What is your wedding? Think about it. I performed a wedding for couple that were just having a wedding ceremony. It wasn’t an elopement. They rented a gazebo and chairs, they had a friend who brought their DJ equipment. We performed a short ceremony, enjoyed each other’s company for a while and then went home. No reception. They were a lovely and loving family. I’d married other family members that were in attendance with a quick elopement, but this couple wanted a ceremony with family and friends, the white dress, the hair and makeup, the rented tux, their own exchange of vows and prayers and blessings, but no reception. It was about their ceremony.
On the other hand, it’s not always about the ceremony. A few years ago, I married a couple because they were planning an AMAZING reception and needed a ceremony to kick it off. The bride admitted she was definitely more interested in her dress then the ceremony, but the groom wanted a wedding ceremony, with his nephew as a ring bearer and as many traditions they could agree upon. Obviously, the ceremony had no real bearing on the rest of their lives and long term relationship. It was just part of the day. They even went on to say that since they had to have a ceremony they decided to hire me because I am so different and would perform a “different ceremony” as in, really short, no sermon, no communion. I was a spectacular event! I spent time before the wedding talking with the wedding planner, who said she may plan wedding like this 6 times a year, as such lavish, expensive weddings are rare. The decor, the venu, the live band, and everything, right down to the wedding favors were amazing. It was a doctor marrying a pharmacist and they had pill bottles - prescribed but the groom and filled by the bride- filled with candy as their wedding favors. The guest list was not just colleagues of the bride and groom but of their parents as well as a large group of family and friends. It was really quite a social event. The occasion was the wedding, the focus was the party. It was all the spectacular wedding magic money could buy.
What is your wedding ceremony to you? There is no right or wrong answer. Maybe it really is just a perfunctory part of the day or, maybe it’s a very special part of an altogether special day. Some people don’t care what happens, just as long as they are married in the end. Some fathers and daughters have dreamed of walking down the aisle together and hearing the words “who gives this woman to be married?” They cry just thinking about it. Your parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles may have been dreaming of this day for you and with you since the day you were born. Your grandparents may be holding on and living for this day, literally. Maybe the two of you have been planning your vows since the day you met and can’t wait for the moment to share them. Maybe you have been anxiously awaiting your own version on the Bachelor-inspired Rose Ceremony. Maybe this is the day you have been praying over and you have been consciously preparing yourself to make vows to each other before God and your family and it’s a monumental occasion in your spiritual life.
Is your ceremony part of the wedding industry? The answer is both yes, and no. You might hire vendors to prepare your flowers and play music, you purchase a dress and a suit and lots and lots of other things. But you don’t really need any of those things to be married. All you really need is a marriage license and someone to legally marry you. I realized this a few years after I started working as a professional wedding officiant. I live in Indiana, and they decided they were not longer going to marry couples at our local courthouse. You could no longer just “run down to the courthouse and get married.” In many counties in Indiana, judges, magistrates and clerks no longer perform weddings during regular business hours. Suddenly, I had couples requesting my services to fill that void. While I was still performing personalized wedding ceremonies at large affairs on the weekends, my weekdays filled up with elopements and people just looking to get legally married. That’s the legal system, not the wedding industry. The act of your priest, pastor or rabbi marrying you is part of your religion. Some religious leaders might not even sign the marriage license for you. If you get married in religious institution without a marriage license, your marriage may be recognized by your church, but not the state. They are two separate things. Yes, you can do both all at one time, quickly and easily, it only takes a few minutes to complete a marriage license, but it does draw to light what you are actually doing.
You may be doing one or all of the following on your wedding day:
When you are done with the act of getting married, you can do anything or nothing to celebrate.
Her are some things to keep in mind when you are planning a wedding and being bombarded by the wedding industry:
Why do you paying more for something because it’s for a wedding. You could go to a bakery and order a cake and pay one price, then say it's a wedding cake and pay more. Or rent a venue for a meeting and pay less than if you rent it for a wedding. Or buy flower arrangements cheaper then bridal bouquets. There are reasons for this. Since this about wedding ceremonies, let me explain how I price things to give you perspective.
If you just need to get legally married today, meaning you just need to have someone sign your marriage license and say your “I do’s,” I charge a nominal fee. I don’t have to get dressed up for it, it’s a 15 minute appointment and I control the times and locations. My prices go up depending on the services you want. If you are planning a huge, expensive wedding, your expectations of my services are different. I’m going to be personalizing my services just for you. Finding out how you need my services personalized takes time, correspondence takes time, traveling back and forth to meetings and to your rehearsal and wedding takes time. I’m planning my schedule around you a year in advance. Your ceremony may last less than 30 minutes but a lot goes into preparing for that 30 minutes. I recently changed my entire price structure explaining what I can do for a couple and allowing them to choose what they want. If you don’t want a personalized ceremony, you don’t have to pay for it. If you don’t want me at the rehearsal, you don’t have to pay for it. However, my full price has it’s benefits if you are planning a formal wedding. I clear my schedule earlier to arrive to your wedding earlier to avoid problems with traffic delays or other ceremonies running late. I schedule extra time so you can start your ceremony late if there are traffic delays or you or your guests are running late. You are paying for assurance, kind of like an insurance policy for your wedding ceremony. You are putting a lot of time and money into planning your wedding day and each wedding vendor respects this. You may pay less for something off the shelf, and you can do that if you want, or, for a few dollars more, you get exactly what you want.
There are many options you can can choose from when deciding on the ceremony part of your wedding. You can read more about those here. I put together this entire website so that you could have a wide variety of ceremony ideas to choose from. Part of making that choice is knowing what you want and why you want it.
Victoria Meyer is the founder of Marry Me In Indy! LLC. She's been officiating weddings in the greater Indianapolis area for over 8 years and has married over 2500 couples.