Monday, March 19, 2012

How to begin a wedding ceremony

As a Humanist celebrant, my job is to represent the couple I'm marrying and make sure their personalities come across from the beginning of the ceremony. Because I marry a lot of different couples my weddings vary widely and that's great for me because I appreciate the variety of my work. Yet, whether a ceremony is relaxed or formal, I make sure they have one thing in common: they always begin with a friendly, warm welcome. A Humanist celebrant should make everyone feel that the ceremony is inclusive, and one of the things that makes our ceremonies so special is that they can be equally appreciated by everyone there, no matter what faith or none they come from. The couple getting married is at the heart of the ceremony and by focussing on them we are sure that everyone enjoys the wedding.

What I call 'ice breakers' are a good thing to include in my welcome to your guests. Making a few introductions sets us off on a very genial footing and relaxes everyone! Here are some examples of welcomes that I've had in my ceremonies.

I usually introduce the best man/men and bridesmaids. After all, they are standing with you but aren't known to everybody so it's nice to say a bit about how you know them and why you chose them. It gives them a lot of pride in the special role they are playing too.

Saying a special welcome to your parents can also be lovely, after all without them none of us would be there! However, I appreciate that it's common these days for a couple's parents to be divorced or separated and naturally I'd be sensitive to this in the ceremony.

If you have grandparents there it might be nice to give them a special welcome. Because people often marry a bit later on in life it can be rare for grandparents to be present at a wedding. I often welcome them along the lines of: "The guests of honour today are of course Jane and Jim's grandparents Dorothy and Margaret. Ladies, you both look lovely today and Jane and Jim tell me that you're likely to be the first on the dance floor later." Or something slightly less saucy...

The oldest and youngest can also be a nice theme: "Jane and Jim would like me to make a special mention of our oldest guest, Jim's Great Auntie Betty, who celebrated her 95th birthday last week, and our youngest guest, little Isla who was born only four weeks ago." For this to work the oldest has to be so ancient that they brag rather than hide their age and the youngest has to be very new!

Or what about the couple who've been married the longest, shortest or both? "Jim and Jane would like to offer a special welcome and congratulations to the couples here who've been married the longest: Margot and James, who celebrated their golden wedding earlier this year. And the shortest: Kelly and David who were married only three weeks ago. Please join me in congratulating them!" It can also be nice to mention any couples who are newly married or expecting babies.

It's very thoughtful to mention people who have travelled from far and this is how one of my couples recently had me welcome them: "Many of you have travelled a great distance to be here and we have guests from as far as Australia, Canada, the United States, Italy, Northern Ireland, the South of England and Cowdenbeath. Your combined efforts to be here have equalled a distance of four times round the Equator so please give yourselves a round of applause!"

Then there are the completely random things. In the past I've mentioned people who've completed a marathon on the day of the wedding, the Caledonian Challenge the week before, a sibling or bridesmaid who sat their final university exams the day before and a guest who happened to be the first Jordanian to climb Everest, a record he achieved two weeks before the wedding.

No mater what or who we mention at the start of the ceremony, my aim is always to make sure your guests are happy and relaxed, knowing this is a wedding ceremony they're going to really enjoy!

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