Cost-Cutting Ideas: Conducting Your Own Wedding Rehearsal

One thing that can substantially raise the fee charged by your wedding Officiant is the need to have him or her conduct your rehearsal. This is a justifiable expense – the Officiant may have passed up another wedding to conduct your rehearsal – but it’s also an expense that the bride and groom don’t always need to incur. It’s actually pretty easy to run your own rehearsal without your Officiant in attendance.

At Forever, Together, as Seattle wedding officiants we’re more than happy to conduct rehearsal for you on a separate day…if you decide you need one.  However, for a small wedding, or a very simple ceremony, rehearsal can be D.I.Y., leaving you with more “scratch” to spend on your honeymoon in Vegas!

This may seem a daunting task, especially if you don’t think of yourself as the “managerial” type, but there are some simple steps you can do to make it easier. First of all, we’ll assume that you have worked with your Officiant and have at least a draft of your ceremony (if you don’t, then you should!). Armed with your wedding script, follow the steps below and you’ll have a run-through that moves along smoothly…and gets everyone to the rehearsal dinner in around 30 minutes!

If you are having your ceremony at the same site as your reception, then the venue might even provide a coordinator. These folks are invaluable–they know their venue best and how to make everything flow. Count on them–they might even run the rehearsal for you at no extra charge if you give them the script!

If there’s no coordinator, it’s better to turn the rehearsal over to a friend or relative who is, frankly, a little bossy (mother of the bride is a great choice!). Choose someone who is assertive enough to get everyone to pay attention, but not so overbearing as to put off your wedding party members.

1. Start in the middle

Line up your entire wedding party exactly where they will stand during the ceremony (when the music stops). As the audience sees you, men should be on the right, women on the left. Next to the groom should be the best man, next to the bride will be the maid of honor. Bridesmaids stand to the left of the maid of honor with groomsmen to the right of the best man. Wedding party members should angle their bodies slightly so that they are always facing the bride and groom.

Those on the outside should step forward, if possible, so that the wedding party forms a “V,” with the bride and groom in the middle. Have someone who is not in the wedding watch from the back of the room to make sure everyone is centered and evenly spaced. If you want to be really precise and your venue allows it, you can even place tape on the floor to mark everyone’s spot.

2. Go through the ceremony by section headings only.

It’s not necessary to read the entire ceremony. Your Officiant will be doing it, anyway, so just run through the various elements by their headings.

Determine who will have the rings and how they will be presented to the Officiant, establish the parts of the ceremony when the bride and groom face the Officiant, face each other, or turn toward their guests, if there are ceremony “props,” such as roses you will present to your parents, make sure you know where they will be during the ceremony.

If you’re really nervous about reciting your vows in public, you may want to practice at rehearsal. If you have readers or singers, they might want to work on their piece as well.

3. Practice the recessional first

I admit this sounds illogical, but in fact it makes perfect sense. After the kiss, the bride will get her bouquet from the maid of honor and bride and groom will face their guests. This is traditionally when the Officiant will introduce you as “Mr. and Mrs.” for the first time. The recessional music strikes up and off you go! Best man and maid of honor should wait until the bride and groom are at the back of the room and then the best man can extend his right arm to the maid of honor and they will walk out together.

Subsequent couples should stay put until it is their turn to leave. Personally, we don’t recommend you do the “inching into the center” shuffle. It looks more professional if everyone just waits their turn. Select an agreed-upon distance whereby each couple will exit (for example: when the couple in front gets to the fifth row of chairs, then the next couple goes, etc.). In this manner, each couple will leave in uniform fashion, without bunching up. After the last couple exits, the parents and any people sitting in the front row should immediately follow.

4. Practice the processional last

Now that everyone knows where to stand when they are up in the front, the processional should be a piece of cake. By now, you will have determined who will be in the processional and in what order, so simply line people up accordingly. (Hopefully, it’s on your script!). Then, start walking.

