attendants are following that instinct, and they’re so close together that no one can get a separate picture of each one! The organist is trying to keep up with the fact that the attendants are in place far too soon, so she/he speeds up the music.
The bride then starts to proceed down the aisle before the music has changed; the organist quickly switches the music, which now has the tempo of a rock opera. The bride is beautifully dressed, but she’s so close to the maid/matron of the honor or flower girl that no one can see or photograph her properly—she’s nervous too!
As the bride and her escort pass, you notice that her train, which is probably at least as beautiful as the rest of her gown, is twisted and to the side. Because in most ceremonies the bride and groom stand facing the officiant, you can see her twisted train all throughout the ceremony!
In the middle of the ceremony, there's a sudden downpour outside. No matter--everyone's still inside the church, but when the time comes for the bride, groom and wedding party to be transported to the reception everyone gets wet and soggy and arrives at the reception looking unhappy, uncomfortable and soaked. It's all recorded on those expensive once-in-a-lifetime wedding photographs too!
After the ceremony, the bride and groom proceed back down the aisle, followed by the attendants and the couple’s parents. Because of the emotion of the moment, some have cried, and it now appears that every female member of the party, including the bride herself, has made themselves up to look like circus clowns because their mascara is running and their foundation is streaked! The guests are asking themselves if the bridal party looked that way at the start of the ceremony, because of course they couldn’t see them very well—they were too close together.
So how can all this be prevented? First, you need an assistant! It should be a close friend or relative who is not supposed to be sitting in the reserved seats at the front, and so is available to help you manage the last minute necessary details.
Her first task is to hand out tissues or handkerchiefs--almost every bridal party forgets them. She should hand these out just before the mothers and then the bridal party proceed down the aisle. The bride and bridal party can hold them under their bouquets so that they are unseen as they go down the aisle. If you hand them out any time before that, you’ll find that at least one person and more often a few people will forget to bring theirs—and a wedding ceremony is no place to take chances! Tissues will serve the purpose, of course—but do you really want the bridal party photographed during the ceremony with tissues—perhaps shredded by a nervous owner? Men’s handkerchiefs will do, and of course, pretty lace-trimmed ones are even better—just make sure they’re sizeable! You may be able to find reasonably priced lace handkerchiefs locally as well, or you can always by men's linen handkerchiefs and sew lace on them.
Your helper’s second task is to space your attendants as they go down the aisle. In most traditional ceremonies, the mother of the groom, then the mother of the bride are seated. A little time may elapse (should be no more than 5 minutes) between the seating of the mothers and the beginning of the bridal procession. During that time, no one should be seated by the ushers. They should be unrolling the aisle runner, then taking their places at the front of the church.
When the organist (who has used the aisle runner and the placement of the groomsmen as a cue) begins the processional music, your helper should stand to the side of the bridal procession, using the door as a shield so that she will not be seen by your guests. While proper spacing is a matter of judgment, a good guideline is that the next bridesmaid should not proceed down the aisle until the bridesmaid in front of her has at least passed the third pew or row from the front in a medium-sized church or hall. If the church is the size of a cathedral (as in The Sound of Music) it should be about 1/2 way to the front. Remember—they can’t start without you!
The maid/matron of honor should not start until the last bridesmaid is in place, and the flower girl and ring bearer should also not start down the aisle until the maid/matron of honor is in place. That is, there should be a little more spacing between these two members of the party.
The bride should wait until the first few bars of the Bridal March has been played. The organist is waiting for the placement or seating of the ring bearer and flower girl to switch music; do not rush her! Again remember: it won’t start without you! Your helper is there to calm and slow down you and your escort if necessary.
Once the last bridal attendant or flower girl/ring bearer are on their way down the aisle, your helper should slip behind the bride and her escort, again, taking care not to be seen. At the very last moment before the bride steps off, the helper should pick up the train at least a foot but no more than two feet off the ground, and give it a “flip.” This action is similar to smoothing out a sheet on a bed. The “flip” will ensure that the train will ride on a curtain of air and stay spread as long as the bride keeps walking.
Next, how to handle the sudden downpour. As part of your preparations, the bride should obtain enough umbrellas (three is plenty) for herself and her bridal party. Some limousine services also carry umbrellas, but they only have one if any. If you find that you have too many, the parents and relatives of the couple would appreciate them, too! While any color umbrella will do, white umbrellas would be ideal, but they’re difficult to find. Thinkwedding.com has found a reasonably-priced supplier of several different kinds of white umbrellas, and offers them as a service. Your helper should have the umbrellas at the back of the hall or church near the door and be ready to hand them out after the ceremony.
Once you have found a friend who has agreed to be your helper, arrange to give her these items a day or two before the wedding, and make sure that she knows what her role will be. A good friend is priceless!
Attention to these little but important details can help to assure a worry-free day. A small but appropriate gift to your friend after the ceremony would be a nice touch. It doesn’t have to be large or expensive, but the bride should present it herself, along with her personal thanks.
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© 2003, by M. A. Woodman
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