Have a Plan B: All outdoor weddings should have a Plan B in case of inclement weather; the reception site is ideal if it is indoors. With destination weddings, be sure to have the cell phone numbers of all in your wedding party and ask everyone to have the phones with them for a couple of hours prior to the ceremony. You can then be notified if there is any problem or delay.
Watch your heels: Give yourself the option to not have the aisle runner as they can prove to be a hazard when shoes get caught on them. Consider creating an attractive walkway with flower petals or some similar element. The aisle runner is an old-fashioned holdover from a time when brides had to walk through muddy lanes on their way to the church. Also, avoid candles — they may blow out or catch a dress on fire.
Have 2 pair of shoes for your wedding day! 1st pair for the ceremony, pictures, etc. 2nd pair of satin slippers, or low comfortable shoes for dancing the night away! Decorated cloth sneakers work well too!
Music: If you have readers and/or vocalists as part of the ceremony and you have a DJ, please ask him/her to provide microphones for these people so that your guests can hear them. If the wedding is small and you choose to manage your own music, perform a soundcheck prior to the ceremony to be assured that all of your guests will be able to hear the music. Wind can play a factor in how the sound carries.
Unity candles: Unity candles should be used indoors only; a gust of wind can inauspiciously blow the candle out during the ceremony, The sand ceremony is a good alternative and the symbolism is much the same. Another option is to perform the unity candle ceremony indoors during your reception.
Ceremony location: When planning the orientation of your ceremony, take into account what the background will look like in your wedding photos. Better to have a natural landscape than a cluttered look with buildings, cars, telephone poles, etc..
If you are not hiring a professional wedding director or coordinator, ask a close friend or relative who is organized, responsible and is not in your wedding party or immediate family to serve as your wedding director. He/she can assist with the order of processional and recessional as well as who will usher in and out the grandparents and parents of the couple. He/she can gather the people together and cue them in on the wedding day and cue the musicians as to when the ceremony will begin. Here are basic instructions:
As guests enter, you may have some music playing. The groom’s side is on the right when you enter from the back of the chairs; the bride’s side is on the left. This really only pertains to the first and/or second rows where families sit. The other rows on both sides are okay for all the guests.
When the bride is ready and all the guests are seated and there are no more arriving, the ushers, usually groomsmen or the groom, seat any grandparents. They then seat the parents of the groom on the right side (from the back). Then they sit the grandparents of the bride and the mother of the bride on the left side. The minister is usually already at the front where the ceremony is going to take place. The groom, best man and groomsmen join him/her after the seating has taken place.
When the processional is going to begin, the music changes and the bride’s attendants enter slowly one by one down the aisle with the maid of honor last. They should hold their bouquets low with arms extended down. Flower girls and ring bearers follow last.
The music will change for the bride’s entrance. The minister will ask all the guests to rise. The bride and her escort walk up the aisle (can be father, mother, brother, etc.). They proceed to the ceremony site and stop in front of the minister. The minister will ask who present this woman to be married, the father (or other family member) will answer “I do,” (or her mother and I), then kiss the bride, shake hands with the groom, and sit down. The bride will hand the bouquet to the maid of honor and stand facing the groom, leaving space for the guests to see the minister. The attendants will also stand in a slightly V formation and turn slightly toward the minister to witness the ceremony.
The minister will ask the guests to sit down and proceed with the ceremony, starting with a welcome to the guests. He/she will introduce any readers, hand any readings, vows, etc. to the person who will read (including privately written vows by the bride and groom). You have a choice to ask the best man and maid of honor to hold the rings; if this is what you choose, make sure that they have them readily available, not in a box. Otherwise the minister can hold the rings.
After the pronouncement, the bride and groom will kiss, the maid of honor will hand the bouquet back to the bride and straighten her train if necessary. They will then be presented to the gathering as husband and wife. During the kiss and the presentation, the guests generally clap. Music begins . The couple then proceeds down the aisle to a predetermined spot.
After the couple have reached the last row of chairs, the best man offers the maid of honor his arm and escorts her out, and this continues with all the groomsmen/bridesmaids. When they have reached the middle row of chairs, the next groomsman offers his arm to the next bridesmaid and walks her down the aisle, and so on until all the attendants are out. An usher then returns and ushers out the mother of the bride who is followed by the father of the bride. Another usher comes and escorts out the mother of the groom, who is followed by the father of the groom. If there are any grandparents, they are ushered out next. As an option, the rows of family can leave one by one.
if the plan is to go aside and take pictures immediately, the wedding party needs to “disappear” until the guests disperse to the reception area. The Minister will announce to the guests to proceed to the reception, that the wedding party will join them shortly after photographs.
The Day of the Wedding
It is a good idea to have your cell phone (or designate someone with a cell phone) with you and turned on until everyone in your wedding party has arrived so that you can be reached if someone is delayed. Be sure that everyone has that cell phone number and you have theirs.
Brides—use the bathroom before you put on your dress! Hang your veil with your dress so that it is not left at home on your wedding day.
Bridesmaids, groomsmen, bride and groom should all remember to stand with “soft” knees. Locked knees take a lot of energy and they will be standing for about 20 minutes for the typical wedding ceremony.
It is a good idea for the wedding party to have something light to snack on and non-alcoholic beverages to drink just prior to the ceremony as hunger or dehydration along with nervousness and standing can contribute to fainting. Hot weather and an outdoor wedding make the chances of dehydration greater. A growling stomach is quite distracting as well!
Have the marriage license handy when the minister arrives along with the two witnesses so they can sign it prior to the ceremony.