As you did for the recessional, pick a spot at which each couple or person will begin walking (e.g. when the first bridesmaid gets to the front row, the second should begin walking, and when the second gal gets to that same spot, the third gal will go, etc.). That way no one bunches up like Keystone Cops!

The bride and her escort (if there is one) should not enter until the entire wedding party is at the front. Generally, the bride will have a separate piece of music than the rest of the wedding party, so that’s a good clue as to when to start walking. Also, the Officiant will have everyone stand for the bride, so that’s when it’s time to make the grand entrance.

5. The “Hand Off”

This part can be tricky, and if you don’t practice it, it may look awkward. As the bride comes down the aisle, she will be on her father’s left arm. When it’s time for him to be seated, bride should kiss him good-bye. He will then walk behind the bride to his seat (watch out for her train, Dad!).

Bride should hand her flowers to her maid of honor with her left hand. Groom should extend his left hand to the bride, who will take it with her right hand. He will then “draw her in” to face the Officiant. Try it–it’s very fluid once you practice it. At this time, the maid of honor can hand both sets of flowers to the next bridesmaid in line and fix the bride’s train, if needed.

When both parents escort the bride, decide which parent the bride will kiss first. Mom should turn around and walk to her seat (her seat is the aisle seat in the front row on the bride’s side) and Dad will proceed to his seat as outlined above.

6. Tying it all together

Walk through the recessional and processional one more time and you’re done. And don’t get stressed if your groomsmen are clowning around and only half paying attention or your maid of honor is upset because she can’t be escorted by her husband. Everyone always seems to step up when it’s for real!

Wedding Ceremony Components: What Goes Where, and Why

Anyone who’s ever been to a wedding knows that the ceremony consists of a number of elements that traditionally occur in a certain order, but when you’re planning your own wedding, it really helps to know what those elements are, where they belong in the ceremony, and what they’re there for. This can help you clarify which components you want to use in your own wedding, and where they will best fit to give your wedding the “flow” you would like it to have.

Listed below are the most popular ceremony components in the order they usually occur. However, there is no reason you can’t move some (or all) elements around in your own ceremony…or even leave some of them out entirely! Remember, it’s your wedding and it should be about you. Do whatever feels best and whatever makes you happy, in the order that makes the most sense to you!

The Processional (aka, the Walk In or Wedding March)

This is the walk down the aisle of the wedding party to the altar, and symbolically represents two things: the couple’s transition from individual lives to the union of marriage, and the support of the wedding attendants by taking part in the same walk.

The Officiant and the Groom traditionally wait at the altar for the wedding party to walk down the aisle. First, the Groomsmen paired with the Bridesmaids, then by the Maid/Matron of Honor, the Ring Bearer, and the Flower Girl. Lastly come the Bride and her escort (traditionally, her father).

Facing the altar, the women are on the left and the men on the right. Music played for the Processional can be a single selection or, more often, multiple selections (e.g., one for the wedding party and a different one for the Bride)

The Welcome (aka, the Convocation)

The Welcome calls together all in attendance to begin the ceremony. The words spoken at this time welcome and thank the guests as well as introduce the purpose of this gathering. This is also the traditional time to remember and honor friends and relatives who have passed away, along with anyone else who cannot, physically, attend the wedding.

Declaration of Intent (one of two legally required elements)

This element is the “I Do” section of the ceremony. The couple declares their intention to marry, with each answering “I do” or “I will” when asked by the Officiant if it is their desire to make this commitment.

Consent (aka, the “Give Away”)

Here, the Officiant asks others to give their approval or blessing on the ceremony that is about to take place. Traditionally, the father or the parents of the Bride answer “I do,” “We do,” or “Her family,” when asked by the Officiant who is presenting the Bride to be married.


Readings consist of one or more selections (poems, lyrics, stories, etc.), either religious or non-religious, read aloud during carefully selected moments throughout the ceremony. They are meant to convey a message that resonates with the couple and guides them into marriage. Additional readings may be read by friends and family members to add variety to the ceremony.

This element often shares with the guests, thoughts on the meaning of marriage, and is designed to encourage reflection upon the significance of the commitment. They may also include a historical reflection on the couple’s relationship or the story of how they met and fell in love.

The Wedding Vows

This is the exchange between the couple that expresses the sincere promises they are making to each other regarding their intentions for the marriage. The words spoken at this time should normally not be memorized (the couple will already have more than enough on their mind to remember), but rather, should be read from a card or piece of paper, or repeated after the Officiant.

The Explanation of the Rings

The words spoken at this time describe the history and purpose of exchanging rings and the sentiment the couple wishes to be reminded of as they wear them.

The Ring Exchange

This is the physical exchange of rings, along with a verbal exchange between the couple expressing the significance of this offering. The Ring Vows are normally repeated after the Officiant, but can also be read from a card.

Pronouncement (the second legally required element of the ceremony)

This is the pronouncement that the couple is officially married.

The Kiss

The Kiss symbolically represents the sealing of the promises made during the ceremony.

Closing Blessing (aka, the Benediction)

This optional prayer, or non-religious blessing, is meant to send the couple off into their new future together, and to communicate the hopes and wishes that go with them to that future.

The Presentation

This is the first official introduction of the newly married couple as husband and wife.

The Recessional (aka, the Walk Out)

This is the choreographed walk down the aisle by the wedding party away from the altar after the couple has been presented. It signifies the completion of the ceremony and the beginning of the celebration. Traditionally, the wedding party leaves in reverse order in which they entered, with the Bride and Groom exiting first.

Additional Elements – Wedding Traditions

Additional wedding elements will make your wedding more interesting, more inclusive and (usually) a lot more fun. They can include popular and time-tested traditions such as the Blending of the Sands (Unity Sand Ceremony) and the Unity Candle, along with cultural traditions that incorporate the Bride or Groom’s heritage, such as the Handfasting (Celtic), a Tea Ceremony (Chinese), Jumping the Broom (African), the Coins, Cord and Veil (Hispanic) and the Breaking of the Glass (Jewish).

As Seattle Wedding Officiants, Forever, Together – Where Weddings are a Celebration! is pleased to offer all of these elegant wedding elements, along with many others, at no additional cost to our couples.

No, Grandpa, you CAN’T officiate our wedding!

Reprinted with kind permission of Judith Johnson: Author, Speaker, Life Coach and Interfaith Minister

“If you think a professional is expensive, wait ’til you try an amateur.” – Paul “Red” Adair

There is a popular trend these days to have a friend or family member go online to receive an ordination certificate in a matter of minutes so they can “legally” officiate at your wedding. While on the surface this might sound like a fun idea, a look below the surface reveals some really good reasons why this is NOT a good idea. As an interfaith minister who has been officiating at weddings for over twenty years now and as author of the bestselling book on wedding ceremony design, here are Judith’s three really good reasons why you should hire a seasoned professional to officiate at your ceremony.

Some states do not recognize some online ordination credentials. The last thing you want to find out after your wedding is that you are not legally married. So, tread with caution. It is the state where your ceremony takes place, not the state where you live that has jurisdiction. Just as state laws about who can get married are changing, so are the laws regarding who can officiate at weddings. Not all online ordinations are equally acceptable, so be very specific in researching what sites are and are not acceptable in your state. Keep yourself informed about any changes that occur in these laws during the course of your wedding preparations.

There are a thousand little details that add up to a great ceremony. Which ones are you willing to have overlooked? Why put someone you love in the position of being responsible for something they know nothing about? Why not let your friend or family member enjoy being a guest at your wedding instead of bearing the burden of doing something so important that they know nothing about? Unless your friend or family member happens to already be a member of the clergy, why put this responsibility on them? Most couples and the friends and/or family member they choose to officiate are clueless about what goes into designing a ceremony, running a wedding rehearsal, or officiating at the ceremony. Think about it – would you hire a band for your reception that had never played together before? Would you want your wedding to be their first gig?

There are better, safer options. A seasoned officiant knows the in’s and out’s of advising you on the logistics of your rehearsal and ceremony as well as the design of the text and the ritual itself. They can be a wealth of information and ideas to help you create the ceremony that is perfect for you. They know what works, and what doesn’t.

If you are worried about not belonging to a religious community, not wanting a stranger to officiate at your ceremony, or wanting to have control over what is said at your ceremony – no problem. There are three fabulous resources for finding the right officiant.

The first is to ask your wedding vendors. Typically, your first wedding decision is going to be your wedding date and location. Ask the wedding coordinator at your venue to share their impressions of the officiants on their preferred vendor list and to recommend the ones they think are a good match for you. Call these recommended officiants and/or make appointments to meet. Trust your instincts about who you are comfortable with, how resourceful and flexible they seem to be, and how they react to your story and wishes for your ceremony.

The second resource is to ask around among your friends. Ask your married friends who they had officiate at their ceremony? Were they pleased or not? Why? Ask friends and family if they attended any weddings where the officiant did a really good job.

Third, use regional wedding websites and major wedding websites that have regional vendor listings. Read the listings and reviews on officiants there. One of the most popular sites is

Your wedding ceremony is what your wedding day is all about. Give it the respect and attention it deserves as an expression of what crossing this threshold together really means to you. The person who officiates at your ceremony will have a lot of influence on what will hopefully become a beautiful memory for you. So, be thoughtful and careful in selecting the officiant who is right for you. Be as honest as possible about who you are and who you aren’t. If someone rejects you because they don’t share your beliefs, be glad you didn’t hire them! Just keep looking for the right match. Find someone who is happy for you, is on your wavelength, and gives you confidence that they will help you create a wedding ceremony that exceeds your biggest dreams. You deserve that!

The Secrets to a Successful Marriage?

Every Officiant hears this question occasionally: “What’s the secret to a successful marriage?”  Even after eight years of helping couples get married, I’ve yet to have a satisfactory answer to give. If we ever did find the answer, then we could probably retire to our private island in the Pacific and live out the rest of our lives walking our personal beach, looking for for sand dollars!

A successful marriage is a continuous work in progress, beginning on the first day. No matter what you think you know about your spouse, you’re in for all sorts of surprises along the way. Marriage takes work, time, a sense of humor, and above all, perseverance. There’s no single element that guarantees success, which makes sense. There’s nothing absolute when you’re talking about something as relative as human love.

That said, there are some “best practices” that, if followed, tend to maximize the chances a marriage will be successful.

First, listen to each other. Try to hear what your mate is really saying. The Bible says: “Be quick- to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” What you say and how you say it is the foundation upon which to build your marriage. Say things that will encourage and support your partner. Take those words you hear from each other into your heart and let them become building blocks for a solid marriage, stepping stones to happiness. Communication is very important in marriage. Take the time to talk with each other, but more importantly, take the time to listen, for in listening, you communicate that you value your partner’s thoughts and feelings.

Second, learn from each other. Both of you are different in many ways. You each bring certain abilities and specific gifts into this relationship. Learn what those talents are, then accept each other’s strengths and combine them with yours. Every day will be an adventure as you learn and understand something new about your mate. If you learn from each other, not only will you be better individuals, but also a better couple. Your marriage will grow stronger because of your desire to understand your partner. So take time to learn all you can about each other.

Thirdly, be willing to work on your relationship. Someone once said, “Anything worth having in this life is worth working for.” Make every effort to make this the very best marriage on earth. You don’t find precious gems lying around above ground. You have to dig and work hard to get to them, but once you find them, they are worth the effort. If you work on your relationship, it will be like finding precious gems, and you’ll “strike it rich” from your labor.

Fourth, learn to laugh. Laugh at yourself and laugh at each other. It’s often been said that “laughter is the best medicine.” Getting married is a serious step, and you should take it seriously. However, having fun and being able to laugh at our mistakes and shortcomings goes a long way toward solidifying the mortar that holds together the institution of marriage. Studies show that laughter has a profound and positive effect on the body. Laughter really is the best medicine for a long and happy life. It can be said that he who laughs… lasts, and the best way to make your marriage work is to make it play.

Finally, of course, is love. Countless songs have been sung about it.  Countless poems have been written to describe it. Books as numerous as the stars in the sky have been authored by both men and women trying to help us understand it. The Bible simply defines love this way:

“Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way nor is it irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly ever notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. ‘This kind of love knows no boundaries to its tolerance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope, no limit to its endurance. It can outlast anything. Love is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has failed.”

Edmund O’Neill may have come as close to the “secret” of a successful marriage as anyone, when he wrote that “Marriage deepens and enriches every facet of life. Happiness is fuller; memories are fresher; commitment is stronger; even anger is felt more strongly, and passes away more quickly. Marriage understands and forgives the mistakes life is unable to avoid. It encourages and nurtures new life, new experiences, and new ways of expressing love through the seasons of life. When two people pledge to love and care for each other in marriage, they create a spirit unique to themselves, which binds them closer than any spoken or written words. Marriage is a promise, a potential, made in the hearts of two people who love, which takes a lifetime to fulfill.”

Summer Weddings – Beat the heat!

Nothing evokes a festive mood like triple-digit temps and man-eating mosquitoes!

Your wedding planning may have you worrying about the elements, but there are lots of strategies for surviving warm weather weddings without feeling like you’re stuck in the Sahara.

What to Wear

In hot and humid temperatures, walking the line between overheating and looking inappropriate is tricky. Your best bet is to err on the side of caution, says the author of over thirty wedding books.

“Even at an outdoor wedding, guests should try to adhere to the wedding formality dress rules,” she says.

This means women should wear formal or semi-formal dresses, but can opt for lightweight fabrics, like linen or silk chiffon, and breezier cuts, like Grecian-style “goddess” silhouettes. At minimum, men should wear a button-down shirt and tie with suit pants, but can remove the jacket and tie for comfort.

Plus, it never hurts to check with the newlyweds-to-be. “Guests can absolutely call or e-mail the bride and groom to ask about the dress code,” she adds.

If you’re like one gentleman, who served as best man in a beach side summer wedding a few years ago, just take a cue from the couple. “I was in a full tux, but everyone in the wedding party — including the bride and groom — was barefoot, so I went sans socks and shoes and wore the legs of my trousers rolled,” he says.

In theory, an outdoor wedding on the lake sounds like a romantic moment. In reality, the guests can be eaten alive by insects long before the cake is cut.

Outdoor Obstacles

Luckily, there’s a more subtle way to take care of the problem than lugging along an economy-size citronella candle. Take preventative measures by covering exposed skin with a bug deterrent that contains eucalyptus oil or lemongrass oil, which are natural bug repellents.

Also, make sure to wear sunscreen, as having red, burned skin at the reception is sure to make you even more miserable!

Airborne allergens pose another potential pitfall. If your allergies are severe, check with your doctor. To deal with runny noses, take along a handkerchief or a pack of travel tissues.

Beating the Heat

Tissues and handkerchiefs also can combat the inevitable perspiring that comes with high temperatures. One best man was fighting to stay on his two feet in the 95-degree heat of a stiflingly hot church that lacked air conditioning.

“It wasn’t so bad when we were sitting in the back before the service, but once we were standing up front, it was like a Swedish sauna — without the jump in the snow afterwards,” he remembers. “We had no programs, no fans, and we couldn’t take off our jackets or ties.”

This savvy participant was wise enough to grab a paper towel from the bathroom before the ceremony, but when that no longer worked it was all he could do to stay conscious. “Luckily, one of the bridesmaids went down before I did,” he laughs. “Kind of took the pressure off.”

After the ceremony, drink iced liquids, drench your face with cold water and change out of dampened clothes if you can. Hopefully, and most likely, the reception will be more casual and you can take off your jacket and tie. You might even get to enjoy some air-conditioning